Bernie Sanders’ political revolution is alive.
The Vermont senator has given an important message to Americans in desperate need for a political revolution — a systemic restructuring of the country’s political landscape — during his Democratic campaign against Hillary Clinton. During the early days of his campaign, Sanders had often explained what he meant by the term.
“What does a political revolution look like? It means that 80 percent of the people vote in national elections, not 40 percent. It means that billionaires can’t make unlimited campaign contributions and buy and sell politicians. It means that the U.S. Government represents the needs of all the people, not just the 1 percent and their lobbyists.”
While Sanders has repeatedly pointed out that his victory could be the first step towards its materialization, he has been careful not to overestimate his role in the revolution.
On the contrary, Bernie Sanders has maintained that he cannot usher in a new era of the revolution by himself, a reality that not all of his supporters appear to have accepted. Even if Sanders was to become president, which now seems unlikely, accomplishing most things that are part of his agenda would require more than just one presidential election.
Noam Chomsky had underlined this aspect of Sanders’ campaign during an earlier recorded interview, when the political philosopher said that the primary victory for Sanders’ supporters would be to sustain the movement, something he feared could fizzle out if Bernie Sanders fails to clinch the nomination.
“[Sanders’] campaign ought to be directed to sustaining a popular movement which will use the election as an incentive. The only thing that’ll ever bring about meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated popular movements which don’t pay attention to the election cycle.”
Bernie Sanders has himself acknowledged this aspect of the revolution, saying that he cannot usher in the changes alone.
“I acknowledge at every speech that I give,” Sanders had told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, “that no president, not even Bernie Sanders or anybody else can do it alone.”
The difficulty of realizing the aims of Sanders’ political revolution, as Salon pointed out in a report, becomes all the more difficult when the reality of the Congress is acknowledged.
“Currently, the GOP has a 30-seat majority in the House; so long as that’s the case, there is virtually no chance of passing universal health care or a higher minimum wage or sensible financial regulations or even a carbon tax, all of which are central to Sanders’s platform.”
In this context, many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters have feared that in the face of defeat, the Vermont senator’s primary agendas of a universal healthcare or Wall Street reforms might never see daylight. In fact, even if Sanders managed to get into the Oval Office against huge odds that are now stacked against him, getting legislation passed through what is a predominantly status-quo-loving Congress would be a Herculean task.
This is precisely why the news of Bernie Sanders’ former staffers joining hands to launch a PAC aimed at midterm Congressional elections is so reinvigorating. According to HuffPost, some of the Vermont senator’s former staffers and volunteers have formed a new political action committee, which aims to put progressives in Congress.
“Brand New Congress, which was launched Monday, is looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections to ‘replace Congress all at once’ with lawmakers who agree with the Vermont independent’s policy positions…A timeline on the PAC’s website says that it plans to form local search committees to recruit organizers and candidates who are new to politics. The PAC says it will codify various progressive policies in a platform that its slate of candidates must support.”
Zack Exley, one of the founders of the PAC, put it rather bluntly, but also precisely.
“We learned…that the grassroots are better qualified to run electoral campaigns than Democratic party operatives They just need to be given the tools, the data, the offices and the structure to succeed. We want a supermajority in Congress that is fighting for jobs, criminal justice reform and the environment.”
While Bernie Sanders has not himself endorsed the group so far, it is likely he will do so once the nominating process is wrapped up. The Vermont senator realizes the importance of sustaining the movement he started, and he would be better positioned than anybody to know that it is not just down to him anymore.
His success at outperforming the Clinton machine on the backs of small individual donations shows that the American people are ready to put their money where their mouth is. More importantly, the mobilization that Sanders’ campaign has been able to generate, especially among the millennials, should continue to strive on. Seeing it dissipate because Bernie loses an election would be a real shame.
Whether or not this particular initiative by Sanders’ former staffers succeeds or not, the very fact that organizers are now coming together to relentlessly push the contours of American political landscape is refreshing. After all, that is the most important message that Bernie Sanders’ underdog campaign has given us.
[Photo by John Sommer II/Getty Images]