To my mind, the most important line from Bernie’s email to his delegates yesterday asking them not to protest was, “But that’s not what will expand the progressive movement in this country.” For Bernie, the goal is to make actual progress in this country, and he realizes that in order to do that, the progressive movement needs to grow, because right now, we just don’t have the votes to elect a presidential candidate like him. (Though he came wonderfully close, and because of his efforts, we’re probably now even closer.)
In order to grow, we’re going to need to learn to work with one another, because left leaning people come in all degrees of lean, and any subgroup within that continuum that decides that its particular beliefs are the only true beliefs and anything else is heresy is frankly of no use, and maybe even harmful, to the movement.
Bernie himself is the greatest example of what we need to be. His call for unity was not just empty words. He let go of his own “plan A” and has endorsed Clinton as the nominee. He’s worked with the party, despite a contentious past relationship, to forge a compromise platform that’s a real advance. (Though it doesn’t seem to be enough for his most ardent supporters, which is tragic to me, because I’m sure there are many moderate Democrats who feel they gave up just as much in those negotiations, and isn’t this exactly what democracy should look like?)
Of course, Bernie had a lot of time to come to terms with his defeat, so it would have been surprising and even a little disturbing if he had entered this convention week still clinging to his presidential hopes. I wish he had been able to process his loss just a bit more quickly, though, so he could have given his followers more time to do the same.
Those who have supported Hillary all along are going to have to exercise some moral muscles as well, because it’s not enough that she seems likely to win the presidential contest in November. As Bernie said in his convention speech, it’s not about any one person. It’s not about the victory or defeat of any one faction of the progressive movement, but the growth of the movement as a whole.
It’s not enough to retain the presidency. We must also strive to retake the Senate, and to recapture every House seat, governorship, and state legislature that we can, and to do this, we’re going to need to set aside our differences and work together. It will be a tragedy if we who so revere the concepts of tolerance, inclusion, and pluralism found it impossible to unite to push the country in the direction we’d both like to see it go.
Many Bernie supporters speak of “revolution” in a cataclysmic or even apocalyptic sense, as a single great event that changes everything. I prefer to think of the more cyclic sense of the word, as in the revolution of the Earth or a wheel or the rotor of an electric motor. With that in mind, I’d like to conclude by quoting what Markos Moulitsas, the founder of Daily Kos, wrote about the last revolution in progressive politics, the rise of the “netroots”:
Some of you in the DNC see us as barbarians at the gate. Some of us see ourselves as the cavalry. The truth is that we are fresh horses.
p.s. If you haven’t seen it already, please check out Bernie’s convention speech!