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A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Primaries

Hitchhiker's Guide

Don’t want to read? This week, as a crossover with his podcast, Michael reads his column to you. He felt this topic was that important:

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“This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I’m not a particularly remarkable person. Like you, I’ve strengths and flaws, hopes and dreams as well as kindness and cruelty, depending on the moment. I am often a lone wolf who probably could play well with others, but doesn’t trust enough to do so regularly. I am stubborn, especially when it comes to my values of right, wrong and how to treat others. I cherish petty things like etiquette far too much to truly fit into modern society, both online and offline. It is odd that a creature the likes of me would find politics and music, two things that are best when achieved in groups, to be my favorite areas to endeavor in. These are simultaneously strengths and flaws, but important for today’s story, so that you know exactly the sort of human being telling it.

The 2016 Presidential Primaries have challenged me, as the effort has involved trusting strangers more than I’m inclined to. I worked on issues of criminal justice reform in the year leading up to supporting Bernie Sanders for President, and was challenged similarly there as well. Both movements have struggled with coalescing assorted grassroots activists with different agendas along with new activists still figuring out how to use their newfound voices. I am hard headed and often forget that people may not share the same ethics and objectives as me.

However, moving forward, right now, I know that I must step outside of my comfort zone, and even more uncomfortably, ask you, dear reader, to join me.

In just one year, since Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont announced that he was willing to step up and take on the oligarchy, running against modern history’s most powerful political machine, a rag-tag coalition of activists, unions and regular American patriots have banded together both online and in real life to create an honest to Pete political movement. I don’t know this Pete fellow, but I’ve gotten to know an awful lot of you, and I’m proud of both what we’ve built and willing to share in the work that lies ahead of us.

In many communities and States it was “we the people” who built the foundation of Bernie’s campaign. We held meetings in people’s houses, met in YouTube chat rooms while watching independent broadcasters who took up our fight too and organized on the internet to march together in real life. We felt an incredible high of coming together as empathetic people who wanted to restore Democracy while valuing the lives of all people as we gathered for political rallies that seemed more like rock concerts than lectures. Together we started a revolution.

We hopefully all knew in the beginning that this wouldn’t be easy. We certainly all know it now. The fact of the matter is that the establishment has fought us at every turn, as they will continue to do. The weeds of oligarchy in America are so rooted that it is difficult to replant Democracy in the same fields again.

There have been many challenges that we have risen to. There will be many more. The corporate media has been against us, lied about our candidate, movement and issues, and has denied us equal airtime. In response, many of us have used the internet to create our own media outlets. We have dominated social media. We have fought the corporate propaganda machines at every turn, and in this battle, I believe we are winning.

We have proven that the Democratic Party is corruptly financed and influenced by big business. They responded by making lobbyists Super Delegates who threaten our movement. I believe they have rigged elections, closed polling stations and stolen our votes, in multiple ways. They change rules at caucuses last minute to favor their corporate endorsed candidate. As they control these systems, this is a battle we have been losing. Still, we’ve lost this battle so far not for lack of fight. We’ve donated as much as we could to the cause. We’ve made phone calls to strangers and knocked on doors. We’ve turned out in force to vote, even when they took away our registration to do so or quite likely changed it when it was locked into their machines. We have fought for every last delegate and will continue to do so.

Despite the fact that we have to work off of math that was likely altered by the Democratic Party and their appointed election commissioners throughout this great nation of ours, we have fought them to a stalemate. No candidate will go to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer with enough delegates to secure the nomination before the Super Delegates vote. Even then, the contest may be decided on the convention floor through the required rules of delegates voting until a winner can be announced. For this purpose alone, and for the States that are yet to cast their primary votes, our fight is at a crucial moment. We must resolve to stand together and fight on.

I believe we must resolve, every one of us who can do so, to be in Philadelphia during the convention, on the streets outside of the convention, demanding to be heard. We will not “unite in blue.” We will not accept the nomination of an oligarchist who has likely committed treason through election tampering. We will demand our candidate and our platform, both built solidly on challenging how the party itself is funded.

Furthermore, I believe we must resolve to simultaneously take this movement to the next level, and follow through on the much-echoed call to build a coalition of the 99% so many in our ranks have been asking of us. This moment is our call to action.

We have two tiers to our platform to attend to. We have a candidate, and we have an agenda. I personally will be voting for Bernie Sanders in November no matter what. No other candidate is acceptable for me. I read daily that some of you will vote for Dr. Jill Stein or Donald Trump, or will simply not vote. While I wish you would join me in my resolve, I do not wish to argue yours with you. Follow your hearts. When the Unite Blue people come after me both online and in real life, that’s the respect I wish for: let me follow my heart and vote my conscience. I must offer you the same courtesy.

Most independents won’t get to vote until November. There are more independents than Republicans and Democrats combined. Mathematically, I personally do not see how Hillary Clinton can achieve more than 30% of the vote in a general election. I think Donald Trump will only get a small percentage more than her. If all of those who support Bernie now still did so in November, the numbers are so solid that we could elect him by third-party candidacy or by write-in. I don’t see such a possibility for any other third-party candidate nor write-in choice. Still, Bernie has pledged to back Secretary Clinton if he loses at the convention. I feel he should not be bound to that pledge due to all of the shenanigans and possible illegal tampering of this primary, but these are decisions Senator Sanders has to make. Not us. Even for a write-in candidacy, there are seven States he would have to petition to be on ballot for and over 30 that he’d have to file a document accepting write-in votes. He has less than two weeks to file for an independent candidacy. Personally, I think it would make for great leverage with the DNC, but Bernie has to decide if he owes the movement this kindness. I certainly hope that he does.

However, we still have an agenda and a movement to attend to. I believe we can be divided into different groups and still coalesce on the issues. Those of us who want to fight for reform within the Democratic Party to challenge how they are funded and how elections are performed can work with those of you who go Green Party or opt out of voting altogether. I don’t believe we need even need a party leader candidate like Bernie to do this. I think we need to continue grassroots organizing and everyone who has been politically activated must start considering how they can serve the movement going forward. Are you an administrator? Are you a candidate? Are you a strategist? We must examine our strengths as well as weaknesses, and put them all on the table with like-minded allies.

There have been calls to start a new third-party. I am not opposed to that. I do however propose that it be handled a bit differently. Organize like any other third-party, but be inclusive to those who stay in other parties who share our values. Endorse candidates who share those values but run as Democrats, Greens, Socialists, whatever. Unlike many third-parties, have a true 50-State initiative, and endorse candidates from school board to the Senate floor. Make the priorities clear and be a home-base for a movement that spreads across party-lines. We will need the wonkiest of us to serve in our communities and on a national level to succeed, but we are strong in numbers.

No matter what your party alignment, we need you to consider running for office. Be it a councilperson in your small town or something loftier, if we share ideals, we need you to identify seats you can fill in government. The corporate money and oligarchs must be challenged by taking the seats of Democratic office so that we can once again sow the seeds of an actual Democracy. This will be hard work, and at times soul-crushing work as you put yourself in the public eye and possibly lose. Yet, it is essential to any movement gaining any real power.

We must fund each others’ campaigns. Whatever you give monthly to Bernie and like-minded candidates, budget now to be on-going. One of us will build a website that links to like-minded candidates for donating to. Spread your five bucks around each week, to water the seeds of Democracy around the country. Find a couple of extra bucks each week for your local allies running for office. We need to fight the corruptly financed oligarchs who hold elected office by continuing our proven success of crowd-sourcing candidates like we have for Bernie.

Finally, we will need to identify that platform which the candidates we will support must adhere to. I personally think the following 15 points are a good place to start. They were integral to the movement that brought us together, and are integral to saving our nation, at least from my view. (In no particular order)

  • Campaign Finance Reform / Publicly Funded Elections
  • An ERA that covers women, homosexuals, transsexuals, people of color, all people are equal and protected
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Strong Environmental Advocacy
  • Break Up the Banks / Restore The Glass-Steagall Act
  • Break Up the Media / Undo the Clinton Telecommunications Act
  • Break Up Monopolies In General
  • Fair Trade
  • Public Education Pre-K through College
  • Medicare for All
  • Fair and Humane Immigration Policy
  • Affordable Housing / Standard of Living Housing for All Americans
  • Expand Social Security
  • Expanding the Minimum Wage / Standard of Living Financing for All Americans
  • Public Works to Restore America’s Infrastructure and Create Jobs

There are many, many more issues that we should and will address, but I propose this is where we start. Candidates that want to appeal to our movement must make them a priority. Even a local dog catcher must make these issues known as things they care about to get our support, and anyone campaigning for State or Federal Office must pledge to work on these issues day in and day out to get our support. They must pledge not to take Super PAC money and only accept grassroots support. We have the numbers. We have the power. And if we can stop them from rigging elections, we can win. A majority of Americans stand on our side on each of these issues. I repeat: EACH of these issues.

How do we start? Just like we started organizing for Bernie just over a year ago, we should gather together in our local communities, and get people involved. Then we should have Congressional District-wide meetings with delegates from the smaller meetings. Then State-wide. Then our own yearly national convention. Sounds lofty, doesn’t it? So did running the country’s only Democratic Socialist Senator against the Clinton machine, and as noted above, we’ve won on a lot of battlegrounds. We can win more.

We’ve identified our movement as a catalyst of what is needed for America and Americans to survive. We’ve inquired about the issues and what needs to be addressed. Now, dear reader, I propose we get a little more sophisticated, and plan out how we realize our goals. Who’s in?

“The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Please, if you are in this movement, comment below. Use Progressive Army’s Facebook or my own to converse. This plea is meant to start a conversation to move forward, together, from. I know that’s a big wish, but I’ve always been an idealist.

Please be good to each other. Cheers. –Michael Salamone

Written by Michael Salamone

Michael Salamone

bon vivant/raconteur/troubadour who is a news & history junkie, cares deeply about social justice, and also likes comic books, SciFi & making jokes on Twitter. Weekly podcast and columns. Links at michaelsalamone.com.

Michael Salamone is an Editor-at-Large for Progressive Army.

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