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The Death of Bernie’s Campaign is the Battlecry of Our Movement 

Updated: Apr 20, 2020 11:28
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photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS

This piece may feel like an obituary – for our movement, for our country, maybe for our world. But trust me when I say it’s not one. It’s a reckoning of the past and a call towards creating a better future.

In a fucked up and broken world, where a handful of people own most of the wealth, while most everyone else is only a paycheck or two away from homelessness, the Bernie Sanders campaign represented real hope. Hope that no one would go bankrupt if they got sick. Hope that no one would take on a lifetime of debt just because they wanted to get an education. Hope that people would get paid time off when they got ill, and maternity and paternity leave when they had babies. Hope that that everyone would get paid a living wage. In short, we hoped that finally all Americans, not just the ones with money and power, would be entitled to the basic human rights enjoyed in every other developed nation in the world.

Today it feels like that hope has died. With Bernie Sanders dropping out of the race, Joe Biden becomes the official Democratic nominee. While Biden seems like a nice enough guy to get a beer with, and has a decent record in Congress, he is so far less than we hoped for, and so far less than we need.

For many Americans, Joe Biden stands for a safe bet in terrifying times. He feels like a call back to when things made more sense, when the ugliness of raw greed was better hidden, more gentlemanly, and less orange. What these people refuse to realize though, is that the Democratic Party of Joe Biden is in bed with Wall Street, mega real estate developers, pharmaceutical companies, and your rapacious health insurance provider. If you don’t believe me, just look at who’s behind his Super PAC. It’s the Democratic Party’s refusal to break up with these evils that led to Trump’s ascension in the first place, and unless Biden genuinely distances himself from them, will lead to Trump’s reelection.

On top of all that, there’s also the sexual assault allegations surrounding him…but this piece isn’t about Joe Biden. It’s about something bigger.

Now take a deep breath. Are you still with me? Good, because this is important.

Right now you might be heartbroken. You may feel deflated and defeated. You may want to go back to bed or just give up. But don’t do it. Don’t you ever give up. Did you really think it would be that easy? Did you really think we would win if we tweeted enough times or argued long enough on Facebook? If equality and equity were achieved that simply, it would’ve been done ages ago.

Yes, today hurts. Bernie Sanders is no longer running for president and he won’t do so ever again. But this is about a movement, not a person. It’s about justice, not an election. It’s about fighting the evils that have held us back for centuries, not the just ones that pierced our bubbles of privilege in the past few years.

And Bernie has been telling us this all along. He did so every time he said “Not Me. Us.”

Because here’s the truth: real structural change doesn’t happen at the ballot box. It happens over time and through pressure applied by organized social movements. The people who have the power aren’t gonna give it up just because you politely asked them to with your vote. The powerful have never relented out of the goodness of their hearts. Every single gain the workers of the world have gotten is because they demanded it. It took decades upon decades of union building and strikes to get us weekends, a 40 hour week, safe working conditions, and child labor laws. And even then, the people in power only gave in to appease us. They were forced to give us something because they were afraid we’d take everything.

Let me repeat that: the people with all the money – the ones who would send in the police and the military to break up strikes – were forced to give us something because they were afraid we would take everything.

That is how powerful we are when we work together. That’s what Bernie meant when he called this “a people powered movement.” And this here, this thing that you’re part of, is one of the most organized social movements in history.

So don’t give up. Don’t you ever give up.

Just think about the mighty things that Bernie Sanders and this movement have accomplished in the past five years. Not only are principles like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, a $15 minimum wage, and free education now part of the mainstream conversation, they are the conversation. Issues of social justice, institutionalized racism, and white supremacy are no longer just being talked about by the folks being impacted, people of all kinds are now organizing to fight them like never before. This is the power of our movement. This is the strength of what happens when we work together. We’ve already changed the country forever.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump knows this too. Even if it’s not on an intellectual level, Trump gets it on an instinctual level, like all natural born predators. Regardless, the thing that has made Donald Trump so successful in politics, despite the fact that he is constantly caught lying, cheating, stealing, and doing impeachable things, is the fact that he too has built a social movement. Or at least one has coalesced around him. The difference is Trump’s movement is based on divisiveness.

Where Bernie Sanders says, “Together we all rise up”, Trump says, “You can rise up if you step on the person just below you.” It’s literally the oldest trick in the book. The rich and powerful have been playing working people against each other for millennia by separating us based on skin color or nation of origin, and by telling each side that the other one is to blame for their misfortune.

But here’s the thing: if a boss gives your job to an immigrant that he can exploit by paying poorly, you should hate the boss, not the other worker trying to feed their family. Instead you should be joining with that worker to fight for a better life for everyone. That’s where our movement gets its strength and that’s ultimately how we will win.

Things may feel hopeless now, but think about what abolitionists went through to end slavery. Think about what suffragettes endured to secure the vote. Think about what queer people fought against for the right to marry. Think about all the setbacks, over all the years, throughout all the social movements, that brought us to this moment. Yes, Bernie Sanders ending his campaign sucks, but this is just a minor delay on a long road to justice. That’s part of the movement too.

Bernie picketing with striking United Autoworkers Members. Photo from Bernie’s twitter account.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t mourn right now. Hell, it’s crucial to do so. Taking time to look after yourself is just as important as fighting. Especially during this pandemic, which is unsurprisingly showing the country just how important Bernie’s ideas are. Imagine how much less stressful this thing would be if everyone had healthcare and no one had to worry about how they were gonna pay their bills.

Then once you’ve taken time for yourself, it’s important that we do everything we can to get Joe Biden elected. We need to allow ourselves to do this.

Don’t get me wrong, Joe Biden is a deeply flawed and uninspiring candidate, but our Democracy can’t survive another four years of Donald Trump, and our ecosystem can’t either. While Joe Biden may be beholden to big money interests, Donald Trump is not accountable to anything or anyone other than himself.

While we can’t make structural changes at the ballot box, voting does allow us to choose who our adversaries are. It lets us put into power the person we want to work with or against.

As we’ve seen over the past few years, our movement has been able to pull Biden to the left, and we can continue to do so if he’s elected president. Could you imagine Joe Biden endorsing a $15 minimum wage or health insurance for undocumented immigrants if Bernie Sanders hadn’t shown the country how important these things are?

Trump on the other hand is a sociopath. He’s incapable of caring for other people or what they think. How can you put pressure on someone who is tearing apart our system of checks and balances and whose only goal is to be king?

Plus once we get Joe Biden elected, we can start working on who we want to replace him.

And if none of that sways you, let’s get Joe Biden elected so we can at least get those kids out of cages.

So here we are. It’s an honor to be part of this movement with you. This is not the end, it’s just another step towards equality, equity, and justice. We’ve got a long way to go, but we will get there together. Our only option is to keep on fighting, it’s exactly what Bernie would do.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.