Bernie could take a lesson from a fellow Vermonter Howard Dean, who was the progressive candidate for president in 2004. His political strategies when he was head of the Democratic National Committee resulted in Congressional victories in 2006 and Presidential victory in 2008. After running for President he formed the Political Action Committee “Democracy for America”, which now has a million members and helps elect progressive candidates. Bernie could have four times as much influence.
A terrible President can do enormous harm, just look at the Bush years. He destabilized the Middle East, caused the unnecessary deaths of 4,500 Americans and around half a million Iraqis, and then to top it off he crashed the entire world economy. But a president is limited in the good that he can do because Presidents don’t make laws, Congress does.
None of the wonderful things that Bernie Sanders has been fighting for can be done unless we change our Congress. The President can only suggest policy, and propose budgets, but it is the job of Congress to get things done. The current crop of Republicans are dedicated to NOT getting anything done.
Bernie Sanders has built a movement from the bottom up, made of dedicated people who want to reduce inequality and end injustice. There is no reason for that movement to end simply because Bernie no longer has a path to the White House. The political revolution is not just dependent on one person or office, and it will probably take an entire generation of hard work to bring about the needed change.
If Bernie started an Anti-PAC for candidates dedicated to getting money out of politics, reducing the power of the banks, universal health care and the other issues that Bernie has worked for, he could help those candidates who pledged not to take special interest money in their campaigns. Bernie could simply use his organization to ask people to support those campaigns. It could grow to a movement that surpasses the power of the Tea Party.
Bernie Sanders should now support Hillary Clinton because she agrees with 90% of the issues that Bernie holds dear, but also because she is a million times better than the Republican candidate. But Bernie should turn his energy and the enormous energy of his followers towards retaking the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the control of State governments all over the nation, because that is where change begins, at the local level, from the ground up.
Most of Bernie’s issues can be addressed at the State level first. Several States have already passed a $15 minimum wage. The Affordable Care Act contains the mechanism to bring about universal health care, through section 1332, waivers for State innovation. After one or two states achieve single payer health care, the other states will see how well it works and how much money it saves and then it will spread nationwide. Canada’s program first started in Saskatchewan.
Other issues, like getting money out of politics, a Public Option for the ACA, providing jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, and a fair revenue program to reduce wealth inequality, can only be done by Congress. Things like reversing Citizen’s United can best be done with an unbiased Supreme Court.
The entire political system is broken. The incivility and inability to get anything done is because we have a two party winner takes all zero sum game. Politics used to be known as the art of the compromise, but now cooperation has become a dirty word to Republicans and competition means that our representatives spend more time attacking the opposition than working together to help the nation. The Congress has also become a pay to play agency that is controlled by the rich and the corporations to the detriment of the people.
Bernie Sanders has found how to compete with the special interests with public funding. He should use his organization to generate funds to help the down ballot races for candidates who work to end injustice and inequality. But he should also work to change the structure of Congress to get money out of politics, minimize hateful competition and encourage cooperation.
How can the people end the hyperpartisan gridlock? One way would be to stop gerrymandering so representatives actually have to reflect the will of the people. Another way would be to eliminate the filibuster. The Constitution quite clearly states that bills shall be passed with a simple majority except in a few enumerated exceptions. Now most bills require a supermajority. But the voice of the minority should not be eliminated. The best alternative to the filibuster is to vote for the best of three alternatives. Senator Jeff Merkley is leading the fight to reform the filibuster and help end gridlock, but instead of just changing the filibuster it should be replaced with the best of three vote.
If a simple majority agrees that an issue needs to be addressed, but they can’t agree on how it should be done, three or more plans should be drawn up, one from the Republicans, one from the Democrats, and one from independent experts in that field. Then preferential voting should be used to choose the best. Preferential voting allows the first, second, and third, choices to be tallied, with three points for the first choice, two points for the second choice and one point for the third choice, the one with the most points would be selected. This would force Senators to cooperate and compromise to select the best ideas for their plans and would eliminate “Poison Pill” additions, designed to irritate the opposition. Plans would actually reflect what is best for the nation. If it started with “filibuster issues” preferential voting may spread to all votes, even in the House. If Democrats retake the Senate, they can choose new rules for how the Senate is run, including eliminating or changing the filibuster.
This may be our best chance to find an alternative to the two party systems, because many Republicans and big money donors, like the Koch Brothers, are dissatisfied with Trump. Perhaps they can be convinced to use their money and political influence to make third (and fourth and fifth) parties viable alternatives. Third party votes become spoiler votes in our current system, but if we elected members of Congress using preferential voting, third party votes would not result in the worst of the possible choices being elected.
If we had multiple parties with proportional representation, like the rest of the world, everyone would have a voice in government. We could have a viable Libertarian Party, for those who think the government should only consist of police and a military to protect the interests of corporations and the property of the rich. The Republican Party could be center right, the Democrats center left, and we could finally have a viable Green Party to represent the best interests of the people and the environment for the future. The major parties now have a monetary advantage, but if we got money out of politics and had decent campaign financing “our” representatives wouldn’t have to sell their souls for campaign cash.
Bernie Sanders and his millions of followers were not simply trying to elect a President. They were dedicated to making a political revolution that changed politics and the economic, health, and Justice systems in America. That political revolution can continue. We can use our political muscle to change Congress so our Representatives could actually start working for the good of the nation again, and we could actually have a government of, by, and for the people.