God bless Bernie Sanders for melting my political cynicism. His presidential bid reminds us that the fire of civic activism still burns beneath the status quo. Enthusiasm builds when old-school grit combines with fresh spunky memes. Such stuff sustains our molten dreams of blowing the top off corporate servitude.
Newscasters have thrown cold water on Bernie’s insurgent wins, repeatedly lecturing the public about delegate math. And yes, after New York, I knew his nomination was a long shot. That shouldn’t distract us from the greater significance of his campaign. There is long-range force in the core political convictions he has nurtured for a lifetime and championed for his network of followers.
Miracles happen, often in the ways we don’t anticipate. Bernie’s perseverance opens the door for his campaign to transform into an evergreen movement. In Oregon he has set the stage for us to reboot a revolution and gain freedom from partisan control.
Bernie is the longest-serving Independent in congressional history, yet for decades he has caucused with Democrats. Party elites used this against him in the primary, implying that he has less political standing than others who have long been registered Dems. In the general election Democrats will change this tune, seeking to woo Independents who they absolutely need in order to prevent Donald Trump from occupying the White House.
I changed my party membership to support Bernie in the Oregon primary. Previously I was registered with the Independent Party, which was formed to counter legislative efforts that restrict voter access in elections. Today I went to the Secretary of State’s voter webpage and changed my registration back to Independent. The two-minute ritual felt like a homecoming. Other Bernie supporters should give it a try. A mass civic migration over the coming weeks and months could have volcanic political consequences.
Note to newscasters: I’ve got your math right here. Independents are America’s largest political group and our numbers are increasing rapidly. The Independent Party was the fastest growing group of voters in Oregon following its inception in 2007. Between then and 2015, twice as many citizens registered with the Independent Party as new Democrats and Republicans combined. The state now recognizes Independents as a third major party and must treat us equally with respect to political primaries. That makes Oregon a key testing ground for political reform.
The Independent Party of Oregon is like a voter co-op. It uses online surveys to determine electoral preferences and legislative priorities. It is a natural home for Bernie supporters, because it emphasizes campaign finance reform, consumer protections (especially with regard to banks, insurance companies, and private utilities) and transparency in government. If enough of us switch to Independent we can build upon this platform. Folks who do so before June 24 can also participate in a survey to determine who the Independent Party should nominate for president. You can help decide, if you change your voter registration in the next few weeks.
This is a valuable exercise. The dynamics of partisan politics will shift if there is a groundswell of Independent activism. It can change the way primary elections are conducted and funded, opening the process to all voters. Over time our leaders will be forced to abandon the current game in which politicians play to polarized camps and then cater to the same moneyed interests.
New coalitions could be forged amidst this shift. If the general election unfolds as expected, the “Bernie or Bust” folks could be in the same boat as lifelong Republicans like my father (who says he will not vote for Clinton or Trump). Maybe people of different backgrounds will find common ground. Regardless of how we each choose to vote, I hope others will join this Indie Exodus. It will signal our resolve through creative civil means to reject establishment politics.
Dad has a story that boosts my optimism. Back in college he bucked the system and served as president of the Independent Students Association. By banding together, he and his colleagues were able to compete against the established frats. And the “GDI’s,” as they were called, won All School Sing that year.
Let conscience rise like magma from our civic core. Time to pour forth a new song.