When I woke up to the news of Bernie dropping out of the 2020 presidential race, I initially felt the same way many of his supporters did. How could the thing I had tethered so much of my wavering hope and motivation to be over? All the work, time, ardor, and sacrifice we put in to fight for human and environmental rights felt like it had been wasted. I lay in bed, feeling defeated and watched his concession announcement:
“Good morning and thank you very much for joining me. I want to express to each of you my deep gratitude for helping to create an unprecedented grassroots political campaign that has had a profound impact in changing our nation.”
I felt pride when he named our accomplishments, and then biting pain as he named all the social, economic, racial, and environmental injustices we have yet to overcome.
I felt rage simmer as he called on his supporters to unite behind a candidate who hadn’t spent the last 40+ years fighting for our rights. A candidate who even in the midst of this disastrous health pandemic couldn’t declare with confidence the obvious fact that every single American should have health insurance. Why would we stand behind someone who didn’t understand the struggle millions of Americans are faced with everyday, and what it took to fix the broken systems that impacted us? Why would we unify around someone who wouldn’t fight for us?
But, I continued to watch and believe in his message as he called for us to band together to defeat the corrupt systems that are in place. I perked up when he reminded us that our movement has immense influence that will only grow as we continue to grow:
“On a practical note, let me also say this: I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates. While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions.”
And finally, after a cathartic cry, thought:
This isn’t over. This fight didn’t start and won’t end with Bernie. This ultimately isn’t about him. It’s about the people who make up the movement and we’re still here, we’re not going anywhere. As long as we continue to fight, the movement will push onward.
I am not an optimistic person, so for me to be writing a thank you letter seems contradictory, but it’s because I am a realist that I write this. I’m fully aware of what is at stake and how far the players shaping our reality will go to suppress our movement. It is the agonizing awareness that reality is malleable that pushes me to rally with all the believers to build our own version of existence — because if we don’t, the alternative is too appalling to think of.
So, feeling paradoxically energized I sat down and wrote:
Thank you Bernie for awakening in us what we already knew — we deserve and we must demand better.
Thank you for inspiring in us the confidence to take on the most corrupt influential forces by showing us that in a grassroots, people-powered movement there is a place where the underrepresented can feel heard, galvanized, and powerful.
Thank you for setting the new normal — that we should expect our leaders to be honest, authentic and relentless in the fight for equality. Thank you for showing us that by being uncompromising in your values you can go further and gain the trust and devotion of millions of people. Thank you for showing us that we don’t have to bargain for what is already ours, we just have to rise up for it. Thank you for leading us with integrity, compassion and persistence.
But most importantly thank you for sincerely believing in the movement you helped build, for believing in us. With your help we were able to trust that this is truly our movement; because it is.
To the leaders of this movement:
It’s okay to feel heartbroken and disillusioned, but we need to use that pain as fuel. That hurt is what motivates us to create change.
We need to remember that just like Bernie has been saying since the beginning it’s not about him, it’s about us. We are the movement and it is our responsibility now to carry on our progress to create a more just, equitable and sustainable world. It is now more imperative than ever to rise up to this challenge.
It’s up to us to be the leaders now, it’s our time to step up.
We paved the way for so much — we revealed that our solutions to the ailments millions of Americans faced, which seemed radical in the minds of many were in fact exactly what was needed. That the radical ones were actually the ones who prioritized infantile greed over the livelihoods of billions of people and our planet. It is now up to us to figure out how we’re going to walk that paved path.
While this is a time of uncertainty and grief something beautiful may be on the horizon — when everything is falling apart it’s our opportunity to rebuild something better. All the systems of belief, of what’s important, all the structures that have been lauded as essential to our survival — the way our economy and society is structured — has been challenged by this pandemic.
The edges of the reality that has been imposed on us are fraying and as the string is pulled it’s unraveling a fundamental truth; that we are coming together to help and support each other — because community and lifting each other up to create a better world is what’s truly important. Amongst the confusion and anguish there is a spark of hope but we must be the ones to light the match.
We’ve always said that we will push whichever candidate is elected in November, and while we need to unite behind Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee, we still need to hold him to the higher standard we deserve. We must push him to adopt policies that create the fundamental change we need. A return to ‘normalcy’ is no longer an option. Read and share the letter Sunrise Movement have co-signed along with other youth organizations asking Biden to earn our trust by pushing his candidacy to strive for transformative policy change.
Lastly, I want to thank the kind, caring, and determined folks I volunteered alongside in the Bernie campaign and in Sunrise Bay Area who have grown to be people I consider to be family and have made connections for life with. Being a part of this movement I feel like I’ve finally found my tribe.
Here’s a look at some of the dedicated “SunBerners” that are making the movement possible:
And just like Bernie asked of us at the end of his concession speech, I’ll ask of you; “Please stay in this fight with me. Let us go forward together, as our goal continues. Thank you all very much.”
Watch Bernie’s “The Struggle Continues” video for more inspiration.
Mariela Gandara + The Future Leaders of the World