What will supporters of Bernie Sanders do if superdelegates do not award him the Democratic presidential nomination in July?
Sanders supporters who are driven more by emotion than by logic will respond by immediately pledging allegiance to Green Party candidate Jill Stein, declaring that they cannot in good conscience vote for the allegedly “corporatist” candidate of the “Democratic establishment.” On the other hand, Sanders supporters who are driven more by logic than by emotion will settle their differences with Clinton, and then pursue the ambitious goal of bringing about progressive change on a local, state and Congressional level.
If Sanders supporters are smart, they will study the precedent of the conservative movement, which rebounded from Barry Goldwater’s spectacular loss in the 1964 presidential election to become a dominant force. By forming influential think tanks and media outlets, pressuring the mainstream press to focus on issues right-wingers considered important, and voting consistently in even the most “minor” of elections, the right seized power in the years following Goldwater’s loss, creating the very problems Sanders has denounced over the course of his campaign.
It was gratifying to see Sanders supporters proclaim “Media bias!” in response to the June 6 decision by the Associated Press to declare Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee, despite the fact that superdelegates have yet to cast their vote. Hopefully, Sanders supporters now fully grasp that a Sanders-style candidate always will run into headwinds if there is not a dramatic expansion of America’s progressive media infrastructure. I’m not sure how many of these Sanders supporters stood up for Air America Radio or Current TV back in the day, but if they now regard the “establishment media” as having screwed Sanders, they will add their voice to Sanders’s call for the Democratic Party to finance an anti-Fox (and, presumably, other television and radio entities that will expand the progressive media footprint in this country). If some Sanders supporters are reluctant to have the Democratic Party finance progressive television and radio, they’ll have to figure out a way to encourage progressives with significant financial resources to do the same; one can’t run a television or radio network on a GoFundMe campaign.
I remain unconvinced that Sanders will rise above his contempt for Clinton, but I hope that his supporters can–for if they do, if they harness their energy and commit to the cause of positive progressive change at a local, state and Congressional level, then within one generation we will have single-payer health care, an end to the easy availability of firearms, the abandonment of coal, oil and fracked gas as energy sources, progressive dominance of state legislatures, the House, the Senate and the federal judiciary…and a stronger, healthier, freer, better nation.
Barry Goldwater was not the man to lead a conservative revolution, but he unquestionably inspired one. Perhaps history will say the same thing about Bernie Sanders. The Vermont Senator might not have been able to go the distance, in part due to his own mistakes, but his supporters could pick up where his campaign left off and lead a revolutionary effort to move this country to the left. It all depends upon their commitment.
Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick often used the phrase “Hope for the best, and work for it” during his historic 2006 campaign. That message should drive Sanders supporters today. The progressive vision Sanders articulated can be made real, even if his presidency cannot.