Bernie Sanders and the Outbreak

I spent four weeks in the American West for a presidential bid which brought people together across backgrounds and borders to fight for healthcare. Then came the most serious global health crisis in generations.

Students rally at UNLV

What happened in Vegas

In balmy February afternoon sunshine, three British campaign volunteers canvas shoppers outside an East Vegas supermarket.

We have flyers in English and Spanish for a Bernie Sanders event the following day. It will take place on a high school sports field under the crimson mountains hemming in the city, with the Mayor of New York opening a soccer match between local teenagers.

It is a week before the Nevada caucus, and a few weeks before the novel coronavirus outbreak will tear through America and the world. The outbreak is a background hum that emerges intermittently in strange ways; I canvass one man outside the supermarket who insists on showing me something on his phone “proving” that the CIA patented Covid-19. Meanwhile a security guard chases a suspected thief across the parking lot, wielding his pepper spray like an automatic rifle and we are distracted, rubbing our eyes as we take a faceful of the downdraft.

Being caught in a hot wind is a good metaphor for this city and this campaign. We can’t help reaching for cultural references from the old New Left; we even play Dylan in the sunset in a beat-up blue camper van. But Hunter S Thompson’s Vegas was the end of the road for new political possibilities; in today’s Vegas those roads carry busloads, truckloads, planeloads of passionate volunteers from Arizona, New York, London and Amsterdam. There are three continents in the living room where we breakfast on mimosas and tacos before we hit the streets.

There are two-dollar beers and slot machines at the bar as Knock Down the House stars Amy Vilela and Cori Bush mingle with campaigners. Electric guitars and half the packed-up set of Burning Man are the backdrop to a subsequent round of pep talks. For my 27th birthday we see the professionally irreverent Chapo Trap House podcasters who have taken over a theater in the capitalist heart of the Las Vegas Strip. The British left fret or get goaded by the stream of spiteful, disingenuous attacks they receive; Americans are better at just not sweating it. After a damp and dismal election defeat in Britain, all this is restorative and exciting for us.

But in other ways the city is unsettling. A road accident is visible virtually every time we go out, and we canvas in streets with smashed cars in every other garage. Recklessness is not just in casinos, it seems a routine way of life. Vegas is running out of water, but the 500-foot fountains stay, as does the city’s plan to double in size. Amidst all this we are keenly aware of the absence of safety nets. There is little in this chaos to fall back on — not even healthcare.

The campaign is not yet spread thinly across America; the national circus is in town in a flurry of photographers and motorcades and billboard adverts. Our small field offices get more crowded every day. Bernie Sanders holds three rallies in the final two weeks. One ends in a vibrant march led by local Latin youth bearing a banner for migrants’ rights. The second is on a campus with three-hour queues to vote and volunteers shipping in water and pizza to persuade people to stay put. The third is under starlight in an amphitheatre, and from Naomi Klein on climate change to Parkland activists on school shootings, the speakers cross a constellation of urgent causes.

We take these issues to doorsteps. Sometimes it is easy, with open streets and friendly people. Harder is the game of cat-and-mouse in sprawling gated communities. They are not all for elites and somehow that is worse; contemporary capitalism invites you too into an aspirational life of paranoia, electric fences and fortresses. We rejoice when a doorstep conversation breaches those divides. We do not foresee that within weeks, the consequences of an ideology which denies and destroys human connectedness will become painfully clear.

Racing lockdown

Senator Nina Turner

“They said it couldn’t be done, but we did it anyhow!”

In a courtyard draped in string lights, in an older Vegas of dive bars, nuclear tests and the Rat Pack, campaign co-chair Nina Turner rallies exhausted campaigners with more fire and soul than even Sanders. The victory is decisive.

We have spent the day navigating a caucus system at the chaotic intersection of new technology and ancient practices. We set up speeches, monitor people moving around rooms, make complex calculations at speed. Many suspect the system is designed with multiple entry points for confusion and error so that both can be induced on demand.

But the caucus is only a tiny part of the Nevada campaign’s complexity. It is 5am dashes across luxury hotel parking lots to organise unionised casino workers whose union bosses tell them universal healthcare is a threat. It is deep, diligent organising in the city’s Latin communities. It is the deployment of thousands of people into thousands of places. A rainbow appears at the end of a damp caucus day. The sun-drenched joy of the campaign reaches a peak; in this warm night another world seems close. It is not to last.

Lion Summerbell, a just-shy-of-cynical New Yorker, drives us to canvasses, bars and on a rare afternoon off, the otherworldly cliffs of the Red Rock Canyon. “The intensity is incredible, as is your entrance into a world of sympathy and solidarity”, he says. “Everyone is a total stranger, but you spend more time together in one week than you do with your friends over years. It’s the best feeling in the world, but damn, if it doesn’t wear your mind out.”

People who have grown close quickly now disperse quickly. Lion heads for Florida, while I catch a Greyhound to Los Angeles with no fixed plans. As I arrive a contact suggests the Bernie Café, a Fifties diner on the road into Beverly Hills functioning as a volunteer office. Lilah, another Vegas organiser, arrives there an hour behind me. She is one of many who does not know if or where the campaign will keep her employed. An hour later she is ordered to drive to Idaho.

Three days later a friend drives me north, crackling with opinions and anecdotes over cheap tacos as we bolt up the interstate. Her reason for backing Sanders is simple; “I’m against kids in cages and Joe Biden put them there.” We part at the campaign office on the Mission Boulevard, amid a brightly coloured front in a losing war against gentrification.

In Seattle rain, the breathless mood start to evaporate. Super Tuesday brings disappointing results. The background hum of the outbreak grows louder. Our state director becomes cautious; the shared food vanishes and handshakes give way to elbow bumps. We mock a sensationalist news report calling Seattle a “ghost town” — the bars are heaving — but as we call volunteers to canvasses, fewer come. There are cases in Amazon and Starbucks and political commentary on TV is giving way to body counts. It becomes, and remains, difficult to navigate the space between under- and overreacting.

An old British friend and fellow politics junkie drives me south before the worst hits; it feels like the outbreak is chasing us down the interstate. Lockdowns are being prepared to the north and south, and after what feels like a month without sleep I suddenly have boundless time in a quiet Oregonian village.

Lion is still in Florida and swimming against the tide. After the ruthlessly organised and moneyed Nevada campaign, he is now with just two staffers and 5,000 square miles to cover. “We’re organizing door knocks and wrangling volunteers and cutting turf twelve hours a day, all on our own. We have bigger headaches than the virus”, he says.

“I had thought of pandemics as an interesting, if faintly worrying, niche”, he adds, “a second- or third-order issue you would be worried about if you had any time off.” Second Super Tuesday brings more bleak results. The following day public events, then canvasses, are shut down with a week to go before the Florida primary.

“Things started to unravel. Were the primaries still on? No one knew. Would staffers be redeployed after? No one knew”, says Lion. This was not all down to the outbreak; he also blames a lack of planning. “Calls grew lighter on strategy and heavier on pablum.” He says that from a work standpoint the outbreak was met with some relief, “we were freed from humid desperation.”

“It could go one of two ways”

The Mission office

Mariela Gandara ran the front desk at Sanders’ Mission District office. She came to the US from Mexico aged eight. Now 22, she has set up a digital media organisation to promote political empowerment, works in graphic design and childcare, and volunteers on the communications team for the Sunrise Movement, a youth climate organisation.

She had planned to canvas in New York. But when the first carloads of campaigners arrived in Buffalo after five days’ driving they found a city on the brink of shutdown. They were ordered home without knocking on a single door. Back in the Bay Area, a “shelter-in-place” order kicked in on March 16th and all California followed. Bars and restaurants closed and choked roads cleared. One campaign volunteer was locked down in the home of a family she nannies for, threatened with the sack if she left.

Another San Francisco volunteer is Matt McGuire, an Iraq special operations veteran who turned his fire on the political system. He is social distancing and jokes that, “I may resent boomers but I have no desire to kill them.” Social “distancing” is an intensely communal act, bringing people together to solve a common problem even as it separates them physically.

“This could go one of two ways”, says Matt. “It could create the kind of solidarity we need, a broader kind of solidarity than the left has been effective at. It creates the necessity for universal healthcare and people may realise that if we double down on Medicare for All.”

“But”, he adds, “it can turn people against each other. We are already seeing it. Fighting over toilet paper, demonising young people and immigrants. What comes out of it could be very good or very bad for America.”

Competing narratives of division and solidarity were quickly at work. Across California ICE agents were out the day after quarantine, ardently defending their right to deport “criminal aliens.” They requested tens of thousands of N95 masks that medical staff lack. Subsequently ICE operations were scaled back, partially under popular pressure. President Trump calls the outbreak the “Chinese Virus.” A senior White House official refers to it as the “Kung Flu.”

“His brand of xenophobia is not being criticised enough”, says Dr Haemin Cho, a stalwart of the San Franciscan left and a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine who has temporarily relocated to Los Angeles to be with her mother.

“His border policies endanger lives.” She moves into how the overall response has fallen short. “The lack of coordinated national healthcare makes it impossible to manufacture rapid testing kits, to coordinate beds, increase hospital capacity, and protect workers. He fired the Pandemic Response Team in April 2018 and put unqualified people at the helm. While South Korea has been testing its tiny country at a rate of 3,692 per million, the US is testing only 23 per million as of March 11th.”

Kate is a nurse in Seattle, initially the outbreak capital of the US. She travelled from Baltimore by way of a stint on the Nevada caucus, to be near her grandmother who she now cannot see. Her hospital told her that she would not be paid for quarantine time if she contracted the virus after being deployed to handle cases. This decision was reversed after recruiters begin offering inflated salaries elsewhere due to nurse shortages.

“I’m afraid”, says Kate. “I am torn between feeling a duty to the public and a fear for my personal safety knowing that I won’t be protected properly, at the very least through the unrealistic demands of the work and at worst through lack of equipment.”

In a meeting, her manager says it is “common sense” that staff will be expected to bleach and re-use respirators which are intended for single use. At this point the American Hospital Association were pressuring House Democrats to relax workplace safety rules on equipment, and the CDC had relaxed guidelines on protection on what Kate and other nurses think is little evidence.

“Instead of mobilising to produce needed supplies the government is handling this by putting healthcare workers at risk”, she adds. “The private sector and the market cannot be relied on.”

“I already know how this goes”

A canvass launch

In the smoking area of a warehouse fundraiser for the Sanders campaign in late February, a cluster of groups from criminal justice reformers to a renters’ union had laid recruitment stalls out. These groups are now leading mutual aid efforts.

Grassroots organisation Ground Game LA are now helping to set up “neighbourhood pods”, where a volunteer takes the lead on looking after roughly a five-block area. The templates for the flyers they distribute to residents are open source.

This loose network contains The Future Left, whose projects included a progressive voter guide for primary day. I only realised how crucial this was on seeing a sample ballot paper, containing elections for a plethora of local posts and policies arranged in tiny print on a dizzying layout.

“The energies of the [Bernie] volunteers and supporters should be thinking about the future. We can have some future blindness at times”, says Future Left organiser Matthew Donovan.

“We have to show what the mission is. Government fails a lot of people and the social services Bernie pushes for would be really useful but since we don’t have them, we have to provide some of these things or see people die unnecessarily. Where do we go from here? We keep working, we keep helping people.”

“We have had the consolidation of corporate power”, says Haemin, “in media and in public spaces, with the Republican and Democratic establishments speaking with different sides of the same voice. We have lost the idea of citizenship and technology has helped atomise us.”

“But now that is changing. People have gotten together food pantries, tent fundraisers, and N95 mask collection. In Bernal Heights, where they usually have books in birdboxes, there has been food in them. People are reaching out to friends, and I am too.”

San Francisco is a hive of activity. Face masks are being collected for hospital staff. The Latinx Democratic Club is collecting donations of hand sanitizer for poor residents in the Mission and Excelsior.

A DSA headquarters

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has demands including relief for gig economy and hospitality workers, free public transit and a freeze on debt collection. Attorneys are calling for the release of non-violent prisoners awaiting court dates and there is also a campaign to free ICE detainees.

On March 18th, Governor Newsom warned that up to 60,000 homeless Californians could contract the coronavirus. Los Angeles has placed a moratorium on evictions and a delay on rents, but campaigners do not believe it goes far enough.

“It has been LA policy for a long time to simply throw out peoples’ belongings and not leave them anywhere to go”, says one volunteer. “And now even more people are on the brink of homelessness.”

In the UK, homelessness has doubled and become visibly, depressingly commonplace. But the shock of seeing California’s humanitarian crisis is of a different order.

In downtown San Francisco we were barred from campaigning in luxury flats. Outside, a heavy police car was driving slowly into homeless people on the sidewalk with sirens blaring. The racial difference between officers and street-sleepers sprung out. The officer inside was grinning and danced to inaudible music as he drove, until he exited to slap a ticket on a woman who could not move fast enough. She was in a wheelchair.

Some campaigners are taking more direct action, including seizing disused buildings. “DSA San Francisco Homelessness Committee are distributing tents, sleeping pads and sleeping bags to unhoused folks”, says Haemin. “Even after the shelter-in-place order, San Francisco has been conducting tent sweeps. In District 5, Democratic Socialist Supervisor Dean Preston is attempting to commandeer a building for unhoused folks.”

A former Iowa and Nevada campaign staffer I stayed with in Los Angeles is in the middle of the relief effort. She is working on a documentary on mutual aid in the aftermath of the 2016 Puerto Rico earthquakes and weak official response. “I already know how this goes”, she says. “There are skills people are going to have to activate in order to survive.”

Others are sceptical. Will mutual aid efforts be actually effective enough or are they chiefly something for activists to fill their time with? Could they take away from other, more impactful work? Will they succeed in connecting the pandemic to the wider issues it raises? Are they sustainable? Time will tell — but right now, time is running out.

Organise or die

Food being served at a campaign event

On March 17th, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin warned that unemployment could hit 20%. New York state labour department saw a 1000% increase in unemployment calls within days. Everyone knows someone affected; as of 11 April unemployment stood at 16 million.

“Organise or die”, a headline in union network Labor Notes’ email briefing puts it bluntly. Unions across the world are facing perhaps their biggest, most fast-moving challenge this century. In Nevada we shared a house with Colette Perold, who helped organise Nevada casino workers and has now returned to New York.

She is organising with the DSA labor branch, who swiftly circulated a survey to assess how working conditions had been affected.

“I was more politically depressed than I’ve been in years”, she says of the early days of the outbreak. “ Then I was on call through Labor Notes that had over 500 people on it. What we’re doing is basically the labor version of mutual aid — recruiting a volunteer army of organizers to reach out to workers and walk them through what’s possible in their workplaces.”

“On my calls today people were ready to get out petitions and do marches on the boss, in many cases virtually. A lot of this is coming from the networks and ideas of the Bernie campaign. If Covid-19 had hit a year ago, I do not think we’d be getting this response.”

“Dozens of workers telling strangers they’ve never met before all of their personal info and getting down to brass tacks about how to fight management after filling out an anonymous form a day ago…in America?! I never thought I would see this.”

The National Nursing Union are campaigning for a healthcare worker protection bill, and in Detroit bus workers refused to work in the absence of appropriate safety conditions.

Over the weekend of March 14th, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan emergency bill. It includes provisions for 10 days of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for those affected. However companies with more than 500 employees are exempt.

Yet the Trump administration also outflanked the Democratic establishment to the left with a plan for $1000 bailouts for every citizen. This isn’t as bizarre as it first appears; capital will bear one-off costs if its overall operating environment does not change, and Trumpian political economy is erratic and prone to big standalone gestures. There is consensus that a stimulus is necessary and we already know that those who tell us strong public services are a utopian pipe dream can always find trillions for bank bailouts mysteriously easily.

Masks being sold from a car boot on the Oregon coast

In April the Trump administration agreed to directly cover the costs of coronavirus treatment for the uninsured, repudiating the Affordable Care Act. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden already risks being outflanked on healthcare.

As one political strategist puts it, “there is absolutely no way this would have happened without Bernie Sanders shifting the debate.” The recognition of the necessity of state action has nonetheless not translated into support for the left.

Meanwhile, fault lines are emerging between competing sites of power. The Mayor of Las Vegas opposed a lockdown, the governor of Nevada ordered one. The same clash in reverse happened between the Mayor of New York City and the Governor of New York, but in both cases the voices in favour of robustness won out. Governor Newsom talks of California being “a nation-state.”

As the federal government response moves ponderously, regional power filled the gap. Progressives are already benefiting from the US’ high level of decentralisation. For many, down-ballot races, ballot measures and local organising represent a future base where new projects and ways of winning power and changing lives can be tested, developed and scaled.

“There is no return to normality”

March to the polls

The ghost of a presidential race was rumbling on. On 15th March, Ohio voters were told their primary was cancelled. Following a court case, hours before polls, they were then told it was not. In the end cancellation continued despite the Democratic National Committee (DNC) threatening to reduce the voting power of states that delayed contests.

Meanwhile in Illinois, precincts had election judges simply not turn up to polling locations. Allegations of voter suppression, either by incompetence or malice, have dogged these primaries and now this intersected with the outbreak. Just after the fiasco of Republicans ordering in-person voting to go ahead in Wisconsin in early April, Bernie Sanders suspended campaigning and effectively his presidential bid.

“The DNC was endangering lives by forcing the states to hold primaries even if it threatened people’s health”, says Haemin. “And Bernie Sanders’ campaign, which benefited the most from historically large rallies and thousands of volunteers knocking on doors, was hurt the worst.”

She says there shouldn’t be a relationship between the primary and the virus at all, but in reality there was. Lion agrees. “It’s still unclear whether or not we’ll be in any shape to pick a president despite the screeching insistence of the Democratic Party leadership.”

“But one thing is clear, the party is going to win. It not only makes the rules, it runs the race.”

As the crisis intensified, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden debated with no audience. Volunteers and former staff have mixed views on how it went. They say Sanders showing the most leadership on the issue and that his consistency on healthcare is paying dividends.

But Bernie’s message simply was not cutting through enough. Prescriptions differ; some think his attacks on Joe Biden’s chequered record failed to land because they weren’t pushed ferociously, others because debating 1990s decisions looked irrelevant. “He should have bypassed Biden altogether and taken the role of a president-in-waiting addressing the American people in a time of crisis”, says one supporter.

“He didn’t connect everything that was going on”, says Mariela in San Francisco, “and that has to do with the media as well. They split things up and it is hard to see past the chyrons. We have to find a way of changing that.”

In Seattle, Kate adds, “It’s our job on the left to outline what a functional response would look like, our chance to imagine, to help others imagine when they might otherwise not be open to doing so. It is important to talk about the dangers of economic inequality, but we need a vision for what public health looks like and how crises like these would be managed.”

In the gambling capital of the world, we had beaten the house. But the house always wins, and the structure and terrain of this election favoured the opponents of change. Democratic voters want, understandably, more than anything else to beat Donald Trump and remain steadfastly wedded to a model of politics that says a moderate is their greatest chance. The Sanders campaign had the arguments to disprove this model of politics but they have not been made to resonate sufficiently.

A few days later, pressed by a journalist on the state of his campaign, Sanders snapped. “I am, we are, dealing with a fucking global crisis here”, he reminds them. With widespread approval from staff and volunteers, the campaign pivoted decisively towards coronavirus relief, both in terms of mutual aid and mobilising support for advocacy on the Hill. Supporters raised $2million almost overnight.

“The response to coronavirus in the US has been by far the worst among developed nations”, says Lion, though I would argue Britain has been little better. “But the tens of thousands who worked on this campaign are now going to be sitting at home trying to figure out what’s going on and whether there’s any reason to hope. If we propose an evolution, then we can keep things going. There’s no return to normality after this.”

The not-exactly leftist Bloomberg website is carrying an opinion piece on coronavirus entitled “Get Ready, A Bigger Disruption Is Coming.”

Afterbern

East Las Vegas

In canvassing training, volunteers are encouraged to tell their “Bernie story”; what drew them to the campaign. In East Las Vegas, people are initially reluctant. The first young man to volunteer talks about his experience of being a DACA recipient in an undocumented immigrant family. It transpires everyone has a moving personal story and most involve the campaign’s totemic theme, healthcare.

Amy Vilela tells the tragedy of her uninsured daughter’s death at this meeting and at many others, looking visibly shaken but reopening her wounds repeatedly for the sake of the fight for healthcare. “It’s so basic”, says Haemin. “In Santa Cruz in the 90s, the hottest activism was for single payer health care. It took everyone else 30 years to get close.”

Trump’s Wall is a concrete symbol of his agenda; telling people that the solution to their uncertainty about the future is to bunker in a fortress with (older, whiter) people like them. Healthcare is the counterpunch. It can remind everyone, some Trump supporters included, that his administration has stolen from them to give handouts to the parasitical wealthiest. Beyond that; it demonstrates another way to solve problems, through compassion and collaboration.

America restricts or outright denies healthcare to tens of millions. Britain has its own woes with slashed public health and hospital budgets, backdoor privatisation, and attacks on medical staff pay and conditions — but I was nonetheless able to say, clipboard in hand on American porches, that I will not go into poverty for the crime of falling ill.

In one case, a woman’s coronavirus treatment has cost her $34,927. A firm that makes one potential treatment raised the price by almost 100 per cent in January, just as the outbreak struck China. Access to healthcare is also restricted by a system which ties healthcare to employment in a labour market which is being made ever more insecure for workers.

“All of this raises how much we are interconnected”, says Matt. He introduces the case of US sanctions in Iran, which have reportedly worsened the situation by preventing test kits and other medical equipment getting through. The sanctions show no signs of abating. “This virus is not going to respect borders”, he adds.

All my conversations circle back to this theme of connection. The banishing and neglect of homeless people in San Francisco is now endangering everyone. Deporting people who seek out healthcare, or allowing refugees to fester in crowded camps, is endangering everyone. A foreign policy which spitefully damages the health and welfare of civilians in countries deemed unfriendly is endangering everyone. So is a labour market where people can be made unemployed and destitute at a moment’s notice, where they are forced to work when sick, and where they are priced out of childcare and their rent is rising.

We have always argued that an injury to one is an injury to all, but the outbreak makes this argument immediate. The novel coronavirus is most dangerous to people who are already medically vulnerable; who often tend to be poorer. And it is most dangerous to systems who are already politically vulnerable.

It exposes how our way of life has been subjected to a politics that denies our interconnectedness and ensures that the structures connecting us incentivise the worst forms of human behaviour, spreading and exacerbating crisis.

We are now facing linked crises. The suborning of human ingenuity to processes that relentlessly concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few has endangered us all. It exacerbates the potential for conflicts and wars in a disintegrating multilateral order.

It has fuelled the rise of mistrust, fear, the hollowing out of communities and the susceptibility of people to far-right arguments. It fuels a casino economy liable to collapse at any point. And it has pushed our natural environment to the brink of collapse while placing political power in the grips of those who continue to destroy it. Left to work as intended, this system will destroy us.

Bernie Sanders and the movement around him understand all this intuitively. It is why people travel half a world away to campaign for him. He will still play a decisive role in shaping the response to the outbreak. But it will now be left to the people he has encouraged to bear the torch.

Amy Vilela

Matt is positive about this. “The night we won California there was hope. There was another vet, an old sapper who talked about being able to find community, hanging out with grad students as part of this huge coalition to get things like healthcare.” Echoing the campaign’s “not me, us” slogan he adds, “it wasn’t Bernie the man that inspired me, it was the movement he built.”

Haemin adds that nearly a third to half of people at each of the canvasses she ran were new. “Bernie inspired and mentored Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and other young women to run for office. We will all continue these fights. This county will not be the same after this emergency; all levels of life are being called into question.”

The American left will need to avoid the bitter recriminations that follow defeat. There is a lethal crisis in progress costing more lives everyday, and the first priority is to use an energetic and powerful movement’s people, ideas and organisations to mitigate the impact and make the argument persuasively for a different future.

They will need to provide support to, organise with, and build campaigns around those most affected by how the outbreak is being (mis)handled. This will involve continuing to build power in communities, in workplaces, and in local and national formal politics. They will need to be seen to get things done, and done well.

This is not a war, and the isolationist way of thinking encouraged by war metaphors will not work. But if it were a war, we are losing due to those aiding the enemy. Senators Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler will not be the only people who used a coronavirus intelligence briefing to dump millions in stocks. They would be the landlords who gleefully evict people in this crisis, the employers who spend their profits on smashing attempts by workers to organise for their conditions, the price-gougers and short-sellers and the politicians who defend them. Those responsible for exacerbating this crisis will need to be held to account.

Finally the movement will need to communicate the crises we face and the solutions to them in a compelling way, finding a new shared language of possibilities and priorities that is universal whilst moulding itself to the contexts of myriad communities. They must — and they will — imagine what a different society might look like, and how this outbreak may have played out if the virus had made contact with a political and economic system in possession of a heart and soul.

From Los Angeles to Seattle, places overflowing with life when I passed through during the campaign are now subdued and afraid. In Las Vegas the casino empire is shut. Those who were canvassing are now producing lists of resources for people in quarantine. They are also distributing “Good Neighbour” letters.

“Because of the large-scale shutdown across Las Vegas, local support networks have become particularly important”, they read.

“I would happily provide you with that support network if you do not already have it. I also want to ensure you have the resources you need during the outbreak.”

“I look forward to helping you as best as I can.”

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Still trying to work out what on earth is going on.

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