Politics isn’t just a game played by politicians. It’s not something that exists separately from us, our lives or our culture. Politics is a process that every American plays a part in and is affected by, even outside of election season.
In the aftermath of 2016 – not just the election of Donald Trump, but the entire circus of tragedy that defined the race and the years after – I was left without direction. I had been cheering for Bernie Sanders, who seemed like the only candidate that spoke directly about the issues that mattered to me – economic justice and reform, our schools, our prisons and police, our healthcare, the environment and more. After the election, I felt like there was no real way of making any improvements to American lives, or any of the millions of lives affected by the actions of our country.
But I realized that ultimately there was no way that waiting for change, expecting the worst and enduring, was going to help. The only way to not become a victim to systems of power greater than yourself is to learn – we know from revolutionary thinkers from the past that the commitment to a better world is a lifelong one, and that we have to fight for what we believe in if we want to see that future come about.
That’s why I’m back with Bernie Sanders for the 2020 presidential campaign, and why I not only think that the truth of what we’re fighting for is clearer now than ever, but that we have what it takes to win and make change happen.
My family has struggled with poverty for as long as I can remember and has been a victim to the predatory practices of the prison industrial complex, the healthcare industry and an unjust economy. I was raised by a single mother who was the hardest worker I ever knew, and gave all she had, every day, so that I’d have a better life. Seeing her give so much and yet have us remain at the mercy of corporations shaped my worldview. It was through research that I discovered why the world behaved this way, and what I could do about it.
The Bernie 2020 campaign is about more than just electing our next president. It’s about more, even, than electing progressive candidates over hateful or stagnant alternatives. The Bernie campaign is backed by a coalition of working-class movements. It is a grassroots collection of people at the ground level who have realized that the only way to cause change is through direct action and not “politicking” alone. Even though I’m just one person in this movement, I feel more empowered than I ever have in political volunteering before. I don’t feel like I’m just touting some candidate who might not even do what they promised – I feel like a contributor, who has the power and the voice to influence what the future will be. The slogan of Bernie’s campaign is “Not Me. Us.” and it couldn’t be truer. Bernie is the candidate who knows that power lies in the actions of the people, if they’re able to unite and use it.
This scares a lot of people, and it’s easy to see why. Power and change are scary, because they demand responsibility and action. Many look to the other candidates on the Democratic ballot right now for proposing more modest solutions, for saying that we can make change happen without disruption, without worry, all within the systems we’re used to. If we’re smart enough and moderate enough, we can make things better for everyone, and nobody has to “lose". But Bernie said it best when he pointed out “We can propose all the plans we want, but nothing will fundamentally change unless we have the guts to take on Wall Street, the insurance industry, drug companies, the military-industrial complex and the fossil fuel industry.”
Ultimately, the people in power, the one percent who have all the money and influence (more money than you can possibly wrap your head around), aren’t interested in compromise. They have decided how the systems that run our country will work, and they’ve set them up to benefit themselves, and only themselves.
So what is there left to do for the common people? Unfortunately, as much as we like to praise civility and our institutions, the only way to change a broken system is from the outside. We do this through direct action, by using the power we as citizens and working people have beyond money or electoral politics.
That’s why I believe the Bernie 2020 campaign is the only campaign that can make a difference. Any president that gets into office will be hamstrung by the power of the one percent, but it’s Bernie, and only Bernie, who has the movement behind him that can make change happen regardless. If we the 99 percent can come together and realize that we’re stronger for it, and united by our common needs and struggles, we don’t have to be beholden to the same obstacles and mistakes that keep stopping improvement.
Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, free college, student debt relief, an end to endless wars, racial justice, economic justice – these are all possible despite what pundits say. If we can take on the systems of power, and the people in the one percent who control them, we can enact all of these and more. I believe that the Bernie campaign is the one that can do this, and that’s why I stand with it.
If you believe that this change is possible and want to know how you can help, you can find students for Bernie 2020 and OurRevolution on campus and online. We’re always out canvassing, so we won’t be hard to track down! Helping is easier than you’d imagine, like talking to voters, hanging fliers or attending rallies. Our movement depends on large groups of ordinary people working together, so that means we depend on you.