Well, What Now? An Abridged Political Journey and Where We Go From Here
Wednesday was rough, and I'd be lying if I said I was fine. Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign for president and has taken my last shred of hope with him. That morning, I was sad. Which lasted a whole five minutes, until I logged into Twitter dot com. Then I was angry.
In 2016, Bernie Sanders moved me from political apathy and towards action. It was overwhelming; I had so many questions. How do I vote? What is a primary? Why did high school not prepare me for this? But you learn, and quickly. By the end of the election cycle I was riding the bike without training wheels.
Of course, the results of 2016 only brought more questions, and I had to dig deeper. I wanted to know what all the fuss over socialism was, and who the hell was Karl Marx? I vividly remember a chilly night in December, working the graveyard shift and desperately trying to find something to keep me awake. I settled on a podcast. "Hello everyone, I'm Stephen West. This is Philosphize This!" West's breakdown of Capitalism vs. Communism was like being beaten over the head with revelation after revelation. I'd worked nothing but awful retail jobs my entire adult life. Suddenly I had the vocabulary to describe my experiences under capitalism.
Podcasts quickly became a big part of my work routine, but I didn't know how to discriminate between the good and the bad. I listened to Pod Save America for roughly two years, if that's any indication. At one point I was listening to four different Crooked Media pods every week. Eventually I abandoned them all when I found my home in Chapo Trap House, a leftist podcast with a mean streak. If not for them, I probably would have never made the leap to volunteer.
The hosts of Chapo Trap House (L-R) Felix Biederman, Matt Christman, Amber Frost, Virgil Texas, and Will Menaker
By the time Bernie announced his 2020 campaign, I was ready to fight. I was full of piss and vinegar, and had become a finely tuned posting machine. I took the plunge and became a Bernie Victory Captain In Training. As it turns out though, the position was a huge time sink and I couldn't plan events and balance a full time job simultaneously. I could however make time to attend other's events.
By volunteering, I met so many amazing people, some I now call close friends. Together we put in the work, knocking hundreds of doors in the heart of Texas. It was often frustrating, but incredibly satisfying. Having heart-to-heart conversations with working class voters, and convincing them that for the first time, there was a candidate fighting for them. Hope was in the air. Until it wasn't.
When Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out to endorse Joe Biden, that was the final nail in the coffin. You can ignore every single jackass on Twitter with a post mortem about what the Sanders campaign did wrong. It was this unprecedented move that sealed the deal. Could we have recovered after Super Tuesday? Well, we certainly tried. It turns out our volunteer army was no match for the establishment forces of the Democratic elite and the media masterminds, both of which favored Joe Biden.
I don't regret a single moment I spent volunteering for this amazing campaign. It was the most fruitful and fulfilling work I've ever done. Bernie gave people something to believe in, and we'll carry on fighting for those things.
Volunteers canvassing for Bernie Sanders, myself (center)
Well, what now?
I keep asking myself, what's next? Where do we go from here? I don't have a definite answer yet but I do have some ideas.
I think you should still go out and vote in November. I'm sure there are plenty of down ballot candidates that are worth voting for who could do a lot of good. As far as presidential candidates go…
I won't say Joe Biden can't win (though I certainly won't vote for him). We're in the middle of a pandemic, unemployment is skyrocketing, and we're looking at another economic recession. Nothing is certain. But with the way this primary has played out, he can't count on youth turnout to push him over the finish line like it has previous Democratic presidents. Even the enthusiasm among his most fervent supporters is tepid, at best. He just doesn't have the movement behind him that Bernie had.
If there's going to be a mass exodus of Bernie voters from the Democratic Party, it would be nice to see them prop up the Green Party. We have the numbers to make a threatening third party a reality, and most of what Bernie was fighting for is already reflected in Green platforms. Howie Hawkins, who is likely to become the presidential nominee of the Green Party, is an eco-socialist who supports Universal Health Care and the Green New Deal. Can he win? It's a snowball's chance in hell. However, we can send a big ole "f*** you" to the Democratic Establishment who forced Biden on us. If you're going to be pouring time and energy into any campaign prior to November, you may as well fight for one that reflects your values and ditch the two party mentality.
Presumptive Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins
On the flip side of the coin, we should be looking at direct action. Electoral politics doesn't have to be the only game in town. We can strike, we can protest, and we can even do some criminal mischief. That isn't to say I'm urging everyone to go out and get arrested. That would be irresponsible of me. If you want to toss stink bombs into a crowd of Trump supporters, don't get caught. It's that simple.
Finally, there's a long way to go until the general election. It's gonna be a sh*t show. Trump is already cutting ads mocking Biden's cognitive decline and his sons dealings in China. Biden has many of the same problems that Clinton had in regards to corruption. It's 2016 on repeat, until the end of time. In conclusion: We told you so.