This piece reflects the views of the author, Patrick Westerbeg, and not those of Emerald Media Group. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to [email protected].
November 4th, 2008 – We have elected the first African-American to the highest office in the land. Not since the election of John F. Kennedy had such a wave of energy and youthful optimism swept across the nation. Not since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s seminal “I have a dream” speech had the hope of a post-racist nation been so strong. It propelled Barack Obama into the Presidency and sparked a new political revolution.
After more than a year of fighting with intransigent Republicans in congress—despite reaching across the aisle—Obama had spent virtually all of his political capital ensuring the passage of Obamacare, giving the new political revolution all the energy it needed to become a powerful national movement.
This new political revolution, called the Tea Party, firmly seated far-right wing ideologues into both houses of congress, giving the Republicans a majority in the House and a filibuster representation in the Senate. This political revolution continues to reverberate through sustained efforts to defund and repeal Obamacare, blocking even moderately progressive legislation, and the filibuster of more judicial nominations to federal courts than any other administration in the history of our country. As the President said himself, the mid-term elections of 2010 gave Democrats a “shellacking.”
What happened? The answer is quite simple, those who voted for Obama thought they had won the day on November 4th, 2008 and simply sat down. The progressive momentum of the election was gone.
Will we make the same mistake in 2016? The energy of the Bernie Sander’s campaign is truly inspirational. We are feeling a renewed sense of energy, hope, and optimism, especially from the youth vote. But Bernie warns us that this isn’t about electing one man, it’s about a political revolution. More than anything, we need to understand, embrace and own this.
Much has been said recently about the “Bernie or Bust” movement. The idea that, should Bernie not receive the Democratic nomination, we should write in his name (splitting the Democratic vote), abstain, or vote for the Republican candidate (likely Donald Trump) sends shivers down the spine of any progressive. However, if Clinton clinches the nomination, should we support her? Perhaps not—and here’s why. If we know anything, it’s that either Democrat in the White House will reinvigorate the Tea Party. But the enthusiasm and energy of Bernie progressives will evaporate during a Clinton administration. Progressives, again, will sit down. This is a recipe for disaster.
But wouldn’t a Clinton administration be better than a Republican one? We have good reason to think not. Bernie is the only viable candidate running who hasn’t already been bought by big campaign contributors. Wall Street, the anti-environmental Oil Industry, and other non-progressive interests will want their usual, disproportionate seat at the table. How can a Clinton administration deny them such access after they paid her so much for it? It isn’t an unreasonable or unfair question.
Should Sanders become the 45th President of the United States he will lead a progressive political revolution, encouraging and empowering grass roots movements to fight the inevitable backlash from conservatives. This is imperative to succeed with any progressive agenda in the face of moderate congressional Democrats and dug-in, right-wing Republicans. This is ideal.
However, should a proponent of a Christian Caliphate like Cruise or a neo-authoritarian racist like Trump win the general election, which political revolution will be energized? The answer is clear—progressives will STAND UP! We’d be energized, if not desperate, to organize and act in order to take our country back. Enough would be ENOUGH! We only need to see the passion of Bernie supporters to know it isn’t a fantasy. A major progressive movement, perhaps led by Bernie, could arguably sweep Congress in the mid-terms of 2018.
If Bernie loses, progressives can—and should—feel completely justified in standing up for what is right by rejecting another four to eight years of politics-as-usual, go-nowhere, gridlock in Washington.
Patrick Westerberg is an undergraduate at the University of Oregon pursuing a BS in General Social Sciences. You can read more from him at thetokensquare.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter @TheTokenSquare.