Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, campaigning in Washington State in March 2016 (Photo art: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Tonight, a long and gru­el­ing pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing sea­son drew to a close, with nom­i­nat­ing events in New Jer­sey, Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­i­co, South Dako­ta, North Dako­ta, and Mon­tana. With the excep­tion of North Dako­ta and Mon­tana, ear­ly returns show Hillary Clin­ton pre­vail­ing, includ­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, which means she has the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion locked up.

(The Dis­trict of Colum­bia will hold the very last event of the sea­son next Tues­day, but only a few del­e­gates are at stake in that contest.)

Clin­ton declared her­self the pre­sump­tive nom­i­nee in a pow­er­ful, elo­quent speech deliv­ered in Brook­lyn, cel­e­brat­ing the his­toric shat­ter­ing of the glass ceil­ing that she said had “eigh­teen mil­lion cracks” in it exact­ly eight years ago.

““Although we weren’t able to shat­ter that high­est, hard­est glass ceil­ing this time, thanks to you, it’s got about eigh­teen mil­lion cracks in it,” Clin­ton said on June 7th, 2008. “And the light is shin­ing through like nev­er before, fill­ing us all with the hope and the sure knowl­edge that the path will be a lit­tle eas­i­er next time.”

Pre­cise­ly eight years lat­er, Clin­ton’s prophet­ic words have been ful­filled. Today she became the first woman like­ly to be nom­i­nat­ed by a major polit­i­cal par­ty in the his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, which is a huge­ly sig­nif­i­cant accomplishment.

Clin­ton was mag­nan­i­mous in vic­to­ry, grace­ful­ly cel­e­brat­ing her achieve­ment and shar­ing it every­one who had invest­ed in her while con­grat­u­lat­ing Bernie Sanders for run­ning one of the most remark­able, peo­ple-pow­ered cam­paigns in U.S. his­to­ry. Again and again, she used lan­guage evok­ing pro­gres­sive val­ues and principles.

Sanders, speak­ing hours lat­er, vowed to push for­ward and con­tin­ue work­ing to earn del­e­gates and votes in the Dis­trict of Columbi­a’s June 14th Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry, the very last event on the cal­en­dar, and then after that, take the fight to Philadel­phia, the site of the 2016 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Convention.

Sanders briefly acknowl­edged speak­ing with Clin­ton, but oth­er­wise did not men­tion her. He blast­ed Don­ald Trump, (who had made an over­ture to his sup­port­ers ear­li­er in the evening), but opt­ed not to say any­thing neg­a­tive about Clinton.

The White House announced that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma had tele­phoned both Clin­ton and Sanders to con­grat­u­late them on run­ning inspir­ing campaigns.

We at NPI join Pres­i­dent Oba­ma in offer­ing our con­grat­u­la­tions to the can­di­dates. It has been a long pri­ma­ry sea­son, and it’s appro­pri­ate to cel­e­brate the his­to­ry that both can­di­dates have made. Hillary Clin­ton has bro­ken one of the biggest bar­ri­ers in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics by secur­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. Bernie Sanders has come fur­ther than just about any pro­gres­sive pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in his­to­ry by win­ning around two dozen states and earn­ing ten mil­lion votes.

When Bernie began his jour­ney in April of 2015, few pun­dits or observers expect­ed the “Demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist from Ver­mont” to go very far. He him­self not­ed in his remarks tonight that he was treat­ed at the out­set as a fringe can­di­date. Peo­ple work­ing in big media regard­ed his can­di­da­cy with amuse­ment and derision.

Over the course of the next year, Bernie utter­ly aston­ished them by gal­va­niz­ing a large peo­ple-pow­ered move­ment and rais­ing large amounts of mon­ey over the Inter­net from small donors. Thanks to Bernie’s cam­paign, Act­Blue now has over three mil­lion cred­it cards on file — to the con­ster­na­tion of Repub­li­cans.

Bernie may not end up as the 2016 Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee, but he and his sup­port­ers have already won a huge vic­to­ry. They have begun a much-need­ed trans­for­ma­tion of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and the pro­gres­sive move­ment that will reshape Amer­i­can pol­i­tics for years to come. Bernie’s cam­paign put bold pro­gres­sive ideas like Medicare For All or expan­sion of Social Secu­ri­ty on the table for dis­cus­sion, and has slow­ly been push­ing Hillary Clin­ton’s cam­paign in a more pro­gres­sive direction.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders
Hillary Clin­ton and Bernie Sanders, cam­paign­ing in Wash­ing­ton State in March 2016 (Pho­to art: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Clin­ton and Sanders have each demon­strat­ed resilience and sta­mi­na by cam­paign­ing vig­or­ous­ly for six months in every state in the coun­try. With nom­i­nat­ing sea­son now draw­ing to a close, we tip our hats to them and say, con­grat­u­la­tions and well done.

Some of us at NPI are Hillary sup­port­ers, and some of are Bernie sup­port­ers. As an orga­ni­za­tion, we have no posi­tion because we do not endorse can­di­dates and we do not do any elec­tion­eer­ing for or against any candidate.

I myself am a Bernie Sanders sup­port­er. I was elect­ed as a del­e­gate to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion last month for Bernie, and I remain com­mit­ted to his can­di­da­cy as long as he choos­es to be an active can­di­date. Were I him, I would have used my speech tonight to exit the pres­i­den­tial con­test and begin the work of cre­at­ing a per­ma­nent cam­paign to con­tin­ue rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, though I respect his deci­sion to stay in and com­pete in the D.C. primary.

I believe strong­ly that Bernie’s impact will be far greater over the long-term if he can piv­ot from being a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date to a par­ty leader.

Howard Dean suc­cess­ful­ly did this twelve years ago. Dean for Amer­i­ca became Democ­ra­cy For Amer­i­ca (which today employs NPI Pres­i­dent Robert Cruick­shank as Senior Cam­paign Man­ag­er) and Dean was cho­sen to be the chair of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee fol­low­ing the 2004 pres­i­den­tial election.

Under Dean and the fifty-state strat­e­gy, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty swept to vic­to­ry in the 2006 and 2008 elec­tions, win­ning both hous­es of Con­gress as well as the pres­i­den­cy. Most of Dean’s gains were wiped out fol­low­ing his depar­ture from the DNC, but his impact con­tin­ues to be felt, and the pro­gres­sive polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture he built con­tin­ues to help pro­gres­sive can­di­dates and causes.

Thanks to Howard Dean, Democ­ra­cy for Amer­i­ca stood ready pro­vide sup­port and aid to Bernie Sanders after he decid­ed to run for Pres­i­dent — even though Dean him­self chose to endorse and work for Hillary Clinton.

Sanders now has a sim­i­lar oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate a lega­cy that will con­tin­ue to change Amer­i­ca for the bet­ter. Con­sid­er­ing that Sanders’ cam­paign con­quered heights nev­er reached by Dean, his long-term impact could be even greater than Dean’s.

Dean him­self seems to rec­og­nize Sanders’ poten­tial. He also knows how hard it is to leave the trail. As he told The New York Times ear­li­er tonight:

“It’s very hard to con­cede,” he said. “You are tired. You are cranky. You’ve worked your butt off for two years.”

Nobody, Mr. Dean said, resist­ed end­ing a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign more than he did. Once a high-fly­ing front-run­ner, he had a string of set­backs that left him feel­ing, by Feb­ru­ary 2004, much as Mr. Sanders does today: furi­ous at an unfair sys­tem and deter­mined to fight on.

Then Al Gore called. Mr. Dean ful­mi­nat­ed, unin­ter­rupt­ed, for 10 min­utes, “rant­i­ng and rav­ing,” he recalled. But Mr. Gore, schooled in the art of painful con­ces­sions, was blunt. “You know, Howard,” he said, “This is not real­ly about you. This is about the country.”

The pro­gres­sive can­di­dates and caus­es of the future will be much bet­ter posi­tioned to suc­ceed if Sanders can con­vert his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign into a per­ma­nent cam­paign to raise Amer­i­ca’s qual­i­ty of life, and keep his sup­port­ers engaged in pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics. It won’t be sim­ple or easy, but if the rev­o­lu­tion is to con­tin­ue, then Bernie has to find a way to inspire as many of the peo­ple who vot­ed for him, donat­ed to him, and vol­un­teered for him to stay involved.

It’s unre­al­is­tic to expect peo­ple to stay involved if they don’t have some­thing to do, so no task is more impor­tant than map­ping out pri­or­i­ties for the com­ing gen­er­al elec­tion sea­son. For Team Bernie, these could include defeat­ing Trump, get­ting rid of so-called superdel­e­gates, insist­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty offer the Amer­i­can peo­ple a pro­gres­sive plat­form root­ed in pro­gres­sive val­ues, and elect­ing pro­gres­sive Democ­rats down­bal­lot. Beyond the elec­tion, there are a seem­ing­ly end­less num­ber of issues to pick from to orga­nize around.

Build­ing pro­gres­sive infra­struc­ture is hard work, and at times, it can seem like a thank­less job. But it’s very reward­ing. There is a tremen­dous val­ue to cre­at­ing orga­ni­za­tions and projects with stay­ing pow­er. At NPI, fol­low­ing an elec­tion, we don’t ramp down and we don’t turn out the lights. We keep on going, thanks to the loy­al­ty of our ded­i­cat­ed sup­port­ers. And though we are always work­ing on one short term objec­tive or anoth­er, we’re always think­ing long term.

We need to train more pro­gres­sives to be effec­tive activists and to orga­nize their com­mu­ni­ties and con­stituen­cies on a year-round basis, remov­ing bar­ri­ers to par­tic­i­pa­tion in our polit­i­cal sys­tem. We have to help our fel­low Amer­i­cans real­ize that that we don’t just have elec­tions in this coun­try in years divis­i­ble by four. Deci­sions that affect peo­ple’s lives aren’t just made every once in a while. They’re being made all the time. Those who show up will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to influ­ence the deci­sions that get made. Those who don’t, won’t.

Four­teen years ago, after start­ing Per­ma­nent Defense, I got involved in my first cam­paign. It was the Bush error. I joined the fight against Tim Eyman’s I‑776, because I want­ed to ensure that Sound Tran­sit could start con­struc­tion on a region­al line rail spine for our region. I became real­ly invest­ed in NO on I‑776.

I worked hard because I want­ed to win.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the cam­paign to defeat I‑776 was unsuc­cess­ful, and the 2002 elec­tions were a huge dis­ap­point­ment. I could have walked away from pol­i­tics at that point. I could have said, for­get this. But I did­n’t. I stayed involved. I resolved to car­ry on and keep fight­ing. And I’m glad I have.

When I‑776 passed, Tim Eyman thought he’d suc­ceed­ed in shut­ting down Sound Tran­sit’s Cen­tral Link light rail. But he was wrong. Sound Tran­sit chal­lenged I‑776 in court, and won approval to con­tin­ue col­lect­ing the vehi­cle fees it had pledged to pay off bonds. Then, to Eyman’s utter aston­ish­ment, it secured fed­er­al fund­ing to break ground. Six years lat­er, the light rail line Eyman thought he’d killed opened to the pub­lic, and since then, three new sta­tions have been added to it, with anoth­er one on the way this Sep­tem­ber and many more under construction.

The moral of this sto­ry is sim­ple: Stay involved, because there’s anoth­er cam­paign that needs to be won. If you walk away, then you’re depriv­ing a cause or a can­di­date some­where of bad­ly-need­ed help.

As Bernie him­self has said, his cam­paign isn’t about him. It is rather about a ideas this coun­try needs to become more pros­per­ous and inclu­sive. Those ideas are still in need of cham­pi­ons to bring them to fruition.

As nom­i­nat­ing sea­son ends and sum­mer begins, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty will need to uni­fy if it is to elect its nom­i­nee and put Amer­i­ca on a pro­gres­sive path.

This orga­ni­za­tion is not affil­i­at­ed with a polit­i­cal par­ty and won’t be back­ing any can­di­date, but I will be sup­port­ing Hillary Clin­ton this sum­mer and fall indi­vid­u­al­ly in my capac­i­ty as a Demo­c­ra­t­ic activist and par­ty leader.

After Bernie, Hillary is the can­di­date who best rep­re­sents my val­ues and can defeat Don­ald Trump. So that’s who I’ll be enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly vot­ing for.

As a prac­ti­cal­ly-mind­ed activist, I know I can’t always get what I want, but I can get a lot of what I want over time through hard work and nego­ti­a­tion. In the immor­tal words of the Rolling Stones: You can’t always get what you want/But if you try some­times well you just might find/You get what you need. 

To every­body out there who believes that Amer­i­ca needs pro­gres­sive change and is feel­ing dis­ap­point­ed, I have five words for you: Don’t burn out. Keep orga­niz­ing.

You’ll be glad you did.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “The history that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have made deserves to be celebrated”

  1. If Hilary can bring in the Bernie sup­port­ers, along the Repub­li­can that are repulsed by Trump, she can craft a land­slide that will ben­e­fit the down tick­et races. As a Hilary sup­port­er, I rec­og­nize that it will be impor­tant for Sanders lead­ers to open­ly get on board with the Clin­ton campaign.
    A Trump pres­i­den­cy will seek to reverse all the hard fought gains of the last eight years. We as Amer­i­cans can­not afford to go back to ground zero. We can­not afford to have a mad man as the face of our coun­try. We can­not afford the have the Supreme Court tipped to the right.

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