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Campaigns End On Election Day. Revolutions Don’t.

Campaign 2016 Elections Featured Post National News Politics

Campaigns End On Election Day. Revolutions Don’t.


The fervent prayer of old-line Democratic operatives and corporate funders is that the Sanders Storm will dissipate now that Hillary Clinton will get the nomination, thus allowing politics-as-usual to reestablish its grip on the system. Here’s why I think they’re dead wrong:

First, whatever else you think of Clinton, she’s certainly smart, savvy, and accomplished, and she didn’t come this far by ignoring important shifts in the political winds. As Sanders’ tub-thumping message drew huge crowds, new voters, and that deep pool of small donors, she adjusted her wings to try riding some of the powerful thermals rising from America’s grassroots. A career-long corporate Democrat, Clinton began sounding more and more like Sanders, sympathizing with the rising fury of working-class families and becoming at least Bernie-lite on several populist proposals.

You can view her adaptations as hopeful or hopelessly cynical, but the point is that Clinton recognizes that a new power is loose on the land. Understanding that the same old Bill and Barack moderate corporatism won’t charge up the crowds she needs in November, she’s scrambling to tap the electric populism of the Bernie Rebellion.

This rebellious spark is the true hope of a moribund Democratic Party that registers only 29 percent of eligible voters. Far from wishing away the energetic millions who “Feel the Bern,” entrenched Democratic elders should beg these hot—blooded activists to revitalize the party. In fact, a June poll by Reuters/Ipsos found that three quarters of Democrats (including Hillary backers) want Sanders to have a “major role” in shaping the party’s positions, and two-thirds wanted him as her VP choice.

Think about it: While Bernie was the oldest candidate running for president, in heart, soul, vigor, and vision he is by far the youngest. He won the majority of voters under 45 years old and a stunning 71 percent of under-30 voters. In the under-30 demographic, Bernie even won decisively among women, including African-Americans and Latinas. He also dominated among independents who voted Democratic. There’s the future.

This surge reflects a level of organized grassroots progressive leverage missing for decades. Since the 1980s, the party of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt has been shedding its work clothes and donning the suits of the comfortably wealthy, while simultaneously accepting a Reaganesque faith in the trickle — down magic of enriching those at the top (who also just happen to be the political donor class). This year the grassroots insurgents who picked up Sanders and rammed him through the front gate of the Democrats’ corporate bastion have shattered that complacency, exposed the party’s drift from democratic principles, and opened the system to the possibility of another populist moment in American history.

The second (and most powerful) reason that I believe this rebellion will persevere is that it’s organic. Not an artificial marketing creation sprouted in some D.C. hothouse by national groups and moneyed interests, this is a wildflower movement that sprang up spontaneously, took root, and seeded thousands of zip codes.

Despite supporters’ natural disappointment that their efforts ended short of the Oval Office, the majority are not petulantly giving up on politics, as most pundits predicted. Why would they? After all, this corps of pro-democracy activists seemingly came from nowhere, won 22 states, virtually tied in five others, and revolutionized the Democrats’ message, policy agenda, and method of campaigning. Having proven their mettle as a talented and inventive grassroots network, they’re eager to push forward. I’ve been out there among them for months — from Great Falls to Cedar Falls, Albany to Albuquerque, Carson City to New York City, and more — and I’ve witnessed their creativity and grit. No way they’ll “Bern out” and fold, for they have audacious, long — term ambitions.

Besides, the gross inequality and corporate rapaciousness they’re fighting will not just go away — and are likely to deepen and spread. Unlike the political and media establishment, which treats elections as periodic games to be “won” with pollsters, funders, and tricksters, this populist team is engaged in REAL politics: the ongoing struggle by everyday people to democratize America’s wealth and power to benefit all and serve the common good.

Bernie’s success emerged like a grito — a long suppressed shout of rebellion — from the battered soul of working—class America. It sprang in part from people’s anger at being run over, then ignored, by the corporate and political elites. But as Bernie’s message spread through mass rallies and social media, it became obvious that the rebellion is also deeply motivated by hope — a belief in and a yearning for Egalitarian America, a society dedicated to Democracy’s fundamental principle: We’re all in this together.

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a nationally syndicated columnist and one of America's most prominent progressive voices. His column carried by more than 75 publications across the country. Prior to becoming a writer, Hightower served as Texas Agricultural Commission from 1982 to 1991.

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  1. ray July 27, 2016

    I still feel the bern, but will vote for Hillary.

    1. Siegfried Heydrich July 27, 2016

      Yup , , , , but the Bern will go on. If the dems are smart, they will start training, mentoring, and developing new talent that will start getting their feet wet in ’18. By ’20, they should have enough new talent to pretty much rickroll the GOP once and for all, especially if they continue to cling to the past as they’re doing now.

      The problem the GOP has is that the number of replacements for their aging out members is nowhere even close to replacement levels, much less growing. They have made conservatism toxic to the next Gen, while Bernie has made socialist perfectly acceptable, even preferable. Against that, the GOP is defenseless.

  2. david c ianacone July 28, 2016

    Stop using the term “revolution”. I have been a progressive since the 1960s. Lasting change should, and most often does, move forward incrementally. Senator Sanders will continue to be the leader of the “progressive movement”. The current Democratic Platform is the MOST Progressive in the history of the Democratic Party. Overturning “Citizens” will be an inside job……we will need two more Justices on SCOTUS that will be willing to hear a case that allows for Citizens to be overturned. Voter ID Laws will be next to come up to SCOTUS and, hopefully, Gerrymandering as well. Once that has occurred, we will need to oust control of the House from the Republicans in 2018. All of my rhetoric is meaningless if the Demagogue gets elected. Trump WILL appoint justices that are more conservative, and, considerable less intellectually competent, than SCALIA. Trump could determine the course of Jurisprudence in this country for the next forty years. That alone should make EVERY Sanders supporter feel like they have just taken an ice cold shower of reality. I supported Senator Sanders from the first moments he announced. I still feel the Bern, BUT, if a patient comes into my ER with a gunshot to the head and a laceration of the calf…the head wound comes FIRST. We MUST come together and STOP the Demagogue….we can suture the calf wound at our leisure in January.

    1. Karen July 28, 2016

      I totally agree. Bernie supporters should be celebrating their successes, continuing to look to the future and getting behind the Democratic nominee. If we want to clean up the political system, the most imperative thing is to end Citizens United.

  3. FT66 July 28, 2016

    I blogged (on a different site) earlier this year when the movement “feel the bern” was heating up, that it is better Sanders picks a young person to move along with him wherever he goes and not his wife Jane. My appeal was not taken seriously. I have concern the movement might die as we witnessed “Occupy Wall Street” did.I have much doubt whether Sanders can carry on with the movement after this election is over.


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