Here in Arizona, Bernie Sanders supporters started meeting last summer, more than a year before the nominating convention, and I mean citizens’ meetings not politicians.’ Thousands greeted Bernie at campaign rallies, donated to the campaign and helped spread the word on social media. Countless meetings were held and as primary time approached they staffed phone banks, canvassed neighborhoods, passed out literature and talked to their friends and co-workers
In other words, they joined the “political revolution.” They not only didn’t seem to mind that Bernie is a socialist, many welcomed it. “It’s not like capitalism is working for us,” many said. In my 50 years working elections I’ve never seen as many yard signs for a candidate as I saw while out canvassing in Tucson last February.
Last year, when Bernie launched his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, most political pundits dismissed it as a quixotic effort that would go nowhere. They did not understand that the campaign was different from anything we’ve seen in America for many, many years.
Bernie himself made clear that the campaign was not about him. It was about building a political revolution that would last years after the election itself was over. Using the election campaign as an engine, he was firing up a grassroots movement to fight for an end to discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or gender identity; to push for a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition, Medicare for all, and much more, a political revolution that builds class consciousness and opposes corporate robbery.
Sanders’ unique campaign has given millions of otherwise disaffected Americans the opportunity to voice anger over conditions that had been plaguing them: their standard of living had plummeted; students started their work lives crushed by debt; workers were wracked by fears of the future. These are the very groups the Democratic presidential candidate needs to win the election.
Most importantly, even Democratic Party leaders give Bernie credit for convincing Hillary Clinton, to adopt many of the goals and programs promulgated by the political revolution; goals and programs that speak directly to the crisis in which many Americans find themselves.
Nevertheless, now that the primaries are winding down, some are calling for Bernie to immediately drop out of the race and throw his support to Hillary, a move sure to mean the end of the political revolution before it becomes strongly rooted and able to be sustained after the elections. It could also mean alienating the very people Hillary Clinton will need if she becomes the nominee. The Democratic candidates for all offices will need the enthusiasm and energy generated by those now part of the Bernie campaign if they wish to defeat the extreme right come November.
So why are some people calling on Bernie to withdraw from the race now? Is it because their state has already voted and the excitement has abated a little? Is there a good reason why California, New Jersey and voters in seven additional primaries should not experience the same excitement and progressive movement-building that the other states have enjoyed?
California is our biggest state and still growing. It’s becoming a majority nonwhite state moving to the Left and promises to be a leading progressive force in our country’s future. A campaign such as Bernie’s that helps build class consciousness can only help. We need California, New Jersey and the other states yet to vote to share in the excitement of this great campaign. It will benefit all working people.
Another important reason for Bernie’s political revolution to remain in the race until the Philadelphia convention is that the more Sanders delegates there are, the better the chance for democratic reforms to be adopted by the Democratic Party and the better the chance of adopting a progressive platform that could become the manifesto for the sustainable grassroots organizations that will inherit the mantle of the political revolution.
Already, even before the final primaries, Sanders has said he is pleased with the makeup of the platform committee that the campaigns and the DNC have negotiated. It has a progressive majority thanks to the strong Sanders campaign. Why quit now just when the strategy of carrying on seems to be working best?
The Sanders campaign has demonstrated that people will vote for candidates who support their interests and who campaign on working class issues. Sanders has promised to keep up the campaign to and through the nominating convention and he will keep his promise to his supporters.
Holding high the issues that matter to working class Americans can only help all Democratic candidates in November. The general election will not be held for three and a half months after the convention. Plenty of time to unite against Trump.
In the meantime, let’s hope America feels the Bern – It will do us no harm.
Photo: Supporters for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT., cheer during a campaign rally, March 19, in Phoenix. Ralph Freso | AP