Now that Sen. Bernie Sanders has enthusiastically endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, his campaign has begun the transformation into a social change movement that has the potential to achieve significant reforms, as well as electing progressive Democrats down-ballot. In her Washington Post column, “The Sanders movement is only just beginning,” Katrina vanden Heuval explains:
Last week, Pramila Jayapal, one of the rising stars of the Bernie Sanders movement, won a decisive victory in the primary race for Washington’s 7th Congressional District. She will advance to the November general election, where she is favored to win. She is not alone. Jamie Raskin, a progressive state legislator and leading constitutional authority on civil rights and voting rights, won his primary to fill an open Democratic seat in Maryland. Zephyr Teachout, who literally wrote the book on political corruption and challenged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the gubernatorial race two years ago, is running a brilliant campaign in an uphill battle for a Republican-held seat in New York.
These are not corporate or Blue Dog Democrats. These are “small d” democrats running movement campaigns. They aren’t running for power’s sake; they are running to change America.
“The vision has to be to fundamentally change the system,” Jayapal says, carrying the Sanders message that “corporations and special interests have their voice in Congress, and they have too many members scared of their power. What Congress needs is a progressive voice who is unafraid to take on these powerful interests — who is willing to fight for all Americans, not just the wealthiest 1 percent.”
Added Sanders: “When you think of the political revolution, I want you to think about Pramila.”
Sanders supporters are also forging the organizational infrastructure needed to elect progressive candidates for years to come, reports vanden Heuval,
Sanders and his supporters are intent on giving these efforts institutional backing. The Vermont senator has announced the formation of Our Revolution, which will support progressive candidates up and down the ticket. Organizers from the Sanders campaign have launched Brand New Congress, an ambitious effort to run 400-plus populist candidates for Congress — including independents and Republicans as well as Democrats — in 2018, with “a single, unified campaign with a single plan,” and centralized crowd-sourced financing — small donors contributing to a national pool in a historic effort to transform a Congress that is corrupt and dysfunctional. These new efforts will augment progressive groups like the Working Families Party, MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and People’s Action, all of whom are growing in energy and ambition in the wake of the Sanders campaign.
Berniecrats.net, a website listing all active candidates at every level who endorsed Sanders in the primary, already has some 480 entries. Most of these are long shots running shoestring campaigns. But if the more than 2 million individual Sanders campaign supporters do move in large numbers to support Our Revolution and other offshoots in 2016, these challenges will get more serious in 2018 and 2020.
Vanden Heuval observes that “the Sanders revolution is only beginning…Now he and his supporters are moving to build the political revolution that too many in the media mocked at the beginning of this year.”
As a long-haul progressive warrior, Sanders understands better than most that empowering his movement to compel progressive change is going to take time. But, as vanden Heuval reveals, the Sanders movement has already created some impressive organizational vehicles. With adequate suppport, they will become a force for needed social reforms, as well as an enduring Democratic majority.