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Continuing The Political Revolution

Bernie Sanders faces a dilemma: how to keep the political revolution he has launched alive and well if he loses the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton faces an equally problematic dilemma if she wins the nomination: how to win over Bernie's supporters in order to defeat Donald Trump, a particular challenge given some polls suggesting that up to a quarter of Bernie supporters say they will not vote for Hillary. Meanwhile Trump is boasting, "I'm gonna get Bernie people to vote [for me], because they like me on trade."

These intertwined dilemmas may have a common solution if Hillary is willing to truly embrace some of Bernie's key proposals and organizational activities - above all meaningful wide ranging campaign finance reform - and Bernie is willing to help create and lead a Progressive Independents Coalition, allied with but separate from the Democratic Party, that could endorse Hillary and help mobilize opposition to Trump. This new coalition would help to identify, recruit and endorse candidates at federal, state and local levels, and run its own advertising campaigns on their behalf, helping to create a new wave of progressive officeholders. Over the longer term, grassroots-financed think tanks loyal to the vision of America that Bernie has articulated would combat the benighted ideas of corporate-financed think tanks.

Already, new Bernie-inspired organizations have emerged, such as the campaign for a Brand New Congress, focusing on the 2018 elections and beyond, and a gathering scheduled to take place in Chicago from June 17 - 19 calling itself the People's Summit. Such hopeful beginnings need Bernie's support and leadership; they need to be made part of a broader endeavor that explicitly seeks to include unhappy Republicans and independents as well as members of progressive-leaning organizations such as the Green Party, Working Families Party, Democratic Socialists of America, and many others. Members of parties and organizations would not have to leave their other affiliations to be part of the new coalition; nor would they have to agree on everything.

Enthusiasm for Hillary among Bernie supporters will never match the enthusiasm these supporters have shown for Bernie. But if Bernie's supporters feel they have a continuing voice and institutional representation, and a commitment to reform from Hillary, then support for her - in the event she is the Democratic nominee - would become more widely acceptable among them. Those who are most enthusiastic for Hillary would work for her while others could primarily channel their energies into down-ticket efforts.

All will give more of their time, talent and money if they see their work as part of an ongoing political revolution that is immune from cooptation by the Democratic Party establishment and that ultimately can transform the Democratic Party and our nation's politics as well. For this to happen, the coalition will have to maintain its organizational autonomy and integrity, including its own voter, donor, and member lists.

Trust in Bernie, and in his vision for America's future, has united a wide range of diverse elements in the electorate. Ultimately, the coalition should become a mass membership organization that governs itself democratically. For the immediate future, however, Bernie should guarantee the unity of the movement by continuing to determine and articulate its programs and policies - maintaining its identity of purpose - until perhaps the 2020 election.

The corruption of American politics is most clearly evident in the vast sums of money that U.S. senators and congresspeople have to raise to be competitive, and the vast quantities of time they have to spend on fundraising. This leaves them particularly dependent on staffs that are, in turn, dependent on the advice of big-money lobbyists. This also deters ordinary Americans from getting involved in politics by running for office. It dramatically reduces competition for public office, and with it the quality of elected representatives. It means that those who are elected generally take for granted the legitimacy of big money's role in politics, even if they are not directly selling their own votes in return for campaign contributions.

The political revolution Bernie Sanders has launched against big money's corruption of American politics has begun well. If Bernie wins the Democratic nomination, it will proceed with great advantage. It should proceed even if he does not.

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Steve Schwartzberg is a former lecturer in history at Yale University and Steve Balkin is an economics professor emeritus at Roosevelt University. They met campaigning for Bernie in Iowa. They can be reached at sschwartzberg02@aol.com and sbalkin@roosevelt.edu.

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Previously by (or including) Steve Balkin:
* The Maxwell Street Muddle.

* Maxwell Street Malfeasance.

* City Needs New Policy For The Maxwell Street Market: An Open Letter To Mayor-Elect Emanuel.

* The Maxwell Street Market Vendors Association Wants You To Like Them.

* The Olympic Bid That Could Have Been.

* Lil Scotty: 'Give Him His Flowers While He Lives.'

* Remembering Lil Scotty: Bluesman, Buttonman.

* Remembering Lacy Gibson, Master Bluesman.

* Here's To Bobby Too Tuff.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on May 26, 2016


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