Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Charlie Leight/Getty)
17 March 16
e all win when Bernie Sanders runs.
We need him to continue through the Democratic Convention and beyond.
You can pardon my enthusiasm, but I’ll now be sending him my $27.
That Bernie came in second in this past Tuesday’s primaries doesn’t mean much. He got more than enough votes to justify an ongoing campaign. And the longer he runs, the better for all of us.
This stuff about him being a “single-issue candidate” is nonsense. The corporate media and the regular Democrats can’t handle the complexity of what’s essentially a nuanced class and counter-cultural analysis. They’re desperate to avoid the realities of what’s being said.
The campaign, of course, is about way more than just Bernie.
And the calculations of delegates and vote counts and much of the rest of it have their place. But we need not lose heart when Hillary seems to get more votes. And she, above all, should be deeply grateful to a genuine grassroots campaign that’s been the only thing sparking any real life into an otherwise excruciating mainstream slog.
Every speech Bernie gives, every day his campaign proceeds, every moment of media time he gets is a plus for all of us.
He is, above all, educating and energizing a new wave of activists and ordinary citizens of all ages. The impacts are essential and incalculable. They will be with us for decades.
This past Sunday I watched Bernie speak to about 5,000 mostly young, very diverse citizens at Ohios State’s Schottenstein Arena. State Senator Nina Turner opened for him with amazing verve.
Bernie then talked for about an hour on a wide range of issues near and dear to us all: social justice, Social Security, Medicare, fair taxation, killing free trade agreements, climate chaos, Solartopian energy, native rights, women’s rights, LGBT, true family values, corporate power, the 1%, militarism, the power of activism, and more.
Of course he began by denouncing Donald Trump’s fascist demagoguery.
At the end, he simply pointed out that love is a more powerful force than hate.
In between, the speech was completely BS-free. There were no throwaway lines, no hokey begs for applause, no contentless filler (he did say something was HYUUUGE, but it was in reasonable context and genuinely endearing).
I found the whole thing deeply moving. Bernie’s essentially a 60s guy who marched with the rest of us for peace and civil rights back in the day. Thankfully, his politics don’t seem to have changed much since. But somehow he’s the guy who navigated the system and became a mayor, congressman and senator. Fantastic!
Now he’s a legitimate candidate for President of the United States. Against all odds he’s energized millions of citizens, raised millions of dollars, and won millions of votes.
And he calls himself a Socialist. He’s the first truly competitive presidential candidate to do that since Eugene V. Debs ran from a federal prison cell in 1920.
We can nit-pick that one. Debs’s Socialism called for public ownership and democratic management of the means of production … with the major financial, economic and industrial institutions run directly by the people, for the public benefit. Bernie has not gone that route except maybe on health care. Technically, in calling for basic justice, human rights, ecological sanity, and so much more, he’s a Social Democrat. Fine with me.
What’s crucial is that his campaign is part of a broad historic continuum. You can date it to December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that Montgomery bus. Or back to Debs or the abolitionists or the better angels of our first Revolution. Or forward to the Vietnam protests, the mass No Nukes arrests, the Freeze Movement, Occupy, or #blacklivesmatter or whatever comes next.
Pick your spot in the mighty stream of nonviolent social activism. What matters is that at this point in our history, we have a society with sufficient social awareness and political commitment to sustain a campaign of this magnitude.
At some point it will end. Bernie may not get the Democratic nomination. He may not be elected president.
But we’ll have had this particular moment in the spiral of our history and now can further evolve, with that many more of us educated and energized.
We can all have our suggestions. Personally, I wish he would talk more directly about an end to militarism in general, asking every hour the $64 trillion question: “Why do we have 900 bases in 175 countries? Why have we been at endless imperial war since 1941?”
He could yell about the fact that in this coming election, 80% of the votes will be cast on electronic machines with zero paper trail, zero access to source code, zero real verification. We know black box elections (like 2000 and 2004) are easily stolen; 2016 is no exception. Bernie, we need you to talk about that. You did, after all, vote for the 2002 Help America Vote Act that foisted these machines on us. (Hillary voted NO. We should ask her why!)
I’d love to hear him more explicitly demand the shut-down of all US atomic reactors, with an even more rapid shift to Solartopia, a totally green-powered Earth.
I’m sure you all have your own laundry list.
But the point is … this is a nice movement wave. The corporate media will dismiss the candidate and ignore the issues. The Democrats will do what they will. And somewhere down the road, we’ll all have to decide how to cast our vote. And how to protect it once we do.
Then, the election will be over, we’ll have a new president, and we’ll all have to deal with what comes next.
In the meantime, a gracious, giving, often brilliant campaign has moved us forward. Let’s celebrate that (and Bernie!) and push it all forward as best we can with humor, grace, gratitude and joy.
Harvey Wasserman's "Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, AD 2030" is at www.solartopia.org. He is senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and writes regularly for www.freepress.org. He and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored four books on election protection, including "Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election?," "As Goes Ohio: Election Theft Since 2004," "How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008," and "What Happened in Ohio."