I first met Senator Sanders at the Marianne Williamson’s Sister Giant conference on March 29, 2015.
The Sister Giant Conference was the first of many times I would listen to one of Bernie’s speeches on income inequality and the many challenges facing the nation. My first impression was that it sounded more like a college lecture than a politician’s rhetoric. And it was long. At the end of his speech, Marianne came out and asked Bernie if he would run for President. The crowd shouted out, “Run, Bernie, run!!!”
In his unmistakable Brooklyn accent, he responded, “Look, there’s no point in me running for president if there isn’t a grassroots movement behind me to do the things that we would set out to do to get this country back on track.” At that point, Marianne turned to the audience and said, “If you’re going to stand behind Bernie when he runs, please stand up.” At that moment, there was a pregnant pause when time slowed down as the Senator stood on stage before the silent, standing crowd.
Standing alone on the stage, Bernie looked so exposed. His face suggested that this demonstration was difficult for him to take in. It was as if his humble nature and lifelong career as a rebel outsider were suddenly being confronted by the possibility of a task that had been way outside of his box. I’ve heard stories that Bernie was not popular in congress. He often ate lunch alone, as his colleagues spent their waking moments in the pursuit of power, money, and influence.
His vulnerability was certainly very powerful, but to me, this wasn’t the type of executive presence that I associated with someone who would be the commander in chief. His hands were awkwardly crossed, as one hand clutched the opposite wrist. Was this the kind of man that could sit across the table from a brutal dictator like Vladimir Putin?
Then I came across an old video of Bernie, lambasting the late chairman of the Federal Reserve and conservative free-market economic standard-bearer, Alan Greenspan.
Sanders seemed to be breathing fire as he confronted Greenspan about his role in deregulating the banks, saying that Greenspan simply, “did not know what’s going on in the real world,” and that, “Country clubs and cocktail parties are not real America.” It was at that moment that I first felt the Bern and it’s virtually all I’ve done since.
The question I have is, “where has that Bernie been on the Democratic debate stage?”
I now turn my questions directly to you Senator Sanders.
Are you in this to win it or not?
You were right about climate change and they all laughed you. You were right about women’s productive rights, the banks, income inequality, and LGBTQ rights.
You were right about the Iraq War. No one listened.
If you haven’t yet, please listen to Nomiki’s personal message to you:
Let’s face it. Joe Biden is not fit to face Donald Trump and he is not fit to be the president. He is not fit to lead the most powerful and influential country in the world through the climate crisis. He can barely make it through a 7-minute speech or a live stream. He can’t seem to interact with a voter without insulting them or challenging them to a fight.
Joe Biden voted for disastrous NAFTA bill, when you fought against it.
Joe authored 94 Crime Bill that effectively created the school to prison pipeline. He fought against desegregation. He lied about being arrested in South Africa.
He said he will veto Medicare for All.
The Democratic Establishment is already comfortable with 45,000 people a year dying because they are uninsured or underinsured.
Biden supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion under programs like Medicaid.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
You would no doubt campaign for Joe Biden. Many left-leaning democrats would as well. But the most energetic and committed in the grassroots will not. Even if you ask them to.
I explain this in more depth in this interview with Krystal Ball.
Trump is still filling stadiums.
They will send microtargeted ads to black voters with footage of his racist remarks. Enough to depress the vote. They will show the footage of him on the floor lobbying to defund Social Security. They will show his constant stream of gaffes and incoherent rabblings. Trump's online following will make endless memes and videos of his inappropriate touching.
It will be a shitshow.
We have bled for you. We have given everything for you.
I drove 12,000 miles in 2016 across this country on my own dime and spent all of my life savings. People have sacrificed their careers to back you. When we organized the Clooney protest against Secret Service and threw the money at Secretary Clinton’s motorcade, we had live weapons pointed at us. I would do it all again.
We have been smeared and gaslighted— and fought on. We have seen the corruption and election rigging before our eyes.
We never gave up. Are you ready to give up?
Can you possibly comprehend how it feels to us, the poor and working people who see you as our leader and champion when we hear you saying things like “Joe Biden is my friend,” and “do I think he [Biden] can beat him [Trump], I do.”
You can feel it like a shock wave ripple through our movement. A little something dies in us. I know single moms with kids and disabilities who have traveled across states to campaign for you. Poor people who have cut their own hair so they could send you $27.
Joe Biden is not your friend. He wasn’t your friend in 2000 when he killed the bipartisan amendment you authored to impose the “reasonable pricing” rule on prescription drugs.
He wasn’t your friend when he supported the war in Iraq.
He wasn’t your friend when his establishment hacks orchestrated every other candidate (except Tulsi) dropping out and endorsing you on the eve of Super Tuesday, just so they could stop your inevitable nomination.
We know you never wanted this. You started this because you saw how far off the rails this country has gone and you had to do something about it.
I’m going to get real with you Senator. This is the last stand for our movement. How this plays out, is that the fall out from the pandemic and the election takes out all of the oxygen in the national conversation. The movement will not continue as it would with you going on to win the nomination, fight to win the general election against Trump and realize the policy vision for America.
This is it for us. Why have people given so much and why won’t they just fall in line?
For two reasons—because we all know that you are the only one that can lead us through these difficult times, and because we have no choice. Without you commanding the power of the executive office, there is very little hope of our climate movements succeeding against the fossil fuel industry to transition to a sustainable green economy in time to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis.
I think that you have spent your whole life fighting “the man”, and on an unconscious level never wanted to become “the man”.
The problem is that this country and this planet needs you now. We need you to go out on that stage and be the man Bernie.
At this point to try to cling to some image of yourself that is no longer relevant. To acquiesce now to play nice for the establishment candidate, is to dishonor the billions of hours that your supporters have given over the last five years. It is not honorable to refuse to get your hands a little dirty, at this point it is self-righteous.
You must become the man you were meant to be, not for yourself, but for those who will die and suffer under anyone else’s administration. You know this to be true. It’s a heavy burden and I’m sorry you must carry it. But there are millions behind you who believe.
There is no honor here in defeat when so much hangs in the balance. We need you to be the man who faced Alan Greenspan, stood up to the oligarchy and changed the national conversation, not the guy who let Clinton off the hook about her damn emails.
In “Writing the Truth: Five Difficulties,” Brecht wrote:
“It takes courage to tell the truth about oneself, about one’s own defeat. Many of the persecuted lose their capacity for seeing their own mistakes. It seems to them that the persecution itself is the greatest injustice. The persecutors are wicked simply because they persecute; the persecuted suffer because of their goodness. But this goodness has been beaten, defeated, suppressed; it was therefore a weak goodness, a bad, indefensible, unreliable goodness. For it will not do to grant that goodness must be weak as rain must be wet. It takes courage to say that the good were defeated not because they were good, but because they were weak.”
It’s not enough to have just changed things. We must see this through.
The American people deserve to see how Joe Biden would fair against an opponent that doesn’t hold back, because Donald Trump sure as hell isn’t going to hold back. Elizabeth Warren ended Bloomberg’s campaign in thirty seconds on the debate stage. Everyone’s world has just changed. People are scared. They need your leadership, wisdom, foresight, and clarity. They are just waking up to see that you were right about single-payer, and everything else.
So please, for the love of God, go out onto that debate stage and kick Joe Biden’s ass. Take the gloves off. This election can still be won. Our entire world changed in a matter of one week.
Show the American people that you are the leader we need right now. Make it clear that you alone are the nominee they deserve.
Because you are.
p.s.- we love you and we are with you to the end.
*part of this article was adapted from “The Political Revolutionary’s Handbook” by Jay Ponti
Thanks for reading!
From Occupy to Standing Rock, Jay Ponti has been a grassroots political organizer. He was the co-creator of #BankExit, the campaign which ignited billions in fossil fuel divestments. He has masterminded direct actions with Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, and other luminaries, which received international media attention.
Jay was a strategist for the 2017 California Poor People’s campaign that coordinated simultaneous actions occupying capitol buildings in 35 states where over 2500 people were arrested to stand for climate justice, criminal justice, health care as a human right, undocumented rights, homeless rights and many other critical issues facing our nation.
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