Don’t worry, I’m not going to preach about uniting behind Hillary Clinton or tell you that we all need to come together and sing Kumbaya. I get it. I was #WithHer, but I have been there. I know how hard it is to lose a campaign. I know how heartbreaking it can be to put your hopes and dreams into a candidate, and have that person come up short. I have worked, volunteered, and donated to amazing candidates that have lost their elections, so I don’t want to go there, at least not yet.
I have a simple question though…Are you still willing to fight for the revolution, or was this all about the candidate?
I know that’s a provocative question, but bear with me. Bernie Sanders spoke truth to power about campaign finance laws, student debt, environmental justice, crony capitalism and his campaign highlighted changes that need to happen with our presidential nominating system.
What the Sanders campaign did on the ground in Michigan, and across the country, was impressive. I am here to tell you, if you are still willing to fight for the change that he spoke so passionately about, now is the time to engage fellow progressives to push those things forward.
Change or revolution rarely happens from the highest levels of government. Change happens when people rise up, recognize their own power and push their leaders.
After his election in 1932, A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Sidney Hillman, and other labor leaders met with Franklin Roosevelt to push for a pro labor. At that meeting Roosevelt told them: “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.”
Congressman John Lewis said that in 1964, “President Johnson wanted to wait and not move so fast [on the voting rights act]. He said in effect, ‘I just signed a Civil Rights Act. We don’t have the votes in Congress. If you want me to get a voting rights bill passed, make me do it.’”
History is filled with these types of stories.
The question is, how are you going to make them fix our campaign finance laws, get rid of student debt, protect the environment, eradicate crony capitalism, and bring change to how we nominate presidents?
Are you going to get involved with your local or county Democratic Party or run for precinct delegate, so you can have some say in who is elected in leadership positions in the party or how the party’s nominee is chosen?
Are you going to get involved with League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, or Clean Water Action to support candidates that have good environmental records?
Are you going to run for local office like school board, city council, or library board, so you have a role in shaping the policies in your community?
Big change comes from small sparks, whether it is from the 15 year-old girl who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and, as a result, got involved with her local NAACP chapter where she befriended a seamstress named Rosa Parks. Or the members of the Kalkaska School Board that got fed up with cutting programs in their schools and decided to close schools two and a half months before Summer vacation. Or the 84-year-old widower who took her case to the Supreme Court because she thought it was unfair that she had to pay $363,053 in federal estate taxes on the inheritance of her wife’s estate because the federal government didn’t recognize her marriage, which began the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act.
In her speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton said, “I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?”
You may not be #ReadyForHillary (and I’m not asking you to be), but her words were profound and relevant. If you were involved in this presidential campaign because you thought Bernie was a cool guy, that’s fine. If you were really interested in changing this country, starting a revolution that can’t be ignored, the stakes are far too great to disengage now.
You don’t need a presidential candidate to make change; history has shown that you have the power to make that happen on your own. Take what you have learned on the Bernie campaign and work to make electoral and political change on your local school board, the State House, the State Senate, County Commission, or County Prosecutor. Keep going. Your communities need you.