In judging this presidential election, the Republican and Democratic Parties have provided little more than spectacle accompanied by tired promises of more inequality. The lumbering old elephant just refuses to acknowledge the historic moment in which we find ourselves, and the stable of Democratic candidates in no way resembles a donkey willing to kick ass except for one--Bernie Sanders. But as far as the party's elite go, an FDR Democrat is a thoroughly unacceptable standard bearer for the DNC.
For those of us organizing in the democracy movement, Sanders' campaign has opened an important door to the American psyche, one that we've been banging our heads on for many years. What Sanders has done and is still doing is giving folks permission to envision a different future, inviting them to think big about how different life could be for so many people. And that has proved to be a very hard task in a society nurtured on "You can't," "I can't," and "We can't" until we get to the biggie, "We can't afford it." Finally the electorate is thinking about what we can do together, and about who is the "we" and what togetherness represents.
There is every reason young people, the Sandernistas, are flocking to his campaign: The legacy they are about to inherit is one giant, life-threatening mess, created by the white neo-liberal and neo-conservative policies which began with Reagan's election in 1980, engulfed both major parties, and went on to decimate the civil rights gains made during the apex of the Civil Rights movement. For our own sake, we need them to exercise their political muscles and reinvigorate a civil rights movement for authentic democracy. And then we must follow their lead.
Organizations like Move to Amend, which was the first to respond to the Citizens United decision on January 21, 2010 with the Motion to Amend petition, have been working at the grassroots level to continue the work of the Civil Rights movement by organizing around the systemic issues that allowed slavery and a billionaire class in the first place.
Sandernistas, you are already in tune with the existing deep structural issues in the US Constitution, which are redistributing wealth upward, creating debt slaves, mass incarceration and systemic oppression, a surveillance state, an uninhabitable planet, and potential nuclear devastation.
Move to Amend's mission is to build a people's movement on behalf of a U.S. Constitution that makes real the promise of a vibrant, democratic society, and is deeply rooted in social, economic, and ecological justice; a democracy that is genuinely representative and accountable to the people and not corporate interests.
Sounds a lot like Mr. Sanders.
Their first goal is to pass the We the People Amendment, which says that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, not to mere legal entities such as for-profit and not-for-profit corporations, and that money is not a form of protected speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns.
Getting corporations out of government and getting big money out of elections sounds a lot like Mr. Sanders.
Should Bernie Sanders win come November 8, what will happen to the powerful force that advanced Sanders to victory beginning on November 9? If Sanders fails to capture the Democratic nomination will this movement to elect him go home and await instructions, or will Sandernistas merge with the democracy movement bringing vibrancy, leadership, organizing experience and tech savvy to help fight corporate rule on the frontlines and help create an authentic and participatory democracy, which brings forth economic, civil, and environmental justice, no matter who the president is?
Mr. Sanders knows what a people's movement is. He participated in the Civil Rights movement, so when he asks us for a movement it's because he needs one to win, and then he needs one to govern. I'm sure he's grateful for the votes and the donations, but something about this man's life convinces me that what would make him really happy, win or lose, is to see the movement he is calling for materialize.
It would make many others happy as well. Systemic change doesn't happen at the ballot box; it happens in the streets. Political parties follow, they don't lead the way; the people do. When We the People finally stand up and take direct action, we can fix our broken system. That's what Mr. Sanders believes, what I believe, and why I've been volunteering for Move to Amend for the past six years.
So to that end, Move to Amend invites all Sandernistas to endorse our campaign to legalize democracy and help build the democracy movement we so badly need.
Laura Bonham is a community organizer with 25 years experience on issue and candidate campaigns, including six years in local government. She has been a member of Move to Amend's national leadership team since April of 2010.