The Sanders campaign: Not an end

Though Bernie’s run is over, the movement was always what mattered most — and it will go on.

Justin Ward

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(Phil Roeder // CC-BY)

About a year ago, another member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and I were chatting about the prospects of Bernie Sanders’ presidential run. I told him I thought Bernie’s chances looked pretty good, given the crowded field of lackluster contenders, but I still had a hard time imagining him actually getting the nomination.

As a lifelong socialist, I’ve always been pessimistic about electoral politics. This skepticism is rooted in a basic understanding of the relationship between class and political power. The domination of democratic institutions by corporations and the wealthy elites means progress is only allowed insofar as it doesn’t clash with the interests of capital.

Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly supported the DSA’s decision to go all-in for Bernie, because I saw the campaign as a vehicle for socialist ideas. But to me, winning the presidency was always secondary to the larger goal of building a durable movement from the bottom up that could challenge this hegemony effectively.

But a miraculous thing happened: Bernie started winning, and my deep-seated cynicism gave way to guarded optimism. The slogan of the global left in the 21st century is “Another World is Possible,” and for a brief moment, there was a palpable feeling like that world might be just beyond the horizon.

For a few weeks in February it felt as though the stranglehold of corporate America on the levers of power just might be broken. The Democratic establishment seemed weakened to the point where they were powerless to deny the party’s left wing its rightful place at the head of the table.

That feeling was fleeting. Our hopes were dashed almost as quickly as they had been raised when the Party’s center closed ranks around a candidate who, in any rational democratic system would have been eliminated months ago. Despite being one of the worst fundraisers in the race and having a nearly non-existent campaign organization, Joe Biden coasted through the primaries on a wave of endorsements and free press.

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Justin Ward

Journalist and activist. Founder and co-chair of DivestSPD. Bylines at SPLC, The Baffler, GEN, USA Today. Follow on Twitter: @justwardoctrine, @DivestSPD