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Seize the Sanders Moment: 6 Thoughts on How the Left Should Move Forward

Larry Alcoff Jul 27, 2016

I wish people would focus less on (a) who they are voting for in November and (b) Bernie Sanders' endorsement of Clinton and more on how the Left seizes the moment of the Sanders campaign and figures out how to pivot forward. So here are some small observations:

1. The Sanders campaign was the right campaign at the right time. A Left Social Democratic candidate won 13 million votes while not shying away from socialism and using 'political revolution' as a rallying cry. Bernie Sanders deserves immense credit and respect for his candidacy and leadership. His campaign became the electoral expression of social and protest movements from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter, environmental justice, the fight for a $15 minimum wage, and immigrant and native rights.

2. The Sanders campaign became a movement in its own right. It had a decentralized base with many leaders and organized formations emerging to use the campaign as a tactic and opportunity to build that movement. This fact — a movement, not just a candidacy — inserting itself into the Democratic Party process was beyond the political imagination of the punditocracy and Democratic Party leaders. The protests and rebellion in Philadelphia and beyond are a good thing. This movement should not in any way allow itself to be absorbed into the Clinton campaign or the Democratic Party. It may work within the Democratic Party but it should maintain its own independence and critique.

3. Defeating Trump does matter. People who equate him with Hillary Clinton are not being honest. He is more dangerous and is accountable to a nativist, racist, nationalist mass base. She is bad, just not as bad or nearly as dangerous as Trump and his supporters. So defeating him is a short-term goal that needs attention. Sanders needed to do what he did at the convention and with the endorsement. I would have encouraged him to give more time to defining the next phase of the 'political revolution' and not been so effusive in his praise of Clinton. I think he smartly married her to his issue agenda where he could in order to lay the basis for holding her accountable to it.

4. Voting for Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein or writing in Bernie is a decision individuals who supported Bernie will make based on individual conscience and whether one lives in a swing state or not. The Green Party has shown no evidence that it can emerge as a viable 3rd party or that it can build and lead oppositional social movements. This discussion is largely a waste of time.

5. The most important questions are how not to waste the opportunity presented by the Sanders campaign and the movement around it. How to hold Clinton and Democrats accountable to their own platform, how to continue to push them further where they refused to move at this moment, how to expand the coalition with communities of color and labor, how to focus on progressive/Left candidates down ticket and in local races, how to participate in and support protest and social movements – all with the goals of winning short-term victories, creating an oppositional political movement, and changing the public narrative and discourse.

6. Change happens from the streets and organizing. If Bernie had won the presidency, we would be talking about how to organize a movement to win meaningful reform. It becomes more urgent to organize and fight back if Hillary Clinton is president to hold her accountable and push her further than she wants to go on issues of economic and social justice, environmental justice, and especially war and peace. If Trump wins, it is a whole different discussion on a whole different level.

Larry Alcoff is a longtime labor organizer. This article originally appeared on his Facebook page.
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