Change Is In The Air, And “Berniecrats” Are The Ones To Breathe It

If you time-traveled back to April of 2015, before Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy, and told me that I would be strongly considering leaving the Democratic Party today, I would’ve laughed directly into your face. That would’ve been too absurd a premise for me; I’ve been a Democrat practically since birth, and the idea that I might one day opt to leave the party isn’t something I would’ve ever entertained lightly.

But that was a year ago. That was before the Arizona primary, and the New York primary, and all the controversy surrounding those (and several others). That was before Debbie Wasserman Schultz violated party rules, if not federal laws, in an effort to bolster Hillary Clinton’s campaign. That was before the questionable debate schedules, before noise machines at fundraisers, before I was told on a daily basis by other Democrats that I was “too progressive” or “too liberal” to be a “real Democrat.”

I’m far from being alone in feeling abandoned by the Democratic Party. Countless other Bernie Sanders supporters seem to feel the same way. And if you closely follow the Pro-Bernie groups online, and read the comments left on various news stories, and communicate with other Bernie Sanders supporters on a daily basis, you start to get the sense that there’s legitimate change in the air. That those disenfranchised Democrats — the so-called “Berniecrats” — have had it with the Democratic Party, and are ready to do something pretty drastic in the hopes of bringing about real change.

I’m talking about the formation of a new political party in the United States. And not a coup d’état within the Democratic Party, like the Tea Party did with the Republicans, either. I’m talking about a totally new grassroots political party, an American Progressive Party, one that appeals to all those millions of progressive Americans who feel the Democratic Party no longer has the best interests of the people at heart.

There Are A Lot More Berniecrats Than You Think There Are

There’s a common misconception that Berniecrats are little more than a tiny group of teenage hipsters, riding around Greenwich Village with “A Future To Believe In” stickers on the baskets of their vintage bicycles. The theory posited by Hillary’s more volatile supporters is that Bernie Sanders lost this primary in a landslide, because he couldn’t attract anyone over the age of 25 to his campaign. But anyone whose ever actually attended a Bernie Sanders rally will be very quick to tell you just how wrong that assertion is.

According to FairVote’s numbers as of June 8th, Bernie Sanders has brought in around 12.2 million votes, which is roughly 42.7% of all the votes in the 2016 democratic primary. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has brought in 15.9 million votes… around 55.7% of all the votes. That’s hardly a “landslide victory” for Clinton; there are only 3.7 million votes between them, and that’s before we subtract whatever few votes went to other candidates. It also doesn’t count the millions of votes the DNC allegedly tossed out in favor of Clinton.

But that’s just counting the people who actually voted for Bernie Sanders. In truth, his total number of supporters is unknown. Based on the number of democrats whose votes were thrown out by the DNC, and the huge swaths of independent voters who weren’t allowed to vote in the Democratic Party’s primaries, it’s pretty safe to assume he has many millions of supporters beyond just those who voted for him. You couldn’t really say the same of Hillary Clinton with a straight face, given the public’s general animosity toward Clinton, the second-most disliked presidential candidate in American history.

So what does all of this mean? It means there are tens of millions of Americans who want Bernie Sanders in the White House over Hillary Clinton. It means there are tens of millions of Americans who are on the cusp of losing faith in America’s two-party system, if they haven’t already. It means those tens of millions of Americans feel cheated. And that leaves us with a landscape wherein a true “American Progressive Party” could be born, at least theoretically.

An American Progressive Party

Creating an authentic political party from the ground up is far from easy. This new party would need to challenge Democrats and Republicans all across the nation, at every level of government, from local city council and mayoral races, to county and State legislatures, to gubernatorial, congressional, and senate races, all the way up to the White House. The party would need to attract intelligent, creative, experienced campaign staff, build campaigns with qualified candidates, and shore up as much mainstream media news coverage as possible. Oh, and the party would need money. Lots of money. Money that doesn’t come from super PACs or high-powered lobbyists… otherwise, what the hell is the point?

Remember when the Occupy Wall Street protests made headlines for a couple of months a few years back? Occupy fell apart for a few hundred different reasons, chief amongst them being a total lack of leadership, no unified message, and an almost comical misunderstanding and under-appreciation of the logistics involved in physically occupying outdoor spaces in urban settings for prolonged periods of time.

Many of these same problems, or at least the essences thereof, plague the Green Party today. There’s a reason most Americans have no idea who Jill Stein is, and the Green Party’s own political ineptitude can be solely blamed for that. They lack infrastructure, managerial experience, fundraising, and any semblance of a ground game. The Green Party will never, ever accomplish much in American politics, not if they continue to fail at comprehending the notion that you need to play their game in order to beat the Democrats and Republicans at it.

My Green Party friends love to point fingers and say “the mainstream media won’t give us a fair shake,” but you can’t get media attention until you do something worthy of it. The Green Party hasn’t. Not yet, anyway.

The American Progressive Party would need to learn from all of those mistakes. They’d need a strong, unified, comprehensive message, accompanied by detailed, heavily-researched plans for accomplishing its goals. It would need experienced campaign managers and staff, running qualified candidates in a wide variety of elections. It would need to build up long-term fundraising capabilities and the sort of financial capital necessary to take on the big parties. And it would need serious, dedicated, professional leadership. None of that wiggly-finger bullshit from the Occupy camps… this needs to be run by people who not only believe in the cause, but actually know what they’re doing.

Berniecrats Could Brighten America’s Future The Way No One Else Could

Bernie Sanders often speaks of a political revolution. He tells us that the revolution is bigger than any one person. His campaign is on its last legs, but that shouldn’t mean that the revolution he spurred should be on its last legs as well.

This 2016 primary season showed me, a lifelong democrat, that my party is fundamentally broken. That the most honest and electable candidate, the one with the best and most progressive ideas, doesn’t necessarily appeal to the Democratic Party. That for democrats, party loyalty usurps devotion to progressivism.

It’s time for a better party. A truly progressive party. And it’s up to Berniecrats to make that happen. Whether it’s rebuilding and rebranding the Green Party from the ground up, or developing an entirely new “American Progressive Party” from scratch, now is the best time to make real change happen. To turn anguish and anxiety into action. Will that actually happen? My fingers are crossed, and chances are, so are yours.

Photo by Gage Skidmore