Political Revolution: This is what Democracy Feels Like

Published on
Progressive Democrats of America Fund

Political Revolution: This is what Democracy Feels Like

A Bernie Sanders sign seen in Iowa.  (Photo: Phil Roeder/flickr/cc)

Here in Colorado we have much to celebrate this week.  It seems that U.S. News and World Reports ranks Denver as the top city to live in, and Colorado Springs comes in fifth according to the same survey report.  And on Super Tuesday, Colorado’s Democratic voters caucused, and Bernie Sanders won that vote.  But beyond the win for Bernie and his presidential campaign there was something significant happening in our caucusing places.  The political revolution Bernie has been talking about for many months is underway, and Colorado is definitely on board.

In June 2015, Bernie spoke to a large crowd at the University of Denver.  In fact, the crowd was larger than that as an outdoor overflow area had to be set up to handle the thousands of people who could not get in the main indoor arena.  When I looked around the room, the crowd was largely older and mostly white.  By the time I saw him speak again in the Denver Convention Center in February 2016, the crowd of 20,000 had changed significantly.  There were much younger people in large numbers, and the crowd was quite obviously more diverse.  That made me happy and hopeful about the upcoming caucuses.

But when caucus day arrived, I will admit I was concerned about whether or not all of these fabulous rally crowds would actually translate into crowds of Bernie voters attending their caucuses.  Even though I knew there was an incredible ground game here for Bernie for many months, first begun with Progressive Democrats of America house parties, and even though I had been part of the National Nurses United Bernie Bus both times it came through Colorado, I worried about all the negative hype flowing from the mainstream media about Millennials and their turnout numbers.  I need not have worried.

When I walked into my caucus site in Denver on Super Tuesday, it was overflowing with people waiting to sign in.  One woman I spoke with was terrified about what the outcome might be.  She was a strong Bernie supporter, and she faced some daunting life challenges that she believed will be made better by policies she has heard articulated during the campaign. She was scared that the DNC super delegates would crush any hopes for Bernie to secure the nomination, and she felt that was fundamentally wrong.  I assured her that Bernie is still very much in the race and urged her not to worry so much about the mainstream media commentary on the primaries. 

In the room where we separated out into precincts, I witnessed something very different from what I have seen in previous caucus gatherings.  There were lots of younger people, and that was encouraging. But there were also plenty of middle-aged and older people. A few young parents had their kids with them.  The atmosphere in the room was happy and infectious. The first thing I mentioned to others was that I never knew we had so many like-minded neighbors. Other people agreed.  

We chatted a bit about the crazy presidential primary season.  I tried to identify who was a Bernie supporter, and I asked people why they were for Bernie. It was pretty interesting to hear people speak with such clarity about so many issues. Several times people mentioned that they were concerned about people staying engaged after the primary because of how much mistrust millions of Americans are expressing for Congress and for business as usual in politics.  For several minutes while the caucus chair sorted through her materials and prepared to start our work, we talked -- really talked -- as neighbors, community members and Americans concerned about the future. While different issues appealed to different voters, it was heartening to see and hear the depth of knowledge so many people have in their areas of concern and political interest. 

Our precinct voted 4:1 to support Bernie. But as I left my caucus I was thinking about what Bernie had said earlier in the evening during his victory remarks in Vermont.  He mentioned he was pleased that perhaps his campaign was bringing Vermont-style politics to the primaries and caucuses around the country including the Vermont tradition of gathering in town meetings and talking through issues.  While my Colorado caucus was not a town meeting, it did feel more democratic than anything else I've witnessed in quite a while.  

Bernie's campaign is drawing people to participate in their own self-governance, and it is calling us to reject the take over of our government by those with wealth and power. And at least on Super Tuesday in my one precinct in Denver, I saw a glimpse of what that might look like.  It felt great to even consider a future working with engaged people from throughout our society to make progressive change.  It was as if the promise of my generation to leave a more decent, just and peaceful world to future generations might be possible after all.  For me, that was a little glimpse of what democracy looks like when it works for all of us. Thank you, Bernie.

Donna Smith

Donna Smith
Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.  PDA's mission is to strengthen the voice of progressive ideas inside and outside the Democratic Party by using "inside/outside" and "grassroots fusion" models of working both in the Democratic Party as well as working with other progressive organizations both inside and outside the Party.

Share This Article