Bernie Sanders is doing his level best to make the case for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump to his supporters: A $15 minimum wage versus a Mexican wall, etc. At the same time, the political force he brought to the fore needs additional causes closer to its heart to maintain itself for the long run. After all, no candidate in recent memory had so steadfastly stressed his campaign not just being about him and the White House, but about a “political revolution” involving us all. The wait won’t be long, it turns out.
Reprising his presidential campaign’s opening statement: “Enough is enough. This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires,” Sanders has announced plans to develop “Our Revolution,” an organization to activate, educate and recruit for the issues that built the campaign. This, less than a month since the termination of his presidential run.
This kind of effort is not without recent precedent. The 2004 Howard Dean presidential campaign led to the organization Democracy for America; Progressive Democrats of America has roots in the 2004 and 2008 Dennis Kucinich campaigns; and Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 runs created the Rainbow Coalition. (Even the Barack Obama campaign had Organizing for America, although it appears that organization’s lists got lost in a White House closet.) But none of these groups had the grassroots base of the Sanders campaign, with its 2 million individual donors — whose $27 contributions beat the rich guys at their own game — and its phoners and phone banks honeycombed throughout the nation.
The next steps are into unexplored political terrain — just like most everything up to now.
Sanders has explained his sense of his relationship with the Clinton candidacy as a “coalition” — where differences remained clear but were decidedly less than with the Trump candidacy — noting that such ventures are quite common in European politics. In tune with his take, European observers have frequently noted that the Sanders campaign introduced an element new to American politics but long familiar to them — a “social democratic” vote — which captured 45 percent of the elected Democratic National Convention slots nationwide and 47 percent of the California delegation’s.
Also European style is the nature of Sanders’ coalition, which is not just traditional allies with different priorities such as environmentalists and unions or feminists and racial justice activists, but a coming-together among groups with clearly defined political differences. These groups might actually be separate parties, if the United States had a parliamentary system (parties that might then form a coalition government following an election campaign).
But with the system we have — a winner-take-all American presidency, with no place for party coalitions — the Democratic Party will now contain new Sanders social democrats alongside traditional Clinton liberals.
This will not be easy. This is all new. And what I describe is but a piece of the picture. But this campaign has already found ways to challenge the billionaires’ rule like nobody thought we could. If you’re interested, Sanders will offer his idea for this new chapter in American politics in an Aug. 24 live stream video presentation. You can tune in at http://bit.ly/2b3ZbVA.
Tom Gallagher was an elected Bernie Sanders delegate from San Francisco’s 12th Congressional District. He is a past member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.