Dear Bernie Sanders supporters:
I agree with nearly everything Senator Sanders says about what is wrong with our economy and political system. Both the Senator and I (and Hillary Clinton as well) have lived through the same critical events in our lifetime: the election of our first Catholic President, the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of our leaders, the Vietnam war and its consequences, recessions, attempts by outsiders to change things by running for the Presidency (e.g. Nader and Perot to name two) the resignation of a corrupt President, Iraq and Aghanistan, Occupy Wall Street, the election of our first African-American President. We have both seen popular movements rise, gain strength and peter out. So what is different this time?
Senator Sanders has served inside government at the local, state and national levels. He knows as well as I do that the way to change American politics is to elect people who will be committed to that change. So it is perplexing to me that as he excites people across the political spectrum, he is not focusing more on what it will really take to make change -- taking back the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. And not just taking it back for Democrats, but taking it back with new progressive voices who will change campaign financing and really go after Wall Street. If Senator Sanders were to get the Democratic nomination and win the Presidency, given the existing state of representation in Congress, many of his promises could not be fulfilled. There would be no single payer health care. There would be no free college tuition. There would be no Wall Street reform. Hope and change require a different kind of revolution.
What are Sanders' supporters doing about winning back the House and Senate? I don't hear a lot about that. Perhaps younger people don't realize the damage that a conservative state legislature can do to all of the proposals Sanders so strongly supports. You name the issue -- voting rights, reproductive rights, a fair and equitable wage, the right to organize -- all those issues are being systematically threatened at the state level. Taking back the House and taking back state legislatures in states like Wisconsin, Illinois, Nevada, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Ohio -- are all key to any significant change. And if you look at this map, you can see the challenge ahead.
Progressives don't have to win back all those red state legislatures, but we have to make quite an effort to change the majority in Congress, and that starts at the state level. That is how our politics works, and that's why it's so important that Bernie supporters "feel the Bern" to take this challenge on. If Senator Sanders does not win the Democratic nomination, what will be his response and the response of his supporters? Will they pout or refuse to vote for Hillary or will they roll up their sleeves and transfer their considerable energy to making change happen from the ground up? I hope it will be the latter. There is so much we need to fix. But the only way that will happen is if anger and enthusiasm get combined in an effort to do the real dirty work of politics -- organizing to get rid of our corrupt campaign financing approach so we can elect people of courage who can act on that courage.
This is not meant to discourage Sanders supporters in any way. It is also not meant to suggest that electing a Democrat to the White House is meaningless. President Obama has shown that he can accomplish a lot despite the opposition he faces daily from Congress. A President Clinton or Sanders could also make change. Just think about the ability of a President to make nominations to the Supreme Court or wage war. But just electing a Democrat as President is not nearly enough. Change will not come from a rally. It will come from a generation of hard work. I won't be around to see it all, but I hope you all will.
Someone who is Bernie Sanders' age