Bernie Lost. That’s No Reason To Give Up

To everyone who campaigned for progressive power, you are part of a grassroots movement for justice. The strength that you helped create matters. The fight continues.

McNair Scott Apr 8, 2020

Bernie conceded today. I need to process the loss and mentally prepare for the train wreck that is Joe Biden. We’re on lockdown. Our health systems are at a breaking point. And our economy is in free fall. People are hurting badly and the darkness at the heart of our economic system is spreading. In a time when leaders need to push big, bold, populist ideas, we are left with the Wall Street Democrats and Biden. 

This is a nightmare, but we can’t give in. With COVID-19, the entire world changed in a month, and even though it feels like a lifetime ago, it’s worth taking a minute to reflect on this primary. 

How we leverage the strength we’ve gained to create power, stop fascism and win the bold sweeping social programs demanded by the pandemic is our challenge.

Elections are binary. You win or you lose. Social movements are not. I jumped in with the Sanders campaign because it’s been helping to build our movements since 2016. I donated, phone banked, and knocked doors in three different states. I put my life on hold to go hard. 

Movement friends that I know did the same with Warren. It’s hard to remember now, but the 2020 primary was a full-blown populist movement moment. Hundreds of thousands of people all across the United States were politicized, activated, and organized to fight for progressive values. 

Still, defeating Wall Street Democrats is incredibly hard. To do so in a presidential election would be a non-linear progression, a state change. Even if we had a once in a generation Obama-like orator it would be hard. Bernie is Bernie, and for him to win it required all of us. Truly. 

After Biden won South Carolina, only two candidates had a chance at winning the nomination heading into Super Tuesday —  Bernie and Biden. Power does what it does and it consolidated behind Biden. Mayor Pete, Klobuchar and Beto all did their ideological duty and fell in line. We desperately needed a progressive front. We needed movement thinking, but Warren and Bernie were unable to transcend campaign mode. They did not close ranks, and it’s a goddamn shame. There was no counter-narrative to stop Biden’s ascendancy. 

It’s Not Just Win Or Lose

From knocking on doors in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida in January and February, I knew that Bernie was done. All the undecided voters that I met at the doors were just waiting for one candidate to ascend. After South Carolina, they were given permission to vote for Biden and they turned the tide.

For all of us who fought for a progressive win, for those who took weekends, weeks, and months away from family and friends to campaign, for those who donated and took financial risks to fight for our future, to fight because all that we love is on the line, for those who understood that we need to defeat the Wall Street Democrats to win a livable future — this is rough. 

We lost this chance to see what progressive power looked like at the highest level. We were closer than we have ever been in my lifetime. We allowed ourselves to believe that it was possible. And it was, but we came up short. And it hurts on so many levels.

But we have to remember that this isn’t actually a zero-sum effort. It’s not just win or lose. It is about power and influence. The progressive platform is wildly popular, even with Biden voters. It’s strength has been growing since 2016. Voters under 45 overwhelmingly went with Bernie, and his campaigns forged a new ideological ground for the Democratic Party base. In other words, we have created the vision and organized the future of a new Democratic Party. This is strength. How we leverage this strength to create power, stop fascism and win the bold sweeping social programs demanded by the pandemic is our challenge. 

We are in an uncharted populist moment. We can’t let Trump win with false populism while Biden misses the moment. Progressives need to be disciplined, push past the petty and focus on our real enemies. We need to process our campaign mistakes and grow from them. We need to be responsive to our new pandemic reality, create new tactics to build grassroots power, fight for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, and win our down-ballot races. Let’s come together, let go of the election horse race, and shift into movement mode. We have to lead with love and we have to be warriors, unbending in our principles, flexible with our tactics, and united in our resolve.

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