A Sad, if Not Unexpected, Day
I woke up this morning to sad, if not unexpected, news. My candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, Bernie Sanders, has suspended his campaign.
In response to a friend’s disappoint this morning, I wrote this:
I’m equal parts angry and sad.
I didn’t see a path forward for Bernie, so I’m sad not angry he’s dropped out. But I AM angry at the persistence of a social-political structure that will claim victory and do little more than inch forward.
It seems the liberal-democratic establishment learned little from 2016 and I do fear Trump will wipe the floor with Biden.
I am also sad for so many of Bernie’s supporters who feel truly hopeless and heartbroken. I share the sentiment. Weathered by nearly two decades of political losses and disappointments, I may feel it less acutely than some of my friends and allies.
Over those years of countless losses here’s what I’ve learned; the struggle continues. It may seem obvious, but my experience tells me it isn’t. Mourning the loss for a cause and fight you believe in is real. And as with the mourning for the loss of a loved one, it is important to process our feelings.
Anger is justified. A sense of listlessness and hopelessness is justified.
So… I encourage all my Berner friends to take some time off if that’s what they feel they need to do. Politics is a bloodsport and not without wounds or casualties. If a withdrawal from political life and activism is what is required, I definitely understand. But I also encourage them not to stay idle for too long.
There is work to be done. The struggle continues.
Despite years of experiencing it, I hate losing. Hate. It.
Many who know me might see me as an “establishment sell-out,” but the activist fire that first set me on the path of a life in politics still burns deep in my gut. With every loss of a cause I believe in, I suffer. In those moments, the activist fire is stoked and I respond with anger and an urge to tell everyone on the other side to go fuck themselves. “Burn it down,” I yell. And I ponder, “what the hell am I doing with my life?”
I go home. I Fume. I Wallow. I Drink.
And then I pull myself out of bed one morning and suit up for battle again. There is no alternative. Giving up or burying your head in the sand isn’t an option. The world is burning. Children are starving. Families are struggling. And the scales of power and wealth grow more and more unbalanced.
Those of us with the will, passion, and opportunity to fight for those who are unrepresented in our political and economic systems must continue to do so. The mountain is steep and our path is a precarious one. If we do not reach the summit, the consequences will be significant.
If all of that isn’t motivation enough, here’s a bit more. Though we may lose battles, the war wages on. I for one am not willing to walk away and hand unfettered victory to our opponents.
So, What’s to be Done?
The answers to this question are virtually limitless.
In the broadest strokes, we need more people to engage in political processes. Elections. Lobbying and advocacy efforts at the Legislature and various County Councils.
I have been beyond proud of the advances progressives have made to build power, organizational structures, and quick response networks. But obviously, there’s still much work to be done. Rather than try to address every possible component, let me try to focus on a couple of them that I think can be the most impactful.
Though the campaign season for the Presidential Primary has effectively ended, there are still elections ongoing. And there are still good candidates and campaigns worthy of our focus and support.
In Hawaii specifically, we have a number of good progressive candidates who are mounting very viable campaigns for public office. Their campaigns are ongoing and they need our support. Perhaps now more than ever. Given COVID-19 and the need to “shelter in place,” traditional campaign modalities have necessarily been tossed overboard.
I certainly have my list of candidates, though for the sake of collaboration and efficiency, I am currently working with a group of engaged progressive individuals to create a list of candidates we believe not only share our values, but who are also viable in their own right and, as such, are worthy of support.
Progressives have a real chance to pick up seats at the State Legislature this year. It would be a missed opportunity not to pivot our energies into ensuring we do so.
Two: Strengthen Existing Partnerships and Coalitions
In the past several years, a handful of progressive-leaning coalitions sprung up. The goal of these coalitions is to break down silos and strengthen collaborative efforts. Built by organizations and individuals, these coalitions have indeed seen some successes, but more work is required.
The pressure of legislative realities continues to prove too much for these coalitions to bare. Participating organizations, with understandably difficult realities to consider, often retreat to their corners. These coalitions are a welcome development in recent years.
But they are still fragile. Their bonds, brittle. More support of them, as well as their member organizations, is required. My hope here is that by rallying around the collations AND their member organizations, they will be energized to be bolder. In turn, it will far more difficult for our political opponents to “divide and conquer.” This has been the Achilles Heel of too many of our progressive coalitions. It has to end if we are to succeed.
My regular readers may already be sick of my West Wing references, but I will not apologize. I leave you with this, from the episode “Privateers”:
President Bartlet: German thinker Max Weber said that “politics is the slow boring of hard boards and that anyone who seeks to do it must risk his own soul.” You know what that means?
President Bartlet: It means that change comes in excruciating increments for those who want it. You’re trying to move mountains. It takes lifetimes.
I’ve referenced this scene before and do so again because I think it is worth remembering.
So, mourn Bernie’s exit in your way and in your time. But don’t take too long. There’s work to be done. We’re trying to move mountains.