During the 2016 presidential primaries, progressive news organization The Young Turks championed Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders by interviewing him multiple times and launching several initiatives on his behalf. Sanders ended up ceding the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, but his campaign successfully challenged establishment politics and awakened many voters to the political reality around them.
That sort of education is in line with The Young Turks’ own viewers, and the network is taking action to make sure the policies of the Sanders campaign continue to receive attention. It has announced Justice Democrats, an organization co-led by former Sanders team members that will aid progressive political candidates in order to challenge the Democratic establishment.
The four co-founders of Justice Democrats are Cenk Uygur, co-founder of The Young Turks; Saikat Chakrabarti the Director of Organizing Technology for the Sanders campaign; Zack Exley (a Senior Adviser for the Sanders campaign; and Kyle Kulinski, a talk radio host. Their goals are simple: With The Young Turks serving as the organization’s mouthpiece, Justice Democrats hopes to challenge sitting politicians in primary races, so that those incumbents must recognize the desires of the progressive base if they wish to be re-elected it. In other words, Justice Democrats is trying to do for left-wing politics what the Tea Party did for the right, but with a clearer structure guiding its strategy.
Justice Democrats shared its full platform in a press release. Here, in the organization’s own words, are the issues on its plate:
- Pass a constitutional amendment to put an end to Washington corruption and bring about election reform. Super PACs should be banned, private donations to politicians and campaigns should be banned, and a clean public financing system should be implemented to end the takeover of our government by corporations and billionaires. Americans deserve free and fair elections – free from the corruption of big money donors. The Supreme Court has effectively legalized bribery. It’s time for an Article 5 convention to take our Democracy back from the brink of Oligarchy. Prior to passing this amendment, all Justice Democrats should reject billionaire and corporate donations when running for office to show the American people we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. Ranked choice voting should also be implemented to make smaller parties a viable option. All provisions of the voting rights act should be reinstated, and gerrymandering for partisan gain should be eliminated.
- Re-regulate Wall Street and hold white-collar criminals accountable. Despite engaging in systemic fraud and causing a subprime mortgage meltdown and the great recession, you can count the people from Wall Street who are in prison for their crimes on one hand. It’s time to prosecute the criminals, bring back Glass-Steagall, and re- regulate Wall Street to prevent another crash. Prison is not just for the poor and the middle class anymore. We will have cops on Wall Street, not just Main Street.
- End billionaire and corporate tax dodging, fix the system to benefit middle-class and poor people. Corporations dodge $450 billion a year in taxes by using offshore tax havens. We should end this injustice, as well as chain the capital gains tax to the income tax, increase the estate tax, and implement the buffet rule so that no millionaire CEO pays less in taxes than his or her secretary. It’s time for a tax system that benefits the middle-class and the poor, and makes the top 1% and multinational corporations pay their fair share.
- Defend Free speech and expression. We support the right to express unpopular opinions without fear of censorship. We support free speech on college campuses. The marketplace of ideas should be embraced. A vibrant debate is healthy for democracy, and we should cherish our first amendment. We also support net neutrality for a free and open internet.
- Oppose bigotry. We must speak out against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all forms of bigotry. Non-discrimination protections that currently apply to race, religion, and gender should be expanded to include the LGBTQ community and the atheist community. Making all Americans equal is not asking for special privileges, it’s asking for the rule of law – justice and equality for all as outlined in the United States Constitution.
- Make the minimum wage a living wage and tie it to inflation. This is about justice and basic human decency. If you work hard and you work full time you shouldn’t live in poverty.
- Ensure universal healthcare as a right. The United States should catch up to every other modern nation and implement a single-payer, medicare-for-all system. There’s no reason we can’t be #1 in the world instead of #37. It’s time to end the destruction of American healthcare by rapacious, price gouging, for-profit, private health insurance middlemen.
- Universal education as a right. Educating the citizenry of a nation pays dividends in the long run, with the economy getting back much more than is initially put in. Crushing student debt for higher education would no longer burden young men and women trying to improve their lives through hard work. We should strive to have the best education system in the world.
- End unnecessary wars and nation building. The United States maintains 800 military bases worldwide at a cost of $100 billion a year, this is money that can be spent at home creating jobs, rebuilding infrastructure, and investing in the future of the people. The disastrous war in Iraq cost trillions, the war in Afghanistan is 15 years in with no end in sight, and we’re currently bombing 7 different countries. We spend more on our military than the next 8 countries combined. Despite countless lives lost and destroyed, terrorism has only gotten worse. It’s time to end the wars and the perverse monetary-incentive structure that makes politicians flippant about sending young men and women to die. Unilateral U.S. military force should only be used as a last resort to defend the nation. The current budget could be cut drastically if we used our department of defense for what it was intended – defending us, instead of waging interventionist wars.
- End the failed war on drugs. The goal is legalization, taxation, and regulation. Prohibition only makes drug cartels more powerful, increases crime, and makes drugs more dangerous due to lack of enforced safety standards. What you put in your body is your own business, and your right. A free society should allow individuals to make their own choices about their bodies. While most users are recreational and moderate, rehabilitation and treatment should be provided for people struggling with addiction. Additionally, those serving time for non-violent drug offenses should be pardoned.
- Create the new new deal. Our infrastructure gets a grade of D from the Society of Civil Engineers. The government should invest billions in rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, schools, levees, airports etc. There’s no reason why we can’t have the world’s #1 infrastructure.
- Create the renewable energy revolution. Scientists are sounding the alarm on climate change. In order to avoid the worst case scenario and a dystopian future we need a massive green revolution. It’s time to drastically and immediately move away from fossil fuels and develop the technologies of the future. This will be a giant boon to both the private and public sector, as well as a necessary response to a global crisis. We can and we must be #1 in sustainable energy production in the world.
- Block the TPP and all outsourcing deals that will further damage the middle-class. As a result of NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China and the WTO, Americans have lost millions of decent paying jobs. It’s time to end the race to the bottom and renegotiate these rigged deals that only benefit elites. We should not sacrifice our sovereignty, the only people who are allowed to make laws for the United States should be the American people, not multinational corporations.
- End Constitutional overreaches. Ban the NSA from bulk data- collection and warrantless spying. Shut down Guantanamo Bay and all extrajudicial prisons. Prosecute torturers and those who violated the Geneva Conventions, Nuremberg Tribunal, International law and US law. Return habeas corpus and due process. We shouldn’t be leading from behind on human rights, we must be the home of liberty. We should practice the values we preach.
- Ban arming human rights violators. We recently gave Saudi Arabia billions in weapons and watched the civilian death toll in their vicious bombing campaign in Yemen tick up. We continue sending Egypt arms as they violently crack down on peaceful protesters. Israel received $38 billion in aid and promptly announced new settlements. The first step to peace is not enabling nations who regularly violate international law. We must be bold enough to stand up to human rights violators who aren’t just our enemies, but our allies. We don’t weaken our allies by holding them accountable, we strengthen them.
- Enact common-sense gun regulation. 92% of Americans want expanded background checks, 54% want a ban on assault weapons, and 54% want a ban on high capacity magazines. This should be implemented along with a federal gun buyback program to cut down on the 300+ million firearms in circulation. Over 30,000 Americans die every year from gun violence, including over 10,000 homicides. The time to act is now to address this public health crisis.
- Ensure paid vacation time, sick time, maternity leave, childcare. The United States is one of just three countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, the others being Oman and Papua New Guinea. We are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t offer paid vacation time. This should be changed immediately.
- Abolish the death penalty. Humans are fallible, we’ll never get the right answer 100% of the time. 4% of the people on death row are not guilty of a crime and have been wrongly convicted. A system that puts innocent people to death is indefensible and should be reformed. We want justice for the American people but killing innocent people on death row is the exact opposite. These ideas represent what the Democratic Party was supposed to represent