After the big Brooklyn brawl a couple days ago between Hillary and Bernie, and knowing what the polls are saying about the Bernie movement’s uphill climb to win in NY three days from now, I’ve been surprised that I’ve found myself feeling much less anxious than I’ve been just prior to other big elections over the last few months. Thinking about it I’ve figured out why.
The Sanders movement has already won some very big victories. It has shown that there is a massive constituency for unapologetic, strongly progressive politics. It has shown that someone who calls himself a democratic socialist can win the support of a majority of the US electorate and people, as shown by polls going back months. It has strengthened issue-based movements while simultaneously bringing forward a multi-issue platform that helps us all see the intersectionality among them.
In other words, Bernie and the movement which has rallied in support of his candidacy has transformed US politics. The political revolution is growing and deepening, and it is here to stay.
This is a very, very big deal. It is something to celebrate.
Does it matter whether Bernie or Hillary wins the nomination? Absolutely. A Bernie victory would reverberate throughout the world, give a huge shot in the arm to movements everywhere struggling for justice, human rights and a stable and healthy climate and environment.
However, Bernie himself has spoken often about the limits of Presidential powers. Typical were these words as quoted in an article, “Bernie’s Way,” in the Feb. 8, 2016 issue of Slate: “Do you think you beat them [referring to the Koch brothers] just by electing a president?” he continued. “We need a mass movement of people who stand up and fight back, and that’s what this campaign is about.”
We should all do whatever we can to help Bernie win the Democratic Party nomination in late July. If he wins in New York on Tuesday it would be very YUGE. If he loses by a very close vote, that will not be good news for Hillary given her many NY advantages, including that it is a closed primary and you needed to change your registration to Democrat six months ago (!) to be able to vote in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
But if Bernie ultimately lose the nomination battle, there is much that he can do to keep building the Bernie movement. He can do this even if he supports Clinton over Trump or Cruz, which he has said he will do, and which is not surprising.
Not all who support Bernie will do that, but I’m sure a big majority will. Faced with the choice of Hillary or Trump/Cruz, and given the long-term, disastrous impacts as far as the Supreme Court, on our severely stressed climate and on other issues if a Republican wins the Presidency, this is a rational and understandable choice, given the reality of our winner-take-all, non-proportional, big-money-dominated, US electoral system.
What could no-longer-a-candidate Bernie do leading up to the November election? He could travel the country, speaking about the issues the way that he has while urging people to vote for progressives down-ballot and Clinton for President. Perhaps he could take a version of the Noam Chomsky position on who to vote for for President: vote Hillary in states where it’s a close election but in states where either Clinton or the Republican is virtually certain to win, vote your conscience, including consideration of the Green Party candidate. He could talk about his intention to keep building the Bernie movement after the election.
Bernie would do this not as an arm of the Clinton campaign but essentially independently, financed by the same source—the people—that has financed his campaign up to now.
He could talk about the need, next year, for a coming together of the Bernie movement into an organized independent political force that would involve progressive Democrats, independents like him, leaders out of organizations based in communities of color, the women’s and lgbt movements, climate and climate justice activists, labor and community-based groups, young people and more. He could solicit ideas from the grassroots of the movement about how we should organize ourselves nationally and be supportive of local and state initiatives to build on-going Bernie movement groupings.