Post-Bernie Sanders progressives should focus unrelenting attention on the racism infecting American society, illustrated by the killings of black men by police and the deaths of officers at the hands of armed African-Americans.
I consider this issue and income inequality the greatest problems facing America. Unfortunately, the Bernie Revolution is frittering away its energy by embracing too many good causes, rather than concentrating on these.
But before I discuss that, I’ve been digging into what Sanders’ followers are thinking of doing after the election this fall, and they’ve got interesting things to say.
“I think the [Bernie] movement is as strong today as it ever has been,” filmmaker Montgomery Markland told me. He’s planning to campaign and raise money for the state and local candidates Sanders hopes to mobilize after the Democratic National Convention next week.
Larry Cohen, former president of the Communication Workers of America, mirrored the pride and disappointment many followers are feeling after Sanders’ recent endorsement of Hillary Clinton. He wrote about it in In These Times:
“While the platform is likely the most progressive ever, with enormous thanks to Bernie and his supporters, it will likely stop short of satisfying the tens of thousands who campaigned for him and the 12 million who voted for him. There is no proposal to end fracking; Medicare for all was voted down; and the platform does not support an end to new Israeli settlements in Gaza or the West Bank.”
I received a long and thoughtful response from Carson Malbrough, a young African-American man who is a junior at Occidental College in Los Angeles and a leader in Students for Sanders. We exchanged emails when I was writing about Sanders volunteers.
“We [younger voters] are the future of this country, and what we saw in Bernie Sanders’ candidacy was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, yet it was everything we could want,” Malbrough wrote. “He advocated for economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice, drastic changes to higher education, etc., in ways we didn’t know were possible because most politicians don’t have the conviction to do it. … You’ll see many Sanders supporters joining or creating new issue-oriented organizations, educating and registering more of our peers to come out and vote, peacefully protesting for justice and even running for office with the same progressive platform Sanders called for. … I don’t believe any other candidate could have catalyzed this many people like this, especially considering how new most of us are to politics.”
I asked if he was disillusioned by his candidate’s endorsement of Clinton.
“I am far from disillusioned at this point,” he said. “I was disappointed at how the primary ended, but despite that, I still hold my head high. The anger and passion we all felt will not go away, and that’s because this is bigger than just Bernie Sanders. Our system that is corrupted by money and power is something we didn’t know could be changed. We never expected to see our voices amplified on a national level. We never expected for all of the issues and values we care about to be vouched for so passionately.
“To be honest, many of us never expected to even care about politics. But now that we’ve witnessed our potential, there’s no turning back. We will turn this anger into action in order to make our country better moving forward. Even when all the cards are stacked against us, we will lead, and we will achieve the unthinkable.”
As for himself, “I personally plan on casting my first vote for Jill Stein, and the reasons why are simple. My predecessors marched and died for my right to vote, and I value that right. I value it so much that I refuse to waste it on the two major parties’ nominees because I don’t align with them on a moral level. I do not align as Democrat or Republican, so this fall I will be voting with my conscience.”
All these folks have good ideas, and they believe in them. That’s why the Sanders movement was great to cover. It was something I myself hadn’t experienced for some time—politics with a purpose.
But the crisis over racism calls for something bolder and more single-minded than the laundry list of good ideas being tossed about by the Bernie Revolution. It demands support of Black Lives Matter and its police reform agenda.