Bernie Sanders: A Political Revolution Must Start from the Bottom, Not the Top

A lesser-of-two-evils election is the lowest form of democracy. Voters deserve a better alternative.David Yee, August 2015

In a week that is breaking news on scandal faster than can be kept up with, along with a Democratic National Convention kicking off with a whole lot of discouraged and disgruntled participants — probably my single best quote, from August 2015, has the most meaning of anything I’ve ever written.

But I’ve also written many times about how voters could have a better alternative.

One strategy has been the so-called ‘fulcrum strategy‘ of independents trying to capture a half-dozen or so Senate seats, thereby always having power to dictate cloture on any issue.

Another was the reality that the laws and parties are just too antagonistic against national opponents at the present time, that a grassroots, bottom-up campaign is necessary to win.

Some of this comes from changing state laws and party rules, some of this comes from changing our perspectives on how we vote — including things like proportional representation and ranked-choice voting.

And most importantly, I’ve written numerous times about the fact that our ballot box has given the United States 114 peaceful transitions of power — something unheard of in most of the world’s political systems.

The power of the vote cannot be underestimated — but it is also very underutilized.

I digress for a reason. I have never believed in top-down strategies or even thought they had much of a chance at working — the deck is just too stacked against a single independent candidate (or even a status quo breaking candidate) running for our nation’s highest office.

Maybe it could have worked without the scandal, but possibly not — the machine of private political powers is just too strong.

But in a little noticed post, outside of the 27,000+ likes he got on Facebook, Bernie Sanders conceded on Monday that a top-down strategy is just not feasible:

And this was a statement of poise, of thanks to his supporters, of hope, but also one with a little bit of resignation to the fact that a considerable amount of groundwork is going to have to happen before a serious challenger to the status quo can affect change on the national stage.

There have been a lot of Sanders supporters openly upset with him for not pressing the claims of scandal and corruption — that he should fight for the nomination that was stolen from him.

Some of these supporters openly booed him when he told them that they must ensure that Hillary Clinton is the next president.

But Sanders is also in a precarious position, and he knows it.

He can effect a lot of change from his Senate seat, but he gets his committee assignments from the Democratic Party through a caucusing arrangement (if he remains an independent after the election) — assignments that will become more powerful if the Democrats successfully take back the Senate in 2016.

He could go all-in and try to challenge the outcome of the primary, but it would risk the good he can do from his Senate assignments. The risk is too great to ‘rock the boat’ against the establishment.

And that’s unfortunately the sad state of affairs — and we have to accept the fact that he has affected change since 1981 and will continue to do so from his very safe Senate seat.

But there’s a lesson for 2020, and independents have better get used to this idea — change is going to have to come from the bottom-up, from taking state legislatures and demanding a change to the laws that create the two-party duopoly over American politics.

Sanders supporters are angry and distressed over the loss in the primary, but this anger needs redirected where it can do some good — not simply throwing hands up in the air and declaring failure.

Sure, the DNC will pay for the scandal that has broken, in bad press, lawsuits, and defections of support — and they should pay for their misdeeds.

But the ‘Bernie or Bust’ movement is still very vocal, as highlighted by the convention speeches last night — but even as the very-committed Sanders’ supporter, comedian Sarah Silverman, said last night, ‘to the ‘Bernie or Bust’ people, you’re being ridiculous.’

Ridiculous because in the end, if a person was truly a Bernie Sanders supporter, they need to listen to what he thinks is the lesser-of-two-evils, not lesser-of-four-evils, for this election.

Because in the end, he knows that his supporters can’t throw away their votes to allow a Donald Trump victory — and he’s going to fight to prevent what he sees to be one of the biggest potential political set-backs in decades.

Photo Credit: DiegoGDiaz / Shutterstock.com