Much of the run-up to the recent election focused on turmoil: difficulties the GOP had in supporting their own presidential nominee, and difficulties the Democratic National Committee had when WikiLeaks exposed questionable activities of their own.
And now, post-election, the conversation isn't much different: the Trump transition team is reported as being in chaotic disarray, while the Democratic Party is reeling from the repudiation of what many have called their elitist power structure. But one man has risen out of the chaos to become the new voice of influence: Bernie Sanders.
The message most have taken away from this election is that voters want change. Donald Trump's victory was largely due to independent voters, who are less inclined to vote for those who represent establishment politics and who they view as part of the political machine.
Bernie Sanders has never been politics as usual. Who could speak more to independent voters than the one and only Senator registered as an Independent, whose political ideology is more aligned with Democratic Socialism than the current Democratic Party?
If you need more proof that many of the independents who voted for Trump would likely have supported Bernie instead, just look at the fact that in five key states that Trump took in November, Bernie had beaten Clinton in the primary. Those voters didn't want establishment in June, and they likely didn't change their minds in November.
That said, if Sanders had been the Democratic nominee we still may have been staring down the barrel of a Trump presidency. This election voters declared their disapproval of the Democratic establishment, and in the face of that declaration, one man came forward as the voice of the liberal non-establishment: Bernie Sanders.
Bernie has had more airtime on national television (including CBS, CNN, Face the Nation, The View) in the week after the election than he had during his candidacy. And why? The voters who fear the worst from a Trump presidency are in shock. They feel powerless and need someone to guide them. Herein lies Bernie's greatest strength: he's the pied piper of those who want action and not rhetoric, those who want a politician more concerned with keeping promises than being polished.
In the election aftermath, some of those who were disturbed by the corruption exposed on WikiLeaks may say Trump is the president the Democratic party deserves. However, for those of us more concerned with our immigrant, Muslim, and LGBT brothers and sisters, that's no consolation.
We wanted to stop grieving and start acting, and that called for inspiration from someone like Sanders who didn't accept this election lying down. Instead, he stood up and started fighting.
Sanders has spearheaded the fight to make progressive Congressman Keith Ellison the new chair of the Democratic National Committee. His organization, Our Revolution, is holding a conference in the capitol this weekend to organize supporters and let them know how to continue the fight for progressive values. He spoke out against Trump's bigotry, against his appointment of Breitbart's Stephen Bannon as chief strategist, and he has continued to speak up against the Dakota Access pipeline. This week he also gave a speech at at the Rally for Social Justice and Economic Equality where he said, "Millions of people voted for Donald Trump despite their understanding that he is a racist and a sexist. But they voted him because they believed he would stand up to the establishment. The truth is Donald Trump isn't going to stand up to the establishment. WE are going to stand up to the establishment."
WE. Not the Democratic Party. WE the unaffiliated, the independents, and the progressives who know that allegiance to the cause does not require allegiance to the party establishment. WE who have and always will stand for the ideals that Bernie represents.
Now it's not easy for that collective 'WE.' Being a die-hard Bernie Sanders supporter is an emotional roller coaster. In the year and a half since he announced his candidacy for President, those of us who felt the Bern have gone through surprise, excitement, outrage, and disappointment, and more. Most never expected to see our favorite independent senator run for president, much less get so close. And we were outraged to see that forces beyond our control were at play in keeping Bernie from getting a truly fair fight.
Now the overwhelming emotions of Bernie supporters are pride and gratitude. Pride that the man who promised us "A Future to Believe In," still believes in us enough to keep up the fight. And gratitude that he has shown himself to be the leader we need right now.
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