I Will Fight For Bernie Sanders Until My Last Dying Breath, If That’s What It Takes

This past December, my sister flew in from Kansas City to stay with our family for what was supposed to be a few weeks, to celebrate Christmas and see her nieces for the first time in three years. She had just left an abusive relationship months earlier and had been trying to get her life on track. Less than two weeks before Christmas, only three days after she arrived, she was walking three blocks to the corner store when she was blindsided by a 1997 Dodge Caravan going 30 mph through the crosswalk. The right side of her upper body took the brunt of the damage, with her head bashing off the van’s windshield as she was tossed through the intersection. After being knocked out cold, she woke up, already inside the ambulance. (She told us later that the only thing she remembered was hearing Shinedown’s “I’ll Follow You” playing in her head as she was floating through clouds, right before hearing the paramedics speak to her as she was already in the ambulance.) After two nights in the hospital, she returned home with us.

That careless minivan driver, who as it turns out had no insurance and no assets to his name, changed everything.

We had already been barely scraping by for quite a while. My oldest daughter is a type 1 diabetic; she will need insulin and constant monitoring for the rest of her life, unless a cure is found. She was diagnosed in 2009. Since then, she has poked her fingers approximately 25,000 times. We are fortunate enough to be able to have a continuous glucose monitor to help with monitoring for low or high blood sugar levels, but most type 1 diabetics don’t have this. Even still, her blood glucose levels have been as low as 20 mg/dL and as high as 550 mg/dL. Both of these could have turned into life-threatening situations had they not been caught and treated. We’ve been advocates for JDRF and involved in type 1 groups for the past several years; this disease takes a toll on families to an extent that only those who’ve put up with it and fought it can truly understand. The heartbreak of talking with parents who lost their child to this is immeasurable.

On top of this, my wife needed life-saving surgery in 2012, and since then has been taking dozens of various vitamins and supplements a day due to malabsorption. She had a bowel obstruction which required the removal of several inches of her large intestine in 2014, and almost died from an internal bleed which wasn’t initially found by the surgeon.

This is to say nothing of my own health which has been put on the back burner for years, much to my wife’s chagrin. I can’t afford to do much more than what I’m already doing; exercise and stress have helped me lose 30 pounds over the past several months, so that’s a positive. Anything else can, and must, wait.

I’ve been helping with the Forward Progressives blog and community since 2013, and I’ve been active in the liberal social media scene since way back when I campaigned for President Obama in 2008. In that time I’ve seen firsthand how social media politics have evolved, from the days of Myspace rants which were only seen by your closest friends, to what we have now where a select few millionaires have bought up small time blogs, Facebook pages and “likes” to pose as “independent media” and crank out as many recycled or flat-out garbage “news” stories as possible. Meanwhile, the rest of the independent media gets drowned out by the noise, and the mainstream media’s indifference to it all permeates Facebook and Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great people who work and write for these “small time” blogs, but the dirty underbelly is still prevalent. I’ve been witness to (and documented) enough “behind the scenes” drama among supposed liberals to make even the thickest-skinned ink-stained wretch cringe in horror and dismay. Anybody who’s managed a large liberal Facebook page for the last several years has most likely seen some of it as well.

Even this very blog has fallen victim to all sorts of shenanigans and trolling over the past few years since its inception. There are people out there right now who think Forward Progressives is a GOP front based on some bullcrap blog written by somebody who had a vendetta against a former Forward Progressives contributor. A crazy person has gone so far as to post what they thought was my personal information on several large Facebook pages in some bizarre and downright psychopathic attempt to intimidate my family and I.

Because everything else going on in our lives wasn’t enough to deal with, apparently.

Through it all I’ve been editing part-time for Allen Clifton, somebody I consider a friend but who’s also one of the most vehement Hillary Clinton supporters in all of the liberal blogosphere. I’ve read nearly every one of his articles related to the election over the past year, even when I’m not editing for him. I’ve had several conversations with him about why I believe he’s dead wrong about this election, but we’ve agreed to disagree, and that’s fine. It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to change someone’s opinion when they’re so wrapped up in one way of thinking. I truly believe Allen Clifton, like most Clinton supporters, has the country’s best interests at heart – they just don’t fully understand how grave the situation is, and how defeated millions of people feel by politics as usual.

Make no mistake about it, Hillary Clinton represents politics as usual to millions of voters across the country.

This election cycle has drained the life out of me. On top of working tirelessly for Bernie Sanders in the face of more obstacles than I can even count, I’ve been working full-time at a second job in a failing attempt to keep up with our growing mountain of debt. My sister is still living with us, over five months after she was run over. She is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms making it a difficult task to even get through the day, much less get a job. She is now over $20,000 in debt from medical bills, mostly related to her emergency room trip and stay in the hospital. She is just one of the tens of millions of Americans who still have no health insurance.

Some of the main things I keep hearing from Allen Clifton and other Hillary supporters are that Bernie’s proposals are too grand, that he’s unrealistic in what we can actually accomplish, and that his goals are going to take a lot more time to achieve. They keep telling me we need to settle for what we can get for now, and Hillary Clinton’s more “balanced” approach is going to play better in the general election.

Excuse me, but how much more “time” do you think we need? When the big banks and Wall Street crooks screwed us over, we were quick to reward them with hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money wrapped up neatly with a fancy bow. Meanwhile, Main Street was still left completely screwed over. Our “bailout” consisted of double middle fingers, both from Wall Street and from the majority of our leadership.

When Hillary supporters say “that type of progress takes time,” they ignore the fact that millions of people are running out of time to wait – while many others have already lost that battle with time. Thousands of people die every year as a result of not having health insurance to get the care they need, and although Obamacare has helped some, it obviously isn’t the solution. Hillary Clinton’s plan of expanding and building on Obamacare is the prototypical small step in the right direction, but again, it is not enough. Bernie Sanders is the only person running for president who understands that getting the care you need should be a basic human right, and he’s the only one who’s shown a true and unwavering willingness to fight for that right for all Americans.

Sanders is not a “perfect” candidate, but he’s damn close to it. His record on guns is what bothers me most. He voted against the Brady Bill five times and has a sketchy record on several other gun measures which have been brought to a vote throughout his years in Congress. This presents me with two choices: either I believe he just doesn’t get it and never will, or I have faith that he was voting for his constituents in Vermont, which is a very pro-gun state, and he’d be much more progressive in pushing common sense gun control as president. I don’t believe Bernie’s beholden to the NRA any more than I believe Hillary’s a monstrous villain who eats babies and poops missiles, as some widely read “journalists” seem to believe. But his record on this issue concerns me; we absolutely need real common sense gun control in this nation, as we’ve spiraled into an abyss where hundreds of thousands of people are killed by guns in the span of a decade. Hundreds of thousands of human lives written off as statistics while no real action is put in place. I don’t blame President Obama for this – he’s tried to get more done. We need a Congress that actually has common sense and a president who’s willing to put their full effort toward pushing common sense legislation. I hope Bernie Sanders is that president.

Hillary Clinton may very well end up clinching the Democratic nomination, but don’t for a second think that would be the end of Bernie’s revolution and that his voters will fall in line to keep Trump out of the White House. I’ve spoken with several close friends who’ve said they would consider voting for Trump over Clinton for any number of reasons. Let me be very clear about this: I cannot personally support that, at all. Donald Trump is the lowest form of walking, breathing scum on this planet right now as far as I’m concerned. This is a man who doesn’t give a damn what he says and lies through his teeth constantly without a care in the world – to say nothing of how he’s mocked the disabled and POWs while calling for bans on fellow Americans simply because of their faith. Make no mistake about it, Donald Trump is the reason I’m not in full-on “Bernie or bust” mode right now, and I believe that applies to many other Sanders supporters as well. Millions of people are rightfully scared out of their minds at the possibility of a Trump presidency, and of Donald Trump shaping the future of the Supreme Court while presiding over our nuclear codes and getting into Twitter battles with world leaders.

However, Hillary Clinton cannot expect the progressive vote to simply “fall in line.” She has a real problem on her hands, some of which is her own fault and some of which is the fault of misinformation and exaggeration which gets spread like wildfire throughout Facebook and Twitter by propagandists looking to further divide the left. Yes, there have been plenty of lies spread about Hillary Clinton, and plenty of smear campaigns against her past and her family. But there is a deep distrust of the Clintons among progressives which transcends any misleading clickbait currently floating around social media. She doesn’t help her own cause when she basically writes off the entire state of California (to say nothing of the other eight primaries and caucuses which have yet to take place) in her rush to crown herself the Democratic nominee.

Bernie Sanders knew what he was getting into by running as a Democrat, and by and large the actual process hasn’t changed or been “rigged” specifically against him during this election cycle. It’s simply been rigged for decades; it’s an absolutely broken primary system that turns people off, shuts people out, and generally makes things much more complicated than they should ever be. It’s the politics as usual mindset of the Clintons and people like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and yes, even many Clinton supporters like my friend Allen Clifton. They simply can’t grasp the fact that center-left policy hasn’t worked for millions of Americans; they can’t come to grips with the fact that we need real progressive change and we need it now.

We need real progressives in Congress like my friend Arik Bjorn in South Carolina’s 2nd district, who’s been a longtime contributor to the Forward Progressives blog and was inspired by Bernie to run against Joe “You Lie” Wilson. (Bafflingly, he’s currently locked in a Democratic primary battle with a tea partier who wants to drug test not only welfare recipients, but anybody who winds up in an emergency room as well.) Or there’s the brilliant Zephyr Teachout in New York’s 19th district, who’s proven time and time again that she gets it when it comes to Main Street’s continued struggle and the overwhelming stranglehold corporations and big banks have on America.

It’s likely you haven’t even heard of Arik Bjorn, or Zephyr Teachout, or the dozens upon dozens of solid progressive candidates across the country who desperately want to bring real change to Washington. If you haven’t heard of them and you’re sick of Trump TV 24/7, turn off the tube and educate yourself on what these people are standing for. You might even have a solid progressive candidate running at the local level for state office who you can volunteer for. If so, do it! We’re all part of the Bernie Sanders revolution – this isn’t just about the White House, and it’s detrimental to the nation to focus our efforts solely on that. Bernie Sanders himself would most likely tell you the same thing.

My family did something out of necessity last month that we haven’t done in nearly ten years: we went to the food shelf. We’ve now done it three other times since then, as well. Yet for as much as we’ve struggled over these past several months, and as many health issues as we’ve dealt with over these past several years, we realize that there are still hundreds of thousands of families in this very country who are struggling much more than we are personally. When I say I’ll fight for Bernie Sanders until my last dying breath, I don’t simply mean I’ll fight for the man himself. Regardless of how this mess of a primary turns out, I’ll continue fighting for his vision of a just and fair America for all. One that no longer caters to tax cheats and big banks while Main Street is belittled with the haunting chants of “progress takes time.” We have simply run out of time it can take.

If I could say one thing to Hillary Clinton, it would be this: if I absolutely must vote for you in a general election to keep Donald Trump out of the White House, I will vote for you, and I will urge my friends and family to vote for you as well. But it’s not because I have full confidence in your abilities to understand the problems Main Street continues to face. It’s only because I know full well that there is absolutely no chance Donald J. Trump would ever understand them, nor would he care about or fight for any issue or cause that’s close to my heart as a progressive. You “get it” on gun control, women’s rights and a host of other issues – but you haven’t proven to me or millions of other voters that you actually get it when it comes to Main Street’s struggles. (If you want an eye-opening example of what I mean, just listen to Elizabeth Warren circa 2004.)

In the meantime, while you write off millions of voters who have yet to vote and basically tell them that they don’t matter, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the upcoming primary results. If there’s a path forward for my candidate, you better believe I’ll keep fighting for him to take it – even if it means I have to show up in Philadelphia on July 25th with a ragtag bunch of misfit friends to peacefully make our voices heard loud and clear.

Our time for a progressive revolution is now.

You’d be wise not to underestimate how serious that statement is, especially since you seem to understand how devastating a Donald Trump presidency would be for our nation.

Thomas Barr

Thomas Barr

Thomas Barr is a writer, editor and activist who's passionate about progressive ideals, with extra attention given to the fight for universal health care, medical marijuana, and saving our nation from decades of devastating trickle-down policies. Thomas is also a dedicated advocate for Type 1 diabetes research and education.
Be sure to check out his archives on Forward Progressives for more of his viewpoints.
Thomas Barr


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