An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders and His Followers

To the Left:

Nearly one year ago, we lost the election. The truth is, we’ve been losing elections for a long time. The details of how and why have been discussed and debated from here to the end of the Earth and back and are not the subject of this letter.

Nor is it the subject of this letter to spell out a detailed plan forward. There are far smarter people than I whose opinions I greatly admire who can and will craft this plan in time.

The time for placing blame for the election loss has come and gone. For those of us who saw in the Bernie Sanders campaign the opportunity for a new, more truthful kind of politics that spoke to what most of us see in our lives and the lives of those around us it can feel like that loss has been compounded over time and with the election of Donald Trump. However, we must establish that in this moment we have the chance to build ourselves up as a newfound political force to be reckoned with, one neither major establishment party is altogether excited or ready for.

No more can we afford to be defeatist or politically abstinent. We must recommit, show resilience, and grow. We must learn from one another, coming together around our common interest and purpose, and inspire those around us to this cause.

I. Not Voting is Voting

David Foster Wallace wrote in an essay for Rolling Stone Magazine, “by all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting; you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some diehard’s vote.”

The Democratic Party today does not speak for us. But there are democrats that do, those that see, like us, an opening. They believe that the free market is not a solution for all of life’s questions or problems, and very often may be the cause of said problems. They believe that as a society, we have a responsibility to one another, and that when we lift up those of us in most need, we lift up society as a whole. They believe that we can enjoy economic growth without sacrificing health and safety and artistic expression and happiness.

And so while it can be very easy, almost common sense, to stay home and sit out elections rather than feeling compelled to choose the lesser of two evils, two people who often speak for a small class of people we don’t belong to and the interests that matter to them, it’s the wrong choice. Because staying home is losing. It’s in their best interest for you to do so.

II. Disaffection is a Strategy

The two party system is a sham. Especially now, as both parties have become so large and all-powerful, and absurd Supreme Court and federal policy decisions allow billionaires and corporations unlimited influence in who runs and who gets elected. And so it can be tempting to stay home, to protest elections, and the process, entirely.

It’s not laziness, like the pundits might say of eligible voters of a certain age or class. It’s the realization, emphasis on the “real”, that no matter who we vote for, in the large majority of elections anywhere we will get the same crony capitalism, the same rampant military spending, the same grand vision that never translates into action that will meaningfully improve our lives in any way.

But that’s all on purpose. That’s all a part of the plan. Because the only way things can really change, the only way people can get elected that the parties don’t want to get elected is if we all came out and voted. So they keep serving up the same tired candidates with their same tired, focus group-tested lines, hoping we stay home. That way they can keep the status quo, which is all the moneyed class ever wants.

They have spent years forcing our disaffection onto us. And so the only real way to break out of this cycle is to care, to yell and to shout and to protest and to act and to vote.

III. Make Them Come to Us

I have seen, and continue to see, arguments on the left both in favor of and against working within the confines of the Democratic Party in order to push hard for real leftward progress. While I think it crucial to maintain a voice and inspire action independent of such a historically centrist organization, solely acting against such a modern juggernaut could have the adverse effect of further marginalizing our efforts.

It is for that reason that I propose taking guidance from the Tea Party movement on the right as we work to remake the Democratic Party in a meaningful way — from the bottom up. The far-right have caused a massive rightward shift within the Republican Party. Let that be a sign that the far-left can do the same for Democrats, as the latter’s hunger for power will surely push them toward their voters.

We must act locally to act nationally, and we must have a clear message. The people will be responsible for making our voices heard, for showing representatives our list of demands. Then, if those representatives are unwilling to cater to the will of the people, opponents must be run against them at every level.

We’ve already seen efforts like these working, as traditional Democrats in Congress cater their message to more progressive sectors of the party. See, for example, Chuck Schumer, Wall Street’s favorite Democrat, and his endorsement of Keith Ellison for DNC Chair.

The louder we are on the left, the more we force the party to come to us.

IV. Anoint Standard-Bearers

And finally, Bernie Sanders and his Our Revolution team must anoint tomorrow’s leaders. With a national approval rating far higher than any other active politician, Mr. Sanders has a willing and able public audience. But no one can say for sure how long that will last and what will come next.

The time is now to promote leaders like Keith Ellison who share our vision of an America that takes care of its people instead of its corporations, and that spends money on social improvement programs instead of pointless foreign wars.

Our Revolution should continue to seek out, educate, and endorse candidates at all levels of government — democrats, independents, and local third party candidates alike. We need to know who these people are, what they stand for and how we can help them win.

If we don’t take a big step forward now, we take another unfortunate step backward. We dare not let the DNC and the neoliberal classes who came of age in a country lurching rightward, who speak of progress but offer little in terms of needed reforms, ever-afraid of upsetting the status quo and the capitalists who rely on it to continue to suck Americans and the rest of the world dry, control the conversation. But if we don’t, they will.

The time to mobilize is now.


One Voter


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