Is Sanders leading the start of a new progressive era?

The surge of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is fueling a movement of progressives across the country, writes Jacob Lind.

In 2013, Kshama Sawant was elected to the Seattle City Council. Ordinarily, such an event would be of little note to the United States at large, however, Sawant is no ordinary politician, at least by today’s standards.  A member of the Socialist Alternative, Sawant became the first socialist party member elected to public office in a major metropolitan area in over 100 years.  She recently dominated in the primary for her first re-election campaign, taking 51.88% of the vote in a 5-way contest.

Her closest competitor barely scraped 15%.  Yet, despite Sawant’s popularity, socialism and progressivism as a whole has been decidedly lacking in the United States for the last century.  Since Warren G. Harding proposed his “Return to Normalcy” following the First World War and progressive presidency of Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. has been in a constant Red Scare.  As a result, words like progressive and socialist have become political poison.  Indeed, aside for Sawant, the only other politician who dares to accept the mantle of socialist is Vermont Senator and current Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Sanders is the longest serving independent in the history of the United States Congress, and though he caucuses alongside the Democrats, he has remained fiercely independent his entire career.  Even now, as he pursues the Democratic nomination, he refuses corporate donations and is known as a fighter for the average American.  When he launched his campaign in April of 2015, the establishment laughed in his face.  Pundits claimed that he was little more than a protest candidate and snottily declared that his only purpose was to pull Hillary to the left.

One news anchor perhaps best summed up Beltway criticism of Sanders by declaring, “he’s a socialist for God’s sake,” implying that alone barred him from even being seriously considered for the Presidency.  And the polls seemed to agree with this thinking.  After all, Real Clear Politics showed that Sanders, on average, polled at below 5% at the time of his announcement.  Surely, such a radical candidate could never gain any traction with the larger American community, especially with the moniker of socialist?

But then, something remarkable happened.  To his supporters, it seemed to be the natural outgrowth of the merit of Sanders’ ideas and authenticity, but to the rest of the nation, it was a shock.  First his poll numbers tripled, sending him to 15% nationally.  But still, his detractors said it was just the anti-Hillary vote and that he wouldn’t rise beyond that.  But then, he was hot on the rise in New Hampshire, polling at a statistical tie with Clinton.  In the midst of these rising poll numbers, those same average Americans of whom, according to a Gallup poll, only 47% would vote for a socialist, began turning out in the hundreds, and then thousands, and then tens of thousands to support Sanders.

This meteoric rise has yet to level off and he has already more than quintupled his support on the national stage, taken the lead in New Hampshire and is hot on Hillary’s heels in Iowa, West Virginia, and Oregon.  All this, for a socialist.

For the first time in a century, Americans are looking at a socialist and true progressive, not with fear and derision, but with respect and serious consideration.  Though a Sanders presidency is not inevitable, and a loss is possible, Bernie himself has often said that this campaign is not about him.  It’s about a grassroots effort to elect progressives at every level, and not just put one in the White House.  This is big for other Kshama Sawant-esque hopefuls across the country.  Ultimately, even if Sanders fails to secure the Democratic nomination, the grassroots energy and infrastructure that has emerged around him will not simply wither and die.  No, instead that energy can be turned to local elections, for city council, state senate, and school board.

Suddenly, people will consider progressive ideas, rather than throwing them away right from the get go.  Even if he loses, Sanders has already done an enormous amount to restore the place for progressives in the national and local conversation.  He may well be the William Jennings Bryan that ushers in a new wave of Progressive Presidents, movements, and reforms.

That being said, I certainly hope that he wins.

4 Replies to “Is Sanders leading the start of a new progressive era?”

  1. FREE YOUR MINDS!!! Isn’t this what we always complain about after we vote a main stream “Front Runner” Democrat in? How you can’t expect them to be scrupulous. We overlook Hillary’s evasive non answers until she is president? Women are so enamored by the possibility of a woman president they overlook that she can’t really be trusted. “That is what the campaign season is for Hillary, to allow
    the citizenry to vet you as a candidate for president”. Aren’t we tired of
    settling for the elite’s lap dogs, for a few crumbs? Wouldn’t it be great if we could change things without bloodshed, a peaceful revolution? When are we going to vote for the statesman we complain we never get? When there is one right in front of us? Stop making excuses for not having a real progressive statesman in office. Stop over thinking the elections and vote your convictions as a progressive and vote for the most progressive candidate we have. Bernie Sanders For President 2016.

    Do you want a progressive in the White House? There is only one way that can happen. Civics 101: The Primary Vote. The primary vote is the most important and the most neglected in our electoral system. The primaries are where We The People choose who our “Front
    Runner” is. Hillary Clinton is no more a “Front Runner” than Bernie Sanders. This is just media propaganda funneling our vote for a conservative, corporate, Wall Street friendly Dem. We all know where Hillary stands on this. Bernie Sanders is a true statesman working with the Democratic Party as a democrat candidate. He has been approved by the DNC to run on their ticket. If a progressive wins the primary by a wide margin over any other candidate then the DNC will have no choice but, to nominate them. The plain and simple truth of
    the matter, THIS is how our system works, all propaganda aside. The country is coming out in droves to see Bernie in overflowing auditoriums. Even in conservative states he’s climbing and beating Hillary in the polls. If Bernie won the primaries I believe he would win the presidency, the country is ripe for a progressive, we are starving for it. Stop! Buying into and spreading the propaganda “We can’t have a progressive for president”. Because, that is all it is, propaganda. Not Reality. So, I say let’s “HACK THE SYSTEM BY USING IT!!!!
    THIS is how we SHOULD be talking the elections. Let’s not fall victim to the Billion Dollar, Propaganda media telling us who to vote for. That is relinquishing our citizen and civic responsibility. Our system, the primaries, the protocol of voting, IS REALITY. Learn and stick to the plan, the basics, all propaganda aside.
    Please, share, share, share and repost this everywhere. If you like my message and you think it is important for others to see, be my guest and pass it on. I’m trying to change the way we look and think
    about our electoral system. But, I’m ill and lack the technical skills to be more effective so, I’m counting on all of you to help. We need a massive get out the progressive primary vote like we haven’t seen in generations.
    How and when to vote for Bernie Sanders (by state)

    1. This man is the next FDR. Born to build this country back up with the PEOPLE from the oligarchy ashes, and abolish and further continuance they have in dictating our laws through bought out politicians and fake namesake corporate lobbyist groups like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC.

  2. I foresee a perfect storm of electoral opportunity for the advent of a new progressive era – starting with the right candidate, at the right time, with the right message, delivered in the right way. Add to that a Democratic opponent in Hillary Clinton who apparently has shot herself in the foot, reputation-wise, but will probably remain strong and viable long enough to prevent a serious alternative candidate from entering the race, before she ultimately flames out. If it goes down this way, Bernie Sanders will have just the time he needs to nurture and grow the movement, to become powerful enough to take Hillary’s place – as soon as the time is right.

    Given the cast of complete whack-a-doodles on the Republican side this year, the general public is in no mood for more Klown Kar antics – notwithstanding the hundred of millions of dollars of billionaire bucks that will be flowing from the Right. Any sane, responsible, responsive Democrat, therefore, will have a natural advantage in the general election. If Bernie can win the Democratic nomination, that means he will have created such a massive groundswell of public support that he simply cannot be denied, notwithstanding the roadblocks and stalling tactics of the DNC. With such a restless army of Berniemaniacs, agitating for change, Bernie Sanders could mow down any Republican opposition, sweeping to victory in November.

    He is the one candidate against whom the Republicans have no effective defense. Bernie has the moral authority, the street cred, and the fierce courage to speak truth to power, such as the American people have not heard from a presidential candidate in many, many years. It will be a joy and a delight to watch Bernie take apart Jeb! or Scott Walker on live, national video!

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