Seattle Beyond Bernie Meeting – Grappling with the Lessons of the Sanders Campaign

Seattle. Photo by David Calder

200 discuss next steps at “Beyond Bernie” meeting in Seattle, organized by Socialist Alternative and “Movement for the 99%.”

This article is part of a series of reports from Beyond Bernie meetings across the country. See reports one and two.

Over 200 people gathered into a packed hall in Seattle to discuss how to continue the political revolution. It was a diverse group – from labor leaders to Berniecrats, from socialists to young people whose first experience in politics was the Sanders campaign.

After watching a video message from Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, Kshama Sawant spoke about the effect that Bernie’s political revolution has had on the political landscape in the U.S. and the openness to build a new mass party of the 99%, but also about his recent endorsement of Clinton and the dilemma Bernie Sanders supporters find themselves in.

“Bernie’s political revolution has aroused millions to the potential for a completely different type of politics. Millions now see that it is possible, without taking a dime in corporate cash, for a truly people-powered political movement to challenge the corporate establishment for power…

But we also need to call things by their real names and not gloss over what has happened. We should be clear: what Sanders has done by endorsing Clinton is not just a tactic, not merely a mistake. Whatever his intentions, by endorsing a candidate of Wall Street, by backing a party controlled by big business, Sanders has abandoned our revolution. He has endorsed the epitome of neoliberal politics in Hillary Clinton.

By doing so, he is attempting to turn his political revolution into its opposite. He is now using his considerable authority with tens of millions of people to funnel them back into the corporate Democratic party and attempting to surrender our movement to the same establishment we have been fighting against.”

After Sawant spoke, the audience weighed in with their own thoughts and ideas of how to continue the political revolution. The ideas were varied. Most were in agreement that Jill Stein would be the best choice for their vote in the fall, while some still held out that Bernie Sanders could win the nomination, citing FDR’s endorsement of his opponent before winning the party’s nomination at the convention. Some echoed Bernie’s call to try to reform the Democratic Party, saying that we need to get involved helping to unseat local establishment Democrats with “Bernie-style” Democrats.

Ty Moore, national organizer of “Movement4Bernie,” spoke out against this idea, highlighting the need for a new party of the 99%, and to link this to building movements which can hold them accountable. “Seattle saw a glimpse of what’s possible, if you do that,” the organizer for Movement for the 99% outlined, “Kshama used her position to organize to win 15, to build a grassroots movement. She had Socialist Alternative to be the backbone of this continuous organizing effort. Imagine we had a mass party by, of, and for the 99% on national level, bringing movements together, giving them a voice on all political levels and drawing in the new generation of potential fighters.”

Many echoed Kshama Sawant and Ty Moore’s call for the need to build a new political party to represent the interests of the 99%. They cited different lessons from the Sanders campaign, that it exposed the rigged nature of the Democratic Party and the systematic inability for the Democrats to deliver on the needs of working people except when an independently organized movement is powerful enough to force their hands. Logan Swan outlined how labor needs to build independently from the Democrats. Mark Rafferty outlined that he is not prepared to just be told to wait another four years to wait for the next chance to have an impact on politics, as “this means waiting forever.”

One thing agreed by everyone in the room was that they were not satisfied with the election results and would not stop fighting for change. Rebekah Liebermann highlighted the example of the coming local town hall rally, organized by Kshama Sawant the and the King County Labor Council demanding paid family leave on July 30, 2pm, in the Labor Temple. “Capitalism is a system that allows a few super wealthy people globally to amass untold wealth, while the basic needs of billions of people go unfulfilled. Right here in Seattle working people are fighting for the right to paid family leave so that they can care for a new child or a sick family member. We are the only country that does not provide this basic need, and the as Seattle’s $15 an hour movement showed, the only way that will change is if we fight for it,” Liebermann explained.

It was a great event with rich discussion both during and afterwards as people grappled with what the correct lessons were to be drawn out of the Sanders campaign, how we can apply them to the presidential race in November, and beyond. We hope to see all participants and many more at the next March for the Political Revolution on July 24, at 1pm, as Meghan Maynard explained: “We marched for Bernie in the past, but we will not follow him in supporting the Wall Street, Wal Mart and war mongering candidate Clinton. March with us to continue the political revolution, to fight for free education, high quality free health care and a national minimum wage of $15 an hour!”