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Imagining A Plan B For Bernie Sanders' Grassroots Revolution

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Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Months ago, Bernie Sanders had me at "Enough is enough!"

When he added, "We're going to tell a few billionaires that they can't have it all," I went gaga. "This campaign is not about me, it's not about just electing a president -- it's about a democratic revolution to transform this country." I was hooked.

I pledged allegiance to Bernie right then and there. I became a daily supporter on social media, wrote the song "Wave Of Democracy" and made a video of it, and asked my concert promoter to book me a show in Burlington, Vermont.

As Bernie, the democratic socialist, racked up an impressive 45 per cent of pledged delegates prior to the June 7 last Super Tuesday of primaries, I tracked the campaign closely and often jumped for joy. Though trailing by a significant delegate count, he was defiant in the hopes of winning a majority of the remaining eight primaries, including a big win in California, his "big enchilada."

But now it's all in up in the air, it seems. Bernie lost California, and his supporters are shocked to disbelief that it wasn't even close.

The greatest grassroots revolution in recent U.S. history has sputtered. Hillary Clinton has been declared the Democrats' presumptive nominee -- and prematurely hailed as having won a historic milestone for women. This, the only presidential candidate to run with an FBI investigation into her national security breach email habit. The corporate media's drama queen rant, "When's Bernie gonna cave?" fouls the air.

What if Bernie seized a chance to go for a lasting legacy with an immediate and important role for him to play?

Bernie Sanders has repeatedly said his nomination bid will go to Philadelphia and into a contested convention. He's not changed his mind. Yet nobody can guess what game he'd play once there, unless in the meantime he changes direction.

What are Bernie's options?
  • Throw his support behind Hillary
  • Try to sway superdelegates to his side before the convention and, while there, pull an upset win
  • Leave the Democratic party and run as an independent

Supporting Hillary after months of casting her as the epitome of establishment Wall Street corruption is not very likely. The sizable Bernie-or-bust contingent won't follow.

And making a power play at the convention is extremely risky, unless it's for a strong hand in shaping the party platform and direction. (What makes deal-making with Hillary so fragile is that against Donald Trump she may falter and lose in November.) As for running as an independent, this too is not at all a sure thing, unless it's tied to something more enduring.

It's fun to imagine a Plan B (for Bernie).

What if Bernie seized a chance to go for a lasting legacy with an immediate and important role for him to play?

What if Bernie sought to become a fair arbiter of U.S. elections? The Sanders Commission On Electoral Fairness could be appointed, and Bernie would become the trusted reformer of the entire primary and election process.

What if elections switched to a fast, efficient (paper trail backup) voting process that actually made it easy for new voters to engage?

What if this voting reform effort included new laws to repeal Citizens United and restrict campaign finance reform?

To Bernie: my thanks for a bold, principled and visionary campaign. It's meant the world to me. Your call to create a caring economy with glasnost and perestroika (openness and restructuring) is a progressive's dream.

Here's a thought, Bernie.

You could decide you're forming a new party: The Progressive Party, say, and that your long-term goal is to transform America with the social democratic policies you've outlined so well. And why not start that campaign now by running for president with this new party, knowing that you might lose the 2016 election but could establish your party as a solid contender in 2020?

Millions of donations would carry you, millions of independents would cheer and vote for you. Progressives would run for Congress. The U.S. political culture would finally gain a progressive flag to wave -- for a long time into the future.

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