The double-shot of liquor on my table wasn’t an accident on March 15th. It was 8:47 PM and I was at Smitty’s in Elyria, Ohio, sitting in the chair that Obama had used a few years earlier during a campaign stop, which was stamped with a plaque commemorating the visit. We were holding a watch party for the Ohio primary after putting in nine months of work for Bernie Sanders. Exit polls had already prepared us for the inevitable, but it’s still not easy to stomach the pundit confirming that our phonebanks, our canvassing, our donations, our press coverage, our grassroots office wasn’t enough to deliver the state to our candidate. I was deflated… and I’d like to say I was still determined, but for a few weeks there, I really wasn’t.
We kept the Bernie office open until the convention, something we’d promised ourselves we would do regardless because our candidate promised he would be attending. The office hours got pretty lonely, though, and some folks flat-out asked me why we hadn’t converted to a Clinton office. “Not to insult your guy, of course,” said one friendly visitor, “it’s just that the Bernie thing is over already.”
Since the DNC, the number of active progressives volunteering with grassroots efforts here and across the nation has dropped, even as dozens of Bernie-inspired candidates vie for office at every level. Phone banks are sparse, canvassing is extinct, and donations merely trickle in. One wouldn’t blame the candidates for feeling a little left out in the cold by the movement that was so lively half a year ago.
So how do we continue a political revolution in the face of a major loss?
We do it by realizing how much we’ve actually won. We’ve gone from fervent activists too small to even earn a dismissive punchline to a force that disrupted the entire political establishment. We’re winning primaries, driving conversations, and sending the DNC into a scramble to figure out how to be authentic with us. We’ve changed American politics permanently and drastically, even if we didn’t win the big one this time, and unless we want to lose that momentum, we need to stop sulking and build on the grassroots monster we’ve created.
Janet Garrett, Keith Mundy, David Sparks, Zephyr Teachout, Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Tulsi Gabbard… In every state and hundreds of cities, candidates are waiting to carry the torch for the Left if we can come together and support them.
And you know what? Many of them may lose as well. Sure, we don’t want to acknowledge that. We know they’re the best candidates for their respective seats. We know that this is no time for reactionaries and conservatives. The reality, though, is that we are still climbing the hill, and losses are something we’re going to have to learn to deal with as we build a coalition, as we agitate and educate others, and as we organize into a coalition of uncompromising progressives who run, campaign, volunteer, win, and fulfill our promises for a better future.
It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding. Five years ago, nobody expected so many cities to be adopting a $15 minimum wage, nobody expected marriage equality as the law of the land, and NOBODY saw the independent junior Senator from Vermont taking 43% of the delegates at the DNC. We didn’t win these by accident, and we sure as hell didn’t win them through self-pity.
We went into the July 29th Meetups and the first Debate Watch Parties backing the longest of long-shot candidates for the highest office in the land, and we came so close that we scared the entire establishment. And we continued to fight because we knew that we were right.
Imagine, with some solidarity, passion, and activism, where we can be in another five years… as long as we all continue the fight and realize that the most important word in the English language is the same as it has always been: Solidarity.
If you’re with me, share this blog, spread the word that the movement continues, and leave a comment about what inspired you to continue building the Political Revolution. Your solidarity is our key to victory.
— Alan Pugh is the president of Lorain County Forward, a local progressive PAC