This past spring I was excited about electoral politics for the first time in a long time. Even when I volunteered or was paid by campaigns in the past, I liked the people I was working for, but was really never super excited. Bernie Sanders, the self identified socialist independent Senator for Vermont put his self out there for the Democratic Presidential Primaries. By no means perfect, Senator Sanders was far and away more principled than mainstream politicians of either major party. His policy positions were closer to mine than anyone else with a legitimate chance at getting into the White House, considerably closer. In lieu of the more “moderate” but still to the left of most Dems Elizabeth Warren, who fans, and Bernie himself, tried to draft, the Senator decided why the hell not?
As I said, he was not perfect. Just deciding to register and run in a major party, something he had never done before, hurt his legitimacy somewhat. His contribution to military pork, especially vis-a-vis the now famous, inoperative F-35 to toe that “keep jobs in your state” line was also damning. By and large, however, he stands for the things important to me, and so many of those who filled arenas at his rallies. To him, and us, single payer health care is a no-brainer. Adventurist wars need to be nipped in the bud. Wall Street speculation needs to be reigned in before they kill the middle and lower classes completely. These are just a few. If you know Bernie, and have been following this cycle, there is so much more.
We were all so excited. People arrived in huge crowds to see this fiery, old Brooklyn transplant. Young people who never got involved with a Presidential campaign, who never even thought of it, were phone banking for him. Older folks, who had given up hope that the highest levels of our government would ever reflect the wants and needs of anyone but the elite were given a reason to believe again. If nothing else the entire country was finally talking about the issues we knew needed to be addressed.
From the beginning those of us who know politics understood it was an uphill battle. Some suggested Bernie was only sheep dogging Hillary Clinton to keep her to the left. There is truth behind that, but I would not use the word “only.” Clinton is a party insider, part of a pair that have made themselves essential to the Democrats. The DNC would not, and could not, play fair. It was never as big as it seemed to us, but it was there, and it was heartbreaking. We had to watch as our hopes slowly were dashed, even as they were raised by a few key wins by Sanders.
Then it happened, when it did we knew it was coming . He lost the nomination bid, and the Bernie or Bust movement was born. Really it started weeks before, when the writing was on the wall. People talked of writing Bernie in. They tried to get him to run an independent campaign. Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, even suggested she would defer to a Sanders run as the Green Party candidate. In the end he pulled up stakes and got in line behind Clinton. Many were upset, but not me. I have said even before the cause was lost that as sad as it would be, he was the one who decided to play in the Dems’ sand box, so staying in it, at least through this cycle, is only right.
Bernie or Bust persists. There is a lot to not like about Hillary Clinton, though none of the scandals surrounding her are worth following, the rantings of angry people who actually think she is a communist (I know, right?) She is a neo liberal, like almost every other mainstream politician, putting government in the service of capital. The idea that capital itself might need to be abolished is nowhere near on her radar. She will continue our monstrous foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. I can get why people cannot get behind her.
Some of you have decided not to vote. Some of you have decided to vote third party. I hope if you do, it is not for Johnson, who is far more problematic than Clinton, and maybe as much so as Trump. Hopefully you are not voting for the plutocratic, cis-heterosexist, racist ego maniac. I cannot fault you for not voting for Clinton, though as a trans woman terrified of the violence toward me Trump’s very Presidency would legitimize, I feel I have to. Vote your conscience, I am all about that.
What I hope you do not do, and this is where we get to the title of this post, is continue with the idea of Bernie or Bust. He is great, he really is, even with his flaws, light years beyond any politician with national recognition. He is an amazing example. That, however, is what he needs to be right now: an example. Bernie Sanders has put his neck out since he was a college student. He gets down in the dirt, and gets it done. That is what we have to do. For a moment in your lives you got fired up. You organized, made calls, got out to help the elderly go to vote, the whole nine yards. It did not work the way you, or I, wanted, but you took an almost unknown candidate and made him a legitimate contender.
So do not let it end with Bernie, let it start with him. I had a boss at the Working Families Party who had a great line “our work begins on election day.” Take that energy, those new skills and keep a fire to Hillary Clinton’s feet. Get local and state politicians in who will fight for you as hard as you did for Bernie. You deserve, we all deserve (yes, even our political opposites) better than to give up because a messed up system kicked a little dirt in our faces.