A Bernie Sanders for President campaign event held at Creative Visions, an organization in Iowa founded by former Des Moines School Board member and current State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. Photo by Phil Roeder / Flickr.
What will become of the political revolution launched by the campaign to elect Bernie Sanders?
We may find out soon.
In Chicago from June 17 to 19, progressive groups that align with the Sanders agenda will meet in a People's Summit to plan next steps. Among them are National Nurses United, National People's Action, the Working Families Party, 350.org, Million Hoodies, and others, along with speakers such as activists Dr. Cornel West and Naomi Klein. Sanders is invited, but has not said whether he will attend.
"They are frustrated with the direction of the country and want to see a more humane society."
"We know what the issues are," RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, said last week. "Nurses see the health effects of bad policy. They see the people who suffer from asthma, malnutrition, and homelessness. They talk to the elderly who are cutting pills in half, and to the jobless. They are frustrated with the direction of the country and want to see a more humane society."
For the political revolution to take off beyond the Sanders candidacy, though, it will have to avoid mistakes too often repeated by progressives. Here are a few places to start:
- Lift up the leadership of women, people of color, and young people: There is more diversity in the Bernie movement, and the progressive movement more generally, than in the roster of progressive leaders and elected officials. The energy, the creativity, and the future lie in diverse, young, and female leadership. The speaker lineup at the People's Summit is a good start in that direction.
And one other thing: If this is to be a real political revolution, it will need to engage ordinary Americans who don't go to national conferences, and it will have to be grounded in local communities.
Local is where we are unstoppable, where corporate money has less influence and we can do more with volunteers and our own $27 contributions. That is where we can build the foundations of a movement that extends from our communities to Washington, D.C., and brings about real change, while holding those we send to D.C. accountable to we the people.
Sanders' call for a political revolution ignited Americans. "We have a community coming together like I've never seen before," DeMoro said.
If the summit can build on the momentum of the Sanders campaign and make the leap to a broad, sustained people's movement, it has the potential to transform possibilities for a deeply troubled country.
Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Sarah is co-founder and editor at large of YES! Magazine. Sarah writes articles and conducts interviews for YES!, and speaks regularly about solutions journalism, grassroots innovations, and social change movements. She is the editor of several books and is writing another. Follow her on Twitter @sarahvangelder.