Bernie Sanders’ political revolution has never been about his campaign or himself. Since the end of April 2015, when he first announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President, Bernie has said the revolution is about the people. He has emphasized that anyone who wants change must be the catalyst for it.
Some of his supporters have taken his message to heart. People frustrated with a rigged political system have begun to take on the mantle of Bernie’s political revolution, running for offices at every level themselves.
Some of them are making history with their surprising campaigns and primary wins.
Take, for example, Misty Snow of Utah. Snow is a transgender woman who upset the apple cart in her bid to win the Democratic nomination for the Senate race. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of her win is not the fact that she is transgendered. It’s the fact that she works as a grocery store cashier in Salt Lake City.
She does not have a prestigious job. She is not a member of the political elite. On the contrary. She is an everyday person struggling to make it in the world. She is one of us.
And she defeated a marriage therapist for the nomination.
Snow’s platform looks a lot like Bernie’s. She’s called for an increase in the minimum wage and called out her opponent, Jonathan Swinton, for his support on abortion restrictions.
In neighboring Colorado, another transgender woman, Misty Plowright, won her Democratic primary for the House against an Iraq War veteran in a 58 to 42 percent margin. Like Misty Snow, Misty Plowright is also going up against an opponent in a staunchly red district. Plowright will face Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn for the Congressional District 5 seat, which includes Colorado Springs, Fort Carson, and Cimarron Hills.
Both the state of Utah and Colorado’s 5th Congressional District are deeply red areas, which make both of Misty’s primary wins more significant. And despite the long odds of winning for either Snow or Plowright, their wins are hugely significant. Each of their victories against more conservative Democrats signals a cultural and religious shift in voters who live in traditionally conservative regions. It also indicates a change in expectations from maintaining the status quo to challenging it.
Even if both women lose against their Republican opponents, their primary wins are small, but significant, victories in the wider struggle to reform our political landscape.
To wit, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Bernie’s political revolution depends on the commitment of those willing to take on deeply embedded establishment politics.
In New York state, another Berniecrat is keeping the political revolution alive. Zephyr Teachout, a law professor who specializes in — what else — corruption and corporate power, is running on a platform much like Bernie Sanders’. She first garnered attention in her 2014 challenge of New York governor Andrew Cuomo. In that race, she managed to win more than one-third of the vote despite running on a limited budget against a well-funded establishment politician.
Teachout is so well-liked that even Bernie himself has endorsed her, which has helped her raise more money for her congressional campaign.
Bernie has made it his mission of late to help down ticket candidates win their Democratic races in an effort to transform the party into what it resembled during the days of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The 1932 official Democratic platform has many of the same elements that Bernie has called for in his political revolution: getting money out of politics, eliminating the influence of lobbyists, ending prohibition, regulating banks, a peaceful foreign policy, and even justice and support for war veterans.
Yet, in 2016, Bernie Sanders’ platform policies have been largely shunned by Hillary Clinton surrogates during platform committee meetings, which could lead to a major battle at the Democratic Convention. This does not bode well for Democrats, because the party elites appear tone-deaf to what the majority of voters want.
Clinton supporters have habitually brushed off Bernie Sanders supporters as people who are not “real” Democrats, so why should the party reflect their ideals? This is a dangerous mindset for a party whose membership has fallen woefully since the 1960s.
According to a Gallup Poll from January, only 29 percent of voters identify as Democrats. While only 26 percent of voters call themselves Republicans, the Democrats’ share of eligible voters remains small when one considers that in the 1960s, virtually half of all eligible voters identified as Democrats.
Instead, 42 percent of eligible voters today are not affiliated with any party, and about 70 percent of those folks have joined Bernie Sanders’ political revolution as his supporters. For the Democratic Party elite, and for Clinton supporters to diminish the importance of independents in the general election is tantamount to ringing the death knell for the party.
What Bernie’s revolution is doing is trying to revitalize a dying political party. Candidates like Zephyr Teachout, Misty Snow, Misty Plowright, and Tim Canova (who is challenging incumbent Debbie Wasserman-Schultz) could breathe new life into the Democrats. That is, if the political elite will stop stonewalling progressive efforts to bring about positive change. Whether the political establishment likes it or not, Bernie Sanders has empowered everyday individuals to run for office, which is the cornerstone of his political revolution.
[Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]