POP rallies behind Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid

ORANGE, NJ — People’s Organization for Progress members recently rallied to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is vying with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

“We might be in Orange for Bernie Sanders on Saturday,” said People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm on Tuesday, May 24. “We marched in Montclair last Saturday for Bernie. Councilwoman Donna Williams is working with us on that. It will be a grassroots kind of thing.”

Hamm said the People’s Organization for Progress, unlike other activist groups like the NAACP, will specifically endorse political candidates who share members’ support for a progressive agenda. They recently endorsed Williams in her successful bid to get re-elected to another term in office.

On Saturday, May 28, Hamm, Williams and the other People’s Organization for Progress members showed up on Main Street to encourage voters to support Sanders in the upcoming Democratic Party primary in June. He said that although Sanders and Clinton are campaigning against each other, he hopes that once the primary season is finished, Democrats unite around the winner to retain the White House.

“It’s the primary and the primary election is different from the general election,” said Hamm. “In the general election, the two opposing candidates from the major parties go against each other and the general electorate have to choose between them. The primary is a chance a way for a party to assess the strength of the different tendencies or constituencies in the party. The primary is where people should vote their heart. They should vote for the person that they really feel in their heart. I think Bernie Sanders should continue to run for people, to express the fact they want this country to go in a more progressive direction.”

Hamm said primary elections and general elections are different, adding, “If people want to see the Democratic Party go in the direction of economic justice, equality and peace, they should go for Bernie Sanders.”

“In the general election, they should go for whoever the party’s chosen candidate is,” Hamm said. “Sanders is not running as a third-party candidate. He’s running in the Democratic primary as a Democratic Party candidate. Sanders obviously is the social justice candidate. If he doesn’t get the nomination, then the people that say they are Democrats need to unite behind Hillary.“

Hamm said he understands people’s politics and passions go hand in hand. But he said, at its heart, politics is all about cold-blooded calculation and the numbers game.

“Look at the Republicans; as much as those 17 candidates hated Donald Trump, by the time they get to the convention, they’re going to put those differences aside to work for the election of the Republican Party nominee,” said Hamm. “He knows it and they know it. Whatever differences they have will not stand in the way of them attempting to win the White House.”

Hamm said Democrats “have to master that dialectic of opposites, so we can achieve overall success while at the same time dealing with areas where we may have fierce disagreements.” He said that’s the only way to avoid dividing the party with an independent third-party candidate insurgent campaign that would almost surely mean losing the war for progressive ideas and governance in the United States.

“The situations where people ran as Independents in the general election, like Ross Perot ran against the two major parties; I think Perot got about 3 million votes,” said Hamm. “Sanders said he is going to support whoever the Democratic Party nominee is. That means he shouldn’t run in November. I think his stature would be diminished if he did run, after losing the primary election.”

As the Record-Transcript went to press this week, he said Sanders and Clinton had “split the electors about 50-50.”

“That’s half the country. … I think he’s done the country a great service, even if he doesn’t get the party’s nomination. Do you know how different the election would be if Sanders had not run? The issues of poverty, equality and race would not be discussed. He’s done the country a great service. He’s also highlighted that there’s a large progressive element in this county.”