These are exciting times for progressives who feel the Bern. Many are experiencing the insatiable appetite of enthusiasm driving them to spread the message promoted by Bernie Sanders in any way they can. If you are such a person, the following is a veritable buffet.
Below are the 12 most thoroughly progressive and most passionate ‘Berniecrats’ running for federal office in 2016. All have elections upcoming and all have a chance to win. They are the cream of the crop. For those looking to direct the Bern, this is the list you are going to want to read.
When Tulsi Gabbard, in order to support Bernie Sanders in his bid for President, resigned as vice-chair of the DNC (despite ‘warnings’) it was a full display of her unique courage, integrity, and dedication. Of course, these characteristics have become well associated with Gabbard. At 21, she became the youngest State Representative in Hawaii’s history and the youngest female State Rep. in the country. Shortly thereafter, channeling her inner Teddy Roosevelt, she postponed a promising political career to voluntarily serve in active military duty. After two tours of the Middle East, she returned and became the first American-Samoan, first Hindu, and first female combat veteran elected to Congress. Now, at 35, she is an emerging leadership figure within the Democratic Party. She is a rocket ship.
In 2007, Keith Ellison became America’s first Muslim member of Congress (he was sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s Quran). He is the current co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which was founded by Bernie Sanders in 1991 and has become “more effective than ever” under Ellison. At 52, he is the progressive leadership of today and tomorrow.
Is Zephyr Teachout the next Elizabeth Warren? As a law professor and nationally recognized expert on political corruption, (her book ‘Corruption in America’ was critically acclaimed) she very well might be. And as the daughter of a lawyer and a judge, and a graduate of Yale and Duke, she is well-educated and well-prepared. As we try to save a political system wallowing in the muck of avarice, progressives can be glad Zephyr Teachout is on our side.
Peter Welch and Bernie Sanders have been “friends for years”, often taking the same flight from their home state of Vermont to Washington, D.C. and splitting a cab. It should come then as no surprise that Welch endorsed him for President, following the will of the overwhelming majority of Vermonters who voted Sanders in the Democratic primary. What is curious is that he was the only representative from Vermont to do so. Others, it appears, were previously obliged. It seems that when challenged to bend to the will of the Democratic Party narrative, Peter Welch chose to support his friend and, more importantly, to represent his constituents.
A story of what politics should be about: Growing up in Nevada in what she described as a “challenging environment,” Lucy Flores, like many others, “fell through the cracks” and dropped out of high school. Through hard work and perseverance she got her GED, then a college degree, and finally a law degree. Now she is running for Congress in the district she grew up in. At 36, Lucy Flores is a progressive champion, a national voice on inequality, and a politician running to change the conditions of those whose circumstances she has experienced first-hand.
As the primary opponent of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Tim Canova is far from a protest candidate or just a pretty face. He is a lawyer and professor and has been a nationally recognized voice on financial issues since the 1980’s. He has both the clout to have been named to a Federal Reserve advisory council alongside Robert Reich and Joseph Stiglitz, and the progressive chops to have taught impromptu classes at Occupy. Make no mistake, Tim Canova is not merely trying to shine a light on the perceived corruption of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. He wants to get rid of it — and her.
Pramila Jayapal came to America at 16 years of age, leaving her family in India and setting out on her own to attend Georgetown University. Let us pause to allow the full depth of that statement to sink in. For progressives, the story only gets better from there. After experiencing the depths of Wall Street from within, Jayapal decided to devote her exceptional talents to activism, founding OneAmerica and becoming one of the leading grassroots organizers in the country. She is truly a candidate from the grassroots for the grassroots.
It should really come as little surprise that Tom Fiegen has a law degree and a Masters in economics, a history of activism with the National Farm Organization and Farm Aid, and an area of expertise in farm, small business, and bankruptcy law. The child of farm activists, he was initiated into the struggle as a young man in a deeply personal way when the bank tried to take the family farm he had grown up on. Now he takes his unique understanding of the plight of Iowans into a daunting Senate race against a long-time Republican incumbent. Of course, Fiegen did defeat a long-time Republican incumbent 16 years ago to become an Iowa State Representative. A progressive Senator in Iowa? This just might be the progressive who gets it done.
It is interesting and perhaps indicative to note that the fact that Bao Nguyen is gay is taken as somewhat of a side-note in his incredible story. He was born in a United Nations refugee camp and came to the United States at 3 months old. At 34, he became America’s first Vietnamese mayor. Now, with momentum and a consequential endorsement from the national nurses union, Nguyen is more than just a feel-good story. His story may, in fact, be that of the next member of Congress from California’s 46th.
Preston Picus is the ‘Progressive Independent’ running against Nancy Pelosi who wants to “get in a fight with corruption.” The tools he would bring to said fight are formidable indeed. He is a Columbia graduate who “left a full-time career in marketing to become a full-time public servant,” and the author of a book on political corruption called ‘Send Our Reps To Rehab.” Additionally, he has shown his commitment to positively impacting the next generation through his work as a teacher and coach. At a time when approval ratings for Congress are at a historic low, perhaps establishment figureheads like Nancy Pelosi are not quite the impregnable incumbents they may have been thought to be. If there is to be a fight with corruption, Preston Picus wants northern California to be a battleground.
It may appear to be an uphill climb, trying to unseat a 20 year incumbent Senator. But uphill climbs are something familiar to Kevin Stine. As a young man, he joined the Navy in order to, in his words, “break the cycle of poverty my family had been in,” eventually serving three tours. Current Senator Ron Wyden, 67, himself knows a thing or two about the possibility of long shot political campaigns. He was 31, just one year older than Stine is now, when he defeated a much older incumbent to become a member of Congress for the first time. This may be an election of transformation, where Americans begin to vote out politicians who are perceived to have “put corporate interests over (public) interests.” If so, then Kevin Stine is a man to watch.
If the Democratic Party is to exist into the future, what will it look like? Perhaps we can see the answer in Alex Law, a self-described “4th generation Democrat.” The youngest Congressional candidate in the country at 24 — a fact he advertises proudly — Law offers a window into the future of progressive thought. He is a progressive fantasy’s Frankenstein monster, an amalgamation of all the ideas progressives hold dear. If the most connected generation is to become the most progressive, look for Alex Law to be at the forefront.
If you believe Bernie Sanders can still be President of the United States, these are the allies he will need in government. Even without winning the White House, they are the type of colleagues who could help a Senator Bernie Sanders further the progressive agenda. And should the day ever come for the creation of a third, more progressive, party, then much of the leadership structure will likely come from the list above.
Fundamental change is coming to America, and it is for us to decide whether it is a political revolution or social disintegration. Now is the time to promote a progressive agenda, to support, donate to, and volunteer for Berniecrats. It is the time to strike while the iron is Berning.