“When you have the opportunity to speak to a lot of people, you see an incredible level of beauty”
“Thanks for inviting me to your rally,” joked Los Angeles Times columnist and political cartoonist David Horsey to Senator Bernie Sanders at what was supposed to be a stop on the former presidential candidate’s book tour.
The event, it turned out, was more like a rock concert than a reading. The senator was welcomed with enthusiastic applause, cheers, and rally cries for “Bernie 2020!” from the sold-out crowd of 1,600 people at The Theatre at Ace Hotel downtown. People young and old, of all different ethnic backgrounds, packed into the theater for the event organized by the LA Times as part of its live journalism “Ideas Exchange” series in collaboration with local bookseller Skylight Books.
“As we saw during the presidential campaign, there’s a tremendous interest in Sen. Sanders and his progressive platform here in Los Angeles,” said Suzy Jack, vice president of public affairs and events for the LA Times. “His book is on the bestseller list and people are very interested in hearing his views.”
Interested, indeed. Even if you’re not familiar with Sanders’ politics—or you weren’t one of the 2.3 million people who voted for him during the election—his progressive agenda was widely welcomed, particularly at a time when there’s pervasive despair about how to move forward.
Here are the three ways Sanders recommends we gather together and take action now:
“We are playing by new rules,” he said at his live talk on Feb. 19, referring to the new administration and what he calls “Trumpism” politics. “Right now our job is to be as smart and effective as we can be.” A few members of the audience shouted out, ‘What should we do?’
[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]When you have the opportunity to speak to a lot of people, you see an incredible level of beauty.[/quote]
Never one to disappoint his constituents, the senator addressed the question directly. “Think out of the box,” he said. “Get involved in the political process in a way you never have before.”
He encouraged the audience to think about getting involved in city councils and state government first and foremost. Though he said he can’t give a specific prescription for California residents, his book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, is a sort of how-to guide that talks about the transformation of nearly every facet of American life. He outlines his economic, environmental, racial, and social justice agenda that will create jobs, raise wages, protect the environment, and provide healthcare for all.
When it comes to key issues that affect a large number of people in our community, such as immigration reform, for example, he asked, “How are you going to fight back? How will you work with other states to make an offer to Mr. Trump he can’t refuse?”
\nOrganize and mobilize
Sen. Sanders reminded us that during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, it was “the people who led, and the politicians followed.”
“That’s where we are now,” he said. “It’s not asking; it’s telling. It is forming movements so that Trump has got to say, ‘I can’t take on all these people.’”
Sanders talked about the importance of grassroots movements and millions of people working together to create real change. He mentioned an organization called Our Revolution, which was founded by volunteers of the Bernie 2016 campaign and movement, with staff from across the country. Though he’s not directly involved, its mission is to “to revitalize American democracy, empower progressive leaders, and elevate the political consciousness,” according to its website.
Sanders talked specifically about his call-to-action (along with Sen. Chuck Schumer) to rally on Feb. 25 at your local congressperson’s office in support of social security and the Affordable Care Act. And organizers of the Women’s March on Washington are also planning “A Day Without a Woman” protest on March 8 in observance of International Women’s Day.
Still feeling overwhelmed? Check out this amateur guide to community organizing.
Never give up
[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]We are playing by new rules. Right now our job is to be as smart and effective as we can be.[/quote]
If ever there was a time to not lose faith and refuse to give in to despair, it is now, he said.
“We do not have the luxury of saying ‘I’m burnt out, I’m exhausted,’” he said. Sanders added that this isn’t the first moment in American history in which labor rights, gender rights, and other civil rights were violated—when people could have given up, but didn’t. He mentioned women fighting for the right to vote, factory workers fighting for unions, and many others.
Building on the populist messages he campaigned on last year, Sanders talked about how it’s not about how Trump won, it’s about how the Democratic Party lost because it failed to sufficiently address the issues of working class people—issues like student loan debt, minimum wage increases, income inequality and redistribution of wealth, and affordable health care.
Still, while he understands the feelings of depression we might feel reading the newspapers and headlines that “drive us nuts and make us very upset,” what he learned on the campaign trail is what gives him hope for the future:
“What I learned, from the bottom of my heart—this is not just political bullshit—when you have the opportunity to speak to a lot of people, you see an incredible level of beauty …The younger generation, more than any other generation in American history, is the least bigoted generation … Don’t let Trump and his friends on television discourage you. There are millions of people of every race and background who want to work together and make this the country (what) we know it can be.”