The Sanders Campaign and Beyond: An Introduction

by Ian Hartman

If you are here today, chances are you’ve been in some way stirred, energized, or moved to action by the Sanders campaign. This has proven to be an historic election — not just because Sanders has so successfully channeled the immense dissatisfaction that people feel with the political status quo, but because his campaign has helped carve out a space where we can really start to question and organize against the common sense that has constrained the horizons of American politics.

Sanders has not just given us rhetoric. He has articulated a set of concrete demands and proposals that buck against the consensus politics of both the Republican and Democratic parties: demands for a living wage, for universal healthcare, free public higher ed, and progressive taxation, to name just a few. He’s done this while actually naming the “billionaire class” as a political enemy, and while identifying himself, without shame, as a “democratic socialist.”

In a very real sense, then, the Sanders campaign has helped to mainstream opposition to neoliberal capitalism, broaden our political vocabulary, and abet the fight for genuine alternatives.

Yet as Sanders himself has repeatedly emphasized, this fight does not rest on the electoral fate of a single presidential candidate. It rests on our ability to organize a mass political movement that can build upon and carry forward the possibilities opened up by the Sanders moment.

So what we’re hear to discuss today isn’t the democratic primary, or the election in November. We’re hear to discuss a much broader set of questions. What we do with this sense of openness? How do we build on this burgeoning opposition to the widening inequalities hardwired into our society? How do we channel the excitement around Sanders toward a sustainable movement for genuine political and social transformation?

Our speakers today will help us to grapple with these questions by putting the Sanders campaign in its broader context. We’ll hear about the crisis of neoliberal capitalism, the openings and the limits of the Sanders platform, and the meaning and history of democratic socialism. We’ll also hear about the challenges facing political organizers today, and the strategies they use to fight for change. These are the kinds of discussions we’ll need to keep having in the days to come. It’s our hope that by the end of the day, we’ll have taken one small step toward imagining and building the movement we need to get us to the future we want.