Fishbein: Bernie's Political Revolution

by Dan Fishbein | 4/20/16 5:41pm

My “New Hampshire for Bernie” poster has started to look forlorn lately as it rests against my dorm window. Senator Bernie Sanders was an upstart back in February, when I cast my vote in the primary for him. But whatever small chance Sanders had has all but disappeared in light of the New York primary. He received 42 percent of the vote in New York, placing him 741 delegates behind Hillary Clinton. FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on statistical analysis stories, suggests that Sanders is struggling to stay within 90 percent of the delegates he would need to win. A Clinton Democratic nomination, and likely presidency, seems to be the foregone conclusion.

But instead of treating the New York vote as the end, I hope that my fellow Sanders’s supporters will join me in embracing the candidate’s loss as just the beginning. All along, Sanders has championed himself as the progenitor of a “political revolution.” By appearing on national television, receiving attention from international news sources and pushing for a United States that is truly “by the people, for the people,” Sanders has already shown himself to be a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination. Not only did Sanders gain popularity quickly, he also managed to push his issues to the forefront of the national debate. Climate change has managed to emerge as a key issue in this election cycle Now it’s time to ensure that this momentum has not all been for naught.

One consequence of Sanders’ success is transforming Clinton into a stronger candidate. Clinton is poised not only to win the general election but also to create new policies rather than merely extend President Barack Obama’s. Sanders forced Clinton to acknowledge her strong ties to the corporate elite and to defend her previous support for the Iraq War, issues that she will undoubtedly have to address in the general election. Sanders has also appeared to push Clinton to the left on several issues. Clinton’s plans for “debt-free tuition” seem to be, at least in part, inspired by Sanders’ free college proposal.

Sanders has also popularized progressivism, a political philosophy he continues to push even as his campaign dies out. Recently, I have observed that Sanders himself has accepted the reality of his eventual loss. In the emails his campaign has flooded my inbox with, Sanders is now advocating for progressive candidates running on tickets around the country, from prospective representative Zephyr Teachout in New York to Pramila Jayapal in Washington. Teachout is running on a campaign against political corruption while Jayapal has worked on the $15 minimum wage and paid sick leave in Seattle. The momentum behind Sanders’ campaign could probably encourage progressive candidates to come out from the woodwork. In short, Sanders has changed his campaign to focus on political revolution, rather than winning the nomination.

By winning states from coast to coast and making the Democratic primary far more interesting, Sanders has shown that America is ripe for change. We can capitalize on this progressive streak in many ways. At Dartmouth, we’ve seen #DoBetterDartmouth push the administration to acknowledge that diversity is an issue that needs to be addressed and acknolwedged. Divest Dartmouth and NextGen Climate are pushing the College administration and the U.S. government to act more responsibly in the face of an intensifying climate crisis.

These student organizations and others seem poised to continue the fight Sanders has brought to the national forefront, a fight that needs to continue when Sanders concedes at some point in the coming months. Sanders may have lost, but the political revolution he has inspired has only just begun.