It's Time for Progressives to Take a Cue From the Tea Party

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign even
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign event in Huntington, West Virginia, U.S., on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Sanders' single win in Rhode Island out of the five contests held on Tuesday puts his opponent Hillary Clinton on the brink of the Democratic presidential nomination. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bernie Sanders has effectively conceded the 2016 nomination. I won't pretend I'm happy about it. However, I choose to work within the framework of reality -- even when I hate it.

My investment in his message is profound. I've never wanted a candidate to win more than I've wanted Bernie Sanders to win. Actually, it's not even about Sanders; it's about his worldview. It's about his message, his character and his unrelenting determination. But as Mick Jagger once sang, you can't always get what you want...

While we can't always get what we want, Jagger also reminded us that if we try, sometimes we get what we need. And what we need is to get as much corruption out of politics as we possibly can. We need to reverse Citizens United and get dark/big money out of politics. We need to secure progressive Supreme Court justices. We need to address and remedy the causes of the climate crisis. We need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment once and for all. We have A LOT of work to do.

This is where progressives need to take a cue from the Tea Party.

If you're truly interested in a revolution -- the one Sanders started -- then you will keep the momentum going. You will stay in the game when a battle is lost because the goal is to win the war. I know what I'm about to say will piss many off, but it needs to be said: While members of Occupy Wall Street were protesting and in the process impeding local businesses, members of the Tea Party got busy and ran for local, state and federal government offices -- and they won (because progressives didn't vote). The result was legislative power for Republicans and crushing defeats for Americans. We've seen rollbacks in many areas, including but not limited to voting rights, reproductive rights, abortion access, as well as a huge uptick in religious law being injected into secular lawmaking.

In the first three months of 2011 alone, after the Tea Party swept the 2010 midterms because PROGRESSIVES DIDN'T VOTE, 916 anti-woman bills were introduced and/or passed by the GOP. That number has only increased.

Progressives didn't feel like voting in the 2014 midterms either, and they handed the Senate to the Republican Party -- giving them a congressional majority in both chambers.

Before you allow yourself to get too down, remember that progressives have enjoyed important victories along the way. Marriage equality happened. Why? Because people fought for it. People pressured government officials. Many of the outrageous discriminatory bills introduced by the GOP have been shot down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Imagine what we could have accomplished if progressives and Democrats actually voted in the midterms. Yes, we're dealing with gerrymandering but if every single Democrat voted, it wouldn't have the same devastating impact, and we'd be that much closer to reversing the gerrymandering. It's easy to blame the GOP for everything, but if we are going to be the so-called adults in the room, we need to admit where we've made mistakes and then actively work to undo the damage.

If we want to change the corruption in the system, we need to become part of the system. At the very least, we need vote for the down-ticket candidates -- the ones who have legislative power. We need to put pressure on them and keep the pressure on. Why would a corrupt senator or representative work for the people if there's no real threat of losing their position?

A revolution is not about one run for president. It's about rolling up our sleeves and taking back the House and the Senate and when we do, it's about letting these lawmakers know we're watching their every move. It's about paying attention. It's about getting involved in your local communities and running for city council, school board positions and any other position where you have the power to effect real change.

No matter which presidential candidate you've supported until now, you have a clear choice. Clinton supporters can gloat and falsely assume that Congress will take care of itself. Sanders supporters can give up because they didn't get exactly what they wanted. Or both sets of supporters can work to change our system for the better. We can get involved in local politics. We can SHOW UP AND VOTE in midterm elections. We can put pressure on elected officials and keep the pressure on. Nothing scares corrupt politicians more than an engaged electorate. If the Tea Party can do it, we can do it even better.

It is time for liberal progressives to occupy government. We have the momentum and the power. Let's use it. Or we lose it.