In our cover story this month, Christopher Cook reports on what’s next for the Bernie Sanders revolution.
Cook covers Bernie’s new organization, Our Revolution, which hopes to channel the energy that fueled the Sanders campaign into a long-lasting movement for progressive change. It’s a difficult task, as the defection of core staffers just as Sanders was announcing the launch of the new group makes clear.
To read the mainstream media coverage, you might think the whole progressive movement Sanders spearheaded was falling apart. But this is not the first time a campaign has struggled to make the transition from the “fierce urgency of now,” as President Obama put it on the stump in 2008, to the long slog of building and sustaining a lasting political organization.
The Sanders campaign, like the Obama campaign before it, brilliantly knit together savvy political organizers and social media strategists with young, motivated activists who were new to electoral politics and passionate about their candidate and their cause.
When Obama for America became Organizing for America, all the air went out of the room. Instead of a nationwide organization of progressives, ready to respond to events and hold the new President’s feet to the fire, as he had urged them to do, Organizing for America became a vehicle for Democratic Party fundraising.
Bernie Sanders supporters could be forgiven for fearing that the same thing is happening again. The Democratic Party took them for a bumpy ride, courting the passionate young activists who showed up on the platform committee and at the convention hall in Philadelphia, and adopting many of their goals, and then drowning them out with chants of “USA! USA!” when they protested the party’s continued endorsement of militarism and planet-destroying energy policies.
Other progressive candidates have tried and failed to turn their campaigns into effective organizations. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition floundered. Howard Dean’s Democracy for America—headquartered down the street from the Our Revolution offices in Burlington, Vermont—has not had a big impact. And then there is the uncomfortable alliance between active politicians in Washington and activists on the ground. Dean endorsed Hillary; his Democracy for America endorsed Bernie.
Our Revolution may disappoint some Sanders revolutionaries by failing to target mainstream Democrats with primary challengers and mount a real effort to wrest control of the party from the establishment. Instead, the group seems likely to focus on making a strong grassroots push to support Sanders and other progressive office holders as they fight for progressive policies in the Senate. And the group is already supporting down-ballot progressive candidates all over the nation.
John Nichols contributes an optimistic roundup of progressive champions running for office in November, inspired by Sanders.
The Bernie Sanders campaign gave us all a tantalizing glimpse of the size and power of a broad progressive movement in this country. Now the torch is passed. Long may it burn.
It’s back-to-school time and our lead Progressive Education Fellow Jeff Bryant writes an encouraging editorial this month on the victories of the pro-public-school movement against the forces of privatization.
On the darker side, Frank Smyth has an important piece on how Donald Trump is moving the most extreme and dangerous elements of the rightwing pro-gun movement into the mainstream. Roger Bybee covers Paul Ryan’s long game—how he and his party are looking ahead to 2020 while enduring the chaotic Trump candidacy.
Greg Palast, whose new movie, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, had its Midwest premiere at Fighting Bob Fest this year in Madison, collaborates with cartoonist Keith Tucker of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” fame to illustrate the Republicans’ “voter-fraud” racket. And Sharon Johnson investigates the ways that municipalities extract money from poor people by needlessly revoking their driver’s licenses. Plus, our man in Hollywood, Ed Rampell, talks with actor Viggo Mortensen about what he has in common with his character in Captain Fantastic, and the future of progressive politics.
Stay encouraged, and keep carrying that torch!
Ruth Conniff is editor-in-chief of The Progressive.