I was not a Bernie Sanders supporter. Nor do I support either of the two remaining presidential candidates. I will be sitting this election out. I will not disrespect myself by lending support to either of these people, who I believe are so glaringly unfit to lead.
Furthermore, I refuse to entertain the idea that somehow an election between two ivy-league multi-millionaires will result in improved conditions for the regular working people of this country, let alone the poor and disadvantaged.
Despite the fact that I did not support Senator Sanders, I will not deny that he was the most sincere, principled, and selfless of the final four Democratic and Republican candidates. He highlighted a number of vitally important issues that not even the staunchest of Republicans could legitimately minimize. Regardless of my lack of support for Senator Sanders’ candidacy, this is a message to those who did support him over the past year and a half.
With Secretary Clinton now claiming victory, you probably feel as though you’ve been punched in the gut. You always knew you were fighting an uphill battle. That’s why the euphoria of imagining Bernie’s inauguration was just as intense as the pain and disillusionment you feel right now. He fought the good fight, and so did you. As political campaigns go, he fought it fairly, with dignity and a loyalty to his principles that should be more common in our politics.
The youthful idealism and jubilant activism with which you campaigned was a joyful reminder of the power of ideas. Your faith in the promise of America is a gift you shared with all whom you touched during this campaign. You knocked on doors. You shared you thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, and then Facebook again. You invested so much emotion into this endeavor because you believed so profoundly in its righteousness. You risked your heart, knowing that it could be broken. For that you deserve the admiration of your American brothers and sisters.
Alas, Bernie’s debates and speeches, and your canvassing and proselytizing were not enough. Perhaps he never truly had a chance because he was fighting more than just one battle. Yes, he was tasked with sparring on matters of policy with his opponent; and yes, that opponent is a seasoned politician. However, Senator Sanders was also fighting a battle against the corruption and cynicism of both major parties, and the crooked system that they have created. Although the current political campaign may be coming to an end, I want to address a more important fight that will carry on beyond November.
The youthful idealism and jubilant activism with which you campaigned was a joyful reminder of the power of ideas.
For many years, Senator Sanders has served in the United States Senate not as a Democrat, but as an independent. Although an independent has some chance of political victory in a Senate race (especially in a smaller state), the presidential race is whole other animal. This is why Sanders chose to run in the Democratic presidential primary. At a town hall event he told NBC’s Chuck Todd “You would not have me on this program” when asked why he did not run as an Independent. He was not wrong.
The Democratic and Republican parties have dominated national politics in America for the past century and a half. Although it may appear that they control our government by design of the Founders, they do not. They have no birthright to the Congress, the presidency, or any other branch of the government. They are merely two bloated and corrupt social clubs who have hijacked the primary instrument of democracy: Design and control of the election system.
In any other election year, the throngs of “runner-up” supporters would dutifully line up to carry the primary winner to victory in the general election. 2016 is not such a year. The “lesser of two evils” mantra is no longer a valid reason to hold your nose in the voting booth. That argument is no longer good enough. It is the same rationale that is winning Donald Trump reluctant supporters on the right. If you want to support a candidate based on the same logic used by Trump supporters, then perhaps you are beyond help. Even tepid support for Clinton or Trump is an explicit endorsement of the broken system that has given us both of them. This is why your focus must be redirected
Simply stated, if you were for Bernie, then you should be against the unfair nature of a two-party system. Many people talk about the inherent corruption and exclusivity of such a system, but few offer a solution. The current election format, created by members of the Republican and Democratic parties, favors them, and goes far to exclude all others.
Furthermore, the protracted primary season ensures that they receive massive amounts of legitimizing media coverage not afforded to independent or third party candidates. The only way to change this unfair system is to un-rig the rules. Less restrictive ballot access and open, ranked choice primaries for Congress and president are the solution.
Luckily, these changes can be brought about at the state level. According to the Constitution, each state dictates how their citizens will choose their representatives in Congress and the president. Therefore, activism at the state level could actually completely shift the power away from the parties and toward a new era in open politics. This is your new battlefield, and this is the continuation of your movement.
So in the wake of Bernie’s defeat, do not wallow in sadness. Do not lower your standards. Do not fall in line. Continue your fight. Harness that bittersweet cocktail of frustration and idealism that took you and your candidate to the doorstep of the promised land. Put it to good use for future generations. Organize, and change the immoral system that handicapped your beloved candidate. Do so before you drift back into the relative comfort of your non-activist daily existence.
If you do so, you will bring about a true revolution in your own time, and guarantee that the next Bernie Sanders to come along will face a fair fight. Your campaign is not over.