A world of hurt
You may already know by now that Bernie Sanders has suspended his presidential candidate campaign. It feels like a lifetime ago that a glorious moment had appeared in the American political sphere when we felt unstoppable; a moment where the bright light of liberation and justice had shown into this dark, twisted, cynical world we live in. However, that was a lifetime ago. It seemed a lifetime ago when volunteers had flooded field offices in primary states and the Sanders campaign had broken the record of gathering the highest number of individual donations. It feels a lifetime ago that I went up to NH to canvass for Bernie with comrades, plodding across snow-filled driveways, attacked by dogs, intimidated by right wingers and all the other fun stuff that comes when trying to convince people to vote for someone who legitimately cares for them. It feels a lifetime ago when we were drinking in bars watching the results of Super Tuesday coming in, knowing that we must strengthen our resolve and fight back even harder the next day, hungover or not. There was to be no surrender.
Right now, it feels like I am in a world of hurt. And maybe you feel the same way too. Like me, maybe you want to lash out at all the establishment liberals, the centrist Democrats, the privileged, the Warren Democrats, and everyone else who could have, should have, would have rallied behind Bernie’s vision for a just world like you and I had. There will be think pieces, op-eds, analyses, and much more to explain why Bernie couldn’t win even with such overwhelming support from voters under 45, the largest multi-racial working class movement, and the highest number of volunteers. Centrist Democrats who have smeared you so long as “toxic Bernie bros” will threaten you, coddle you, persuade you, reason with you to vote for Biden and maybe some of you will in the general election. But right now, they all seem like the enemy, at least to me, when the biggest injustice of all was not to rally behind the only candidate with integrity in US politics, despite all his flaws. Yes, Bernie had problematic stances on the apartheid state of Israel, his record on immigration wasn’t that great, etc., etc. But he upended the political sphere and uplifted the voices of the working class. It is quite unfortunate that while his signature policy, Medicare for All, enjoys widespread support, even in red states, the champion of the policy didn’t do so. And that feels like the biggest injustice of all.
Some will call this defeatist whining. Some will call you entitled for wanting it all. But it’s ok to take time for yourself. The struggle for any sort of non-reformist reform, let alone to dismantle the capitalist, imperialist heteropatriarchy, seems like a Sisyphean endeavor on any given day and this defeat makes it even worse. How do we come back from this without taking the time to grieve to what we have lost? How do we gather the strength and resolve to keep fighting, even as this pandemic ravages through our society while the establishment bargains for paltry benefits for the marginalized and corporations get priority? How do we bring this movement up from the ashes of a failed presidential bid?
Are you willing to fight for someone you don’t know?
I didn’t have much faith in the electoral road to socialism to begin with. I had watched with interest in the beginning as Bernie’s campaign started out with much fanfare, and the excitement among more-electoral leaning comrades to volunteer for his campaign. It was really after his New York rally on Oct 20, 2019 that I started coming around to seeing the beauty of his movement. Here was a presidential candidate who was putting the movement before the individual, with a commitment to fight for all of us, and not just a select few. The Sanders campaign truly believed in the #NotMeUs rallying cry that bound so many of us together, forging bonds of solidarity across the nation, and this commitment shone through even through this pandemic when the campaign used its huge network to raise money for charities to help those in need and persuaded voters to not go to polling locations to prevent a public health catastrophe. This is what convinced me that maybe, just maybe, there can be non-reformist reforms that can be harm reduction measures while we are locked in our long struggle to abolish capital and the commodity form.
An hour after I watched Bernie’s livestream in which he declared the end to his presidential bid, I was already on a zoom call with organizers from my local neighborhood mutual aid project that had organically cropped up a few weeks ago in response to this covid19 pandemic lockdown. It was a sharp reminder that the end of Bernie’s campaign doesn’t mean the end of our struggle. It was also a reminder of how broken the system is with its constant bombardment of news of injustice not only in the US, but across the globe, thus furthering the necessity that we keep fighting. But it was also a reminder that it’s not about me, but rather about us. ALL of us, not just those who had pledged to fight for someone we don’t know when we had signed up to volunteer for the campaign, in whatever capacity. The goal wasn’t just to have Bernie as president, but rather to use his presidency to advance a progressive agenda, to make sure no one is without healthcare, to build a just and sustainable society, to prepare for the looming climate crisis.
Among all the excellent propaganda videos that Bernie’s media team made, one that I have gone back to multiple times as things have gotten rougher over the last few months is the ad with Killer Mike. To rephrase his powerful words in the current context, we can no longer wait for two more presidents or three more presidents. We are stronger. We are together. And the time is now. The time is now to begin our struggle anew – whether it is by joining the DSA or any other socialist organization, climate activist organization, labor unions, trade unions, grassroots community groups, or hell even by just picking up that damn Communist Manifesto or Lenin’s What is to be done, the time is f*cking right NOW.
As the prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba said, “let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair”. The time to fight for someone you don’t know was then and still is now. It is still the time to fight the power.