COMMENTARY: Sanders is missing from progressive fights
Like many passionate Bernie Sanders supporters and self-proclaimed Bernie-or-Busters around the country, I am proud to consider myself a part of Sen. Sanders's (I-Vt.) remarkable Democratic primary campaign. Sanders's fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice has brought millions of young voters into the political process. They all shared one thing in common: hope for a better future. He brought awareness to issues such as corruption, injustice and environmental negligence, and advocated for “radical changes” such as single-payer healthcare and free college tuition.
I remember packing the streets of New York City and waiting for hours to hear him speak at Washington Square Park. And when Bernie came to Rutgers and packed the Rutgers Athletic Center, I was also there showing my support. But as the primary process began to unwind and it became clear that Hilary Clinton would become the nominee, new information made it apparent that the Democratic establishment did not want Bernie Sanders to become the nominee. Like many, I refused to support the former Secretary of State because she represented everything Bernie Sanders fought against. I had hoped for a potential independent run or at the least a contested convention. It would be an understatement to say I was disappointed to see Sanders endorsing Clinton for president. After over a year of campaigning, donating and fighting for Bernie Sanders, it was all over. I felt betrayed and hopeless. For the first time, Sanders seemed like a conventional politician, not the passionate warrior for justice we’ve become accustomed to. Sanders became another pawn in a never-ending game of political chess.
Nearly a month after the Democratic National Convention, Sanders announced his plans to continue the “Political Revolution” and fight for justice on a live online stream. Sanders has launched a new a non-profit organization called “Our Revolution.” The organization will continue the political revolution by recruiting new progressive candidates, raising political awareness and revitalizing American democracy.
During Sanders’s speech unveiling “Our Revolution,” Tim Canova’s name was not mentioned among several down-ballot nominees. Sanders endorsed Canova in his run against former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but has not campaigned with him ahead of his upcoming Aug. 30 Florida primary. Sanders's influence would have been a great asset for Canova, who unlike his opponent, does not rely on super PACs and donations from the wealthy. Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents everything Bernie Sanders is against, so his silence in this pivotal race was concerning. Wasserman Schultz is not a popular figure among Sanders’s supporters and progressives because of her ties to big money, corruption and scandal. The race for the seat in Florida is arguably the most important race at the moment for progressives, and a Canova win would make a huge statement. I believe Sanders owes it to Tim Canova and his supporters to go down to Florida. Sanders's presence would have been huge boost for the Canova campaign. If Sanders really wanted to support progressive values, he would not have abandoned Tim Canova. It is possible that Bernie made an agreement with the DNC not to actively campaign against Wasserman Schultz, which is an even more frightening prospect to me. Bernie has been fighting against the Democratic establishment for well over a year, and now he’s working with them.
Although Sanders vowed to continue the fight and make sure that the new Democratic platform is the foundation for the future of the Democratic Party and its candidates, I still can’t help but feel disappointed. I know this is a necessary step forward, but I had hoped for a more ambitious approach. The news of eight staff members leaving the organization because of their dissatisfaction with management and its classification as 501(c)(4), which would allow the organization to collect money from wealthy donators, only added more feelings of uneasiness. Bernie Sanders will forever be one of my greatest inspirations and nothing will lessen my respect and admiration for him, but things did not unfold how I and many other Sanders supporters had envisioned. None of us could have predicted him making a deal with the Democratic establishment and then falling into the shadow. I understand that he is tired from a long primary and that he is taking the necessary steps to change the political system from the bottom to the top, but I had expected Bernie to fight tooth and nail for real progressive values no matter what. Instead I was left wondering, “Where do we go from here?”
Daniel Chulak is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior majoring in environmental and business economics.
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