Disappointing results for Bernie Sanders in this week's primaries have led to an avalanche of calls in the media and among Hillary Clinton supporters for his concession. This, of course, corresponds to the "horse race" framing that our media typically descends into during election coverage: Hillary won, Bernie lost. Completely obscured by this superficial coverage in virtually all media is that Sanders has already authored two major shifts in American politics, two revolutions in fact. In that sense, Bernie has already won.
Most immediately, Senator Sanders single-handedly took on Citizens United and the ownership of our politics by Wall Street, corporate influence, and the super wealthy - and won. He successfully demonstrated that if a candidate clearly addresses the real needs of people, especially young people, that candidate will receive financial support from the grassroots to a level that can equal, or at times exceed, that of the billionaires' club, their Super PACs and their cronies. As of last month, Clinton, who consistently pitched for corporate and Super PAC money, raised more than $296 million with around $85 million coming from Super PACs and other PACS, and as has been well reported, raised a significant portion of her other funds from wealthy donors. Many Republican candidates were even more dependent on Super PACs than Clinton. But Sanders' movement of the people kept pace with candidates of both parties, donating more than $212 million to his campaign with 88% of them being $200 dollars or less. This achievement is nothing short of a revolution in campaign financing, and is tremendously empowering to the vast majority of Americans who, with each election cycle, feel themselves at the mercy of the decisions of the all-powerful Super PACs and their Supreme Court enablers.
It is now up to those who celebrate this unprecedented model in campaign financing to see it spread to all national, state, and local elections. If that is the legacy of the Senator's electoral run, it will be more important than whoever eventually wins the presidency this year.
Sanders' second successful revolution was even more deep-sixed by the media. None of us like to think of the U.S. as occasionally equivalent to a repressive third world country or a dictatorship. But at times it has been. Recent films like Trumbo and Bridge of Spies bring back the anti-communist hysteria of post-World War II America, where for well over a decade our government, academia, and entertainment industry purged anyone with opinions to the left of the Democratic party, including many who were supportive of the New Deal, and obviously anyone who labeled themselves a socialist.
Thousands lost their jobs and reputations. Many were jailed and many committed suicide. The revival of the Progressive movement in this country after the purge was also dashed by the assassinations of up and coming leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy and Malcom X. From that time, a half century ago, until Bernie Sanders ran, any major candidate calling themselves a socialist -- even a democratic socialist -- would have been quickly "redbaited" right out of contention as that decades old "commie" boogie man would be brought forward.
There was a brief flurry of this against Sanders by some Clinton supporters and the media. Debate questions quoted his support for some of what Fidel Castro did in the early 1960s after ousting the repressive, U.S. supported Dictator Fulgencio Batista. But it did not catch on. Young people didn't care about labels, only about policies that affected them. The timing was also poor because Obama was planning his visit to Cuba. So Sanders has opened the enclosed American political system and allowed democratic socialist ideas back into the public square in a powerful and popular way. He has defeated the old taboos and transcended some of the worst chapters in our history. This is a revolution in American politics. Now we can join the many democratic nations throughout the world who have this critical socialist perspective as a regular aspect of their political lives.
So regardless of who you supported for the nomination, and regardless of party affiliation, everyone should be grateful to Senator Sanders for embodying what real campaign finance reform looks like. And be thankful that Sanders' is bringing us out of the dark ages of fear and hysteria and encouraging debate about important democratic socialist reforms that our country needs to seriously consider if we are to recover the fundamental values of equality of opportunity, equality under the law, equality of value for each person, and some significant equalizing of economic conditions.
Andrew Kimbrell is an attorney and author and a frequent contributor to Huffington Post.