Where Bernie’s Progressives Go in a Clinton Administration

This is one area that Sanders campaign can have direct, lasting impact.

As the process of melding the Clinton and Sanders campaigns/movements begins, we’ll see more and more stories like this one. The National Student Organizing Director for Sanders 2016 has just been hired by Hillary. Kunoor Ojha is a veteran field organizer who worked for Obama’s reelection, did field for a congressional campaign in 2014, and has a recognizably progressive pedigree. She did field work for a movement to amend the Illinois Constitution to provide for redistricting reform. She worked as an intern at Amnesty International, as a volunteer for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, USA, and lists Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Transparency International and the International Rescue Committee as organizations that she supports. At the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she obtained a degree in political science, she served as president and vice-president of Feminists United. In that role, she organized and performed in a campus staging of The Vagina Monologues.

The monologue performed by FU VP of Publicity Kunoor Ojha (PSYC ‘12) presented Memory of Her Face, three stories of women around the world (Baghdad, Islamabad, and Ciudad Juarez) who were victims of sexual violence or mutilation. “It’s a sad one, to say the least… so that’s what i tried to get across in my performance. No shaking my fist at sky in rage, no yelling out about it, just a sort of sad detachment.”

…There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the audience, as well. “The turnout was phenomenal! Every seat was taken on the first night! I’m usually really skeptical about student interest but people really responded! I would never have guessed how much we’d raise from it,” Kunoor Ojha said. One audience member was overheard saying “People often talk about penis envy – I think I’m feeling the opposite right now.”

She began the Sanders campaign as a regional field director before taking over his effort to organize students in New Hampshire. After her success in that effort, she was promoted to the national student director.

Pretty soon, she’ll probably be a veteran of a successful presidential campaign with a potential role in the next White House. Of course, I can’t predict her future, but there will be many other rags-to-riches stories of people who started out on a low level and through hard work and a record of success carved out a future for themselves in politics at a high level. Most will have been with Clinton from the start, but certainly not all.

For supporters of Bernie Sanders, this is one of the more important ways in which his campaign can have lasting influence. You make all the impassioned Facebook posts and Tweets that you want, but there’s no substitute for being in the actual arena. To truly influence a major political party, you have to do more than vote. You have to organize, and you have to infiltrate.

I don’t even like using the word “infiltrate” because it sounds suspicious and illegitimate, as if you’re doing something underhanded or even unpatriotic. But, the point is, you have to get yourself into a position of power and influence to actually have any power or influence. At first, these positions may seen quite modest. You’re some deputy assistant for campus outreach or a delegate at the National Convention with a vote on some seemingly unimportant committee. But multiply that story dozens of times, and suddenly you have a small army of progressive-minded people creating a network that can further advance their values within the party and within the national political culture.

Of course, there’s an alternative. The alternative is that you grow despondent and disillusioned because your progressive champion came up short in the primaries and you reject making common cause with a Clinton campaign that you consider impure or hostile to your interests. You go back to being an outsider, an anti-establishmentarian cynic who calls for a pox on everyone’s house.

If you take that route, you may feel that your hands are clean, but you’ll be getting off a still moving bus. The Sanders movement isn’t over. It’s just getting started. And melding with the Clinton campaign is the next stop.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.