… at least, most of it. Now, do we have to listen?
In spite of all the hype and hysteria, the New York primary ultimately held very little in the way of surprises. The frontrunners with with the most significant home-state ties did well, the guy attacking the state’s most profitable industry did less well, and the guy who has built his persona on insulting its values and institutions got wiped off the map. Nothing unexpected. Well, except for…
Actually, never mind, apparently that wasn’t entirely unexpected either. Perhaps a bit too convenient, as the most affected area is both the childhood home of Senator Bernie Sanders, and the home of a disproportionately large number of young liberal voters (generally seen as Sander’s strongest demographic base). It gets even worse when viewed in the larger context of other establishment-friendly quirks, like the closed primary rules, shortened hours at rural polling places, or the fact that voters needed to be registered in their respective parties 6 months ago in order to participate. But that’s all beside the point now.
The real issue at hand is how to respond to these results. Unfortunate (or unfair) as it may be, the Sanders campaign was dealt a pretty serious blow by the loss of New York. Clinton’s underhanded and dishonest tactics worked sickeningly well, and most of the ground gained in delegates during the past several weeks was lost in a single night. Bernie’s chances were slim before, and after this loss, they’ve dropped to almost non-existent. I would argue that this, while discouraging, is also beside the point.
This campaign was never really about winning. I mean, it would have been incredible, but losing this fight shouldn’t come as a surprise. The deck was stacked from the start. The important takeaway, for me at least, comes in two main components: (1) There is a legitimate ideological Left remaining in US politics, and (2) it is now more organized and more galvanized than it has been in decades.
Go all the way back to Bernie’s original announcement speech, and it becomes clear that, while he always intended to fight for every vote, he never really expected things to come as far as they have. It was an experiment, and like any good experiment, there are things to learn regardless of what result you get. He’s run a real campaign, and he’s taken advantage of all of the support that has come to him over the past year, and while winning was always a goal, I don’t think it was ever the primary one.
As I see it, the ultimate goal of this campaign was the political revolution. He wanted to bring about a change in the national debate on issues like financial regulation, extreme income disparity, and the inherent anti-democratic nature of a election system that relies on a wealthy minority of the citizenry for funding. And to that end, I think he’s succeeded beyond his greatest hopes. He acted as a beacon, and he gathered an enormous and passionate movement dedicated to solving those problems.
As much as I hate to say it, I think the time has come to start asking ourselves, “What happens to this movement once the campaign that created it is over?” It’s a tough question, but an important one, and it will define the nature of the American Left moving forward. Clinton supporters and surrogates, along with most of the DNC establishment, want nothing more than to dance in the ashes of this revolution. Are we going to let that happen? Or are we going to make sure there are still plenty of live coals smoldering underneath when they try?