Progressive activists gathered in Chicago a week ago to continue the surge of resistance to business as usual exemplified by the Sanders campaign. Larry Stafford, PM executive director, reports on his impressions as a participant.
/By Larry Stafford/ In 2011 I joined thousands of community organizers, activists, and others who had never engaged in politics before but were fed up with what they saw in their communities and within their own lives. Many of the moments I spent during the freezing cold nights in McPherson Square during the Occupy DC protests will stick with me for the rest of my life. The Occupy Wall Street Movement was full of moments as well as memorable chants that gave me hope and inspiration which continue to drive my work as an organizer.
“We are unstoppable/
a better world is possible!”
This chant in particular was a bold declaration of our strength that we felt marching through the streets in the thousands while facing police in riot gear. It also spoke to the hope that we all carried with us, that while perhaps the world was not yet what we desired it to be, it could in fact be transformed. We were an inevitable rolling tide that would eventually change the landscape of the shores on which we crashed.
A week ago I joined 3,000-plus participants at the People’s Summit, an event called together by many of the supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders’s race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Both the Sanders campaign and the summit gave me flashbacks to moments during the Occupy movement. I could almost hear the chant again as I walked into the convention center. “We are unstoppable/ a better world is possible!”. The setting had certainly changed, the tattered tents had been replaced by organizational booths and registration tables, but the spirit was the same. After the Occupy protesters were forced to leave the parks, many had said the movement was over and was merely a passing fad. However the Sanders campaign represented an evolution of the movement which now took the form of a political campaign. After Sanders’s eventual, hard-fought loss in the Democratic primaries the People’s Summit made it clear that the movement that propelled Sanders’s campaign from a fringe candidacy to a viable challenge to the Democratic establishment would not end with the election.
A major theme of the summit was continuing the political revolution. During the event, Senator Sanders issued an online call to his supporters to run for local, state, and federal office. Almost immediately over 7,000 people took the pledge to run or to work on campaigns for candidates committed to continuing the political revolution. Summit participants were asked to keep up the fight to transform not only the political system, but our economic system as well by fighting for policies like universal health care, a living wage, and even for a fundamental change in the nature and structure of our economic system itself. Beyond these specific calls to action the summit called on everyone to no longer accept the status quo and to realize that we have the power to change our country and our communities.
Sanders’s call for political revolution was never merely a call to elect him to office, but instead a call for all of us to claim power over our government and to take responsibility for changing the system.
Progressive Maryland is committed to working with our allies in the movement to continue the political revolution here in Maryland. The summit had a strong delegation from Maryland that met during a state breakout session. Together we discussed the challenges in Maryland and committed to working towards building and taking power in our state. With the election of Larry Hogan it has become clear that our state is heading in the wrong direction. Beyond our problems with a Republican governor, we also have many Democrats who are more in line with the interests of the wealthy and powerful than the working class. We are therefore committed to looking beyond the labels of the traditional two-party system to elect candidates who represent our values and a progressive world view.
Our state is in dire need of a political revolution. Far too many in our state live in poverty as they work jobs that pay substandard wages. Too many Black and Brown youth find themselves more likely to be pushed into jail than empowered to go to college. College itself remains unaffordable for too many in our state and when we are able to attend and graduate from college, we are burdened under crippling debt. These things among many other issues in our state highlight the urgency that exists to ensure that Maryland is run with the interests of the working class in mind. We call on supporters of a political revolution to get organized as members of Progressive Maryland and join a fight to transform our society.
Here’s how you can start:
Larry Stafford is executive director of Progressive Maryland