Inspired by Bernie: Let Those Who Can, Run in November ’16

The author at HeartBERN. With former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. Image by Crush Rush.

The author at HeartBERN. With former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. Image by Crush Rush.

November 2012.

There before me, an empty space on the election ballot.

Not one progressive had dared oppose the incumbent.  His tenure in office was marred by admitted “inappropriate and regrettable” behavior, yet he ran unchallenged.

The blinking cursor thumbed its nose at me, keenly aware that whatever name I wrote in—be it “Johnny Appleseed” or “Mr. Smith”—could not prevent the Republican candidate’s barbaric political agenda from proceeding unchecked another two years.

That’s when I started thinking about running.

November 2014 came and went.

I again considered running for office.  Who am I kidding, I thought.  I live in South Carolina.  The Confederate Flag flies indignantly upon the State House grounds less than one block from where I work.


This is the land that Strom Thurmond built.  The (Appalachian) trail that Mark Sanford blazed.  Every other car still has a McCain/Palin bumper sticker.

No one would take a dyed-in-the-wool-Bernie-Sanders-progressive candidate seriously.

July 2015.

Thousands gathered for days upon the grounds of the South Carolina State House.

That damned flag:  we took it down.

Hmm.  I wondered.

August 2015.

The air in Columbia was politically electric.  Bernie Sanders was hosting a town hall meeting just down the street from my home.  As the 1,000-plus attendees filled the Medallion Center, we gazed curiously at one another:  “You?  And you?  Hey, neighbor, I had no idea about you!  There are so many of us!  But this is South Carolina.”

Senator Sanders spoke off the cuff that night for an hour.  He railed against Walmart and oligarchy, against Wall Street and Super PACs.  He presented a plan to increase access to higher education in an unprecedented manner.  He vowed to be a candidate of civility, peace and progress; a candidate of the people—answerable to the people:

“What we need is a serious discussion about serious issues facing our country!”

That discussion occurred, and thus far, 3 million Americans have contributed financially to Bernie Sanders’ vision of a Compassionate Political Revolution.

At the same time, another discussion has been occurring—not so much a discussion as a tempest toss’d.  Across the fruited plain have blown the bloviating winds of an egomaniacal billionaire, calling unto himself the pitchforked masses with crude jokes about menstrual cycles and Mexicans, with undignified impersonations of disabled reporters and Republican opponents—and, worst of all, with unthinkable threats against our fellow Muslim citizens.

One by one, candidates have been torn to pieces by the comb-over carnivore.  And with each crass joke and vacuous declaration, the billionaire beast has gained soapbox bully strength.

Then, on February 26, 2016, Donald J. Trump appeared to cross the Godwin Line in a speech celebrating the endorsement of New Jersey Governor and freshly-crushed candidate Chris Christie.  Before an aroused crowd in Ft. Worth, Texas, Trump upped his rhetoric to near-Fuhrer levels and vowed to destroy the New York Times, the Washington Post, Amazon, and anything else that bothered him.  In kindergarten fashion, Trump sprayed a water bottle upon the stage and mocked the physical appearance of Marco Rubio, then in the next breath vowed to crush America’s enemies, whoever they happen to be.

Meanwhile, November 2016 approaches.  And my July 2015 “hmm” grows more and more into a moral imperative:  To run.

And I wonder:  Are there others out there like me?  Men and women inspired by Bernie Sanders (and Hillary Clinton) to run, men and women who increasingly sense an obligation to stand up for the republic in the face of would-be tyranny.


Because, let’s be blunt:  there is no other way to interpret a possible Trump Presidency.

I keep dreaming about that empty ballot space.  Literally.  It wakes me up at night.

Dark days are falling upon our nation.  We are the boiling frog.  The republic itself is threatened by a true demagogue—a crude megalomaniac who will, I have no doubt, isolate the United States from the civilized world and pulverize a century of progressive accomplishments in the blink of a runway model’s eye.

Whether or not Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, one thing the Good Senator from Vermont has done is plant the seed inside me that not only can I run for public office, but that perhaps I should run for public office—that I may have a moral imperative not to let some bully conservative trundle off to Washington acting like he has a lifetime membership to Congress.

Whoever wins, be it Bernie or Hillary, the Democratic Nominee will need my voice in my community, in my district, in my state.

And the Democratic Nominee will need your voice too.  They’ll need our voices.

Strong voices.  Determined voices.  Voices that will call out Trump’s claptrap and all the other widely scattered Republican rot.

Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation.  Maybe you’re an up-and-coming community leader and find yourself wide awake at night thinking about empty spaces on local, state or national ballots.

I have one word for you.

Run.

Postscript

I spent several years researching and writing a screenplay about the life and tragedy of Hans Litten, a German attorney who worked tirelessly for justice, and who put Hitler on the witness stand and nearly put him away in 1931, two years before the burning of the Reichstag.  (Click here to watch a screenplay teaser.)

During my research, I purchased a book by Irmgard Litten, Hans Litten’s mother, entitled A Mother Fights Hitler.  Most of the Litten family fled Germany after Hans’ arrest, but his mother stayed behind to fight for her son’s freedom. Following Hans’ murder in 1938 at Dachau, Irmgard fled to England, where she published A Mother Fights Hitler.

When my copy of A Mother Fights Hitler arrived, I removed the dust jacket to place it in a preserving wrapper.  I was shocked to discover that the endpaper was inscribed by Irmgard Litten.  The inscription reads:

Fight Hitler while you still have time.  Irmgard Litten.  July 22, 1942.

Irmgard did everything a mother could do to keep her son alive.  And then she spent the rest of the war exhorting others to fight tyranny with everything they had.

“Fight Hitler while you still have time.”

It’s a message with meaning today.  I have no doubt that Civilization hangs in the balance this election.  In November 2016, let those who can, run.

The prospect of running for office can be intimidating.  But we shouldn’t fear.  For progressives never run alone.  We run in the company of thousands of heroes of Civilization.  And we run with the banner of MLK’s “audacious hope.”

Now, run.



Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!

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  • cruisersailor

    Bernie Sanders has attracted thousands of mostly young people to his rallies. Yet they seem to stay home and not vote in elections. November is not looking good for Democrats.

    • anastasjoy

      Disagree. Since Hillary is more likely to be the candidate and her base is the type who vote and since we are seeing early signs that a vast swath of Republicans cannot stomach Trump and will likely vote Democratic either way, And I believe that if Bernie were the nominee, these young people WOULD vote. November is looking very good for Democrats if we do not let down our efforts and tear each other apart during the primaries, and if we do not get in a mindset that “things are not looking good.”

      • strayaway

        No need to tear yourself in the primaries. Bernie supporters have already shown that they have little stomach for staging a revolution within even the Democratic Party. The AP counts 544 delegates for Hillary and 82 for Sanders at this point almost entirely due to Hillary’s super delegate handicap advantage. 2,383 delegates are needed to win. If S. Carolina is a indication of Super Tuesday, in SC 85% of blacks voted Hillary and over 60% of the voters were black. People over 45 voted 81% Hillary. 69% of the voters were women and they voted 79% Hillary. For all practical purposes, it is time for Bernie supporters to file under the Goldman Sachs yoke and accede to the shadow government.

      • Creeayshun Sighuntist

        All the while, the GOP can continue seeing who can shout the loudest and appeal to the dumb and xenophobic demographic.

      • strayaway

        It’s true that Hillary is not xenophobic. Like her corporate puppet masters, Hillary welcomes foreign workers and trade pacts designed to foster cheaper labor than US workers provide and she believes that Syrian refugees will all be properly vetted like the San Bernadino woman, the Tsarnaev family, and 9/11 crew members.

      • Creeayshun Sighuntist

        Yeah and she employed hundreds of undocumented workers and has a consistent unfavorable rating of 57+%…..oh wait, that is the GOP front runner…..

      • strayaway

        What are “undocumented workers”; doctors without medical licenses? Use the legal term “illegal aliens” if that is what you mean instead of fuzzy nonsense. Illegal aliens, you know, the people cheating employers hire for less money so they don’t have to hire US workers and pocket more profit. Do you work for the 1%? It should be good news to the GOP that Democrats have formally renounced US workers and “under educated” Americans. What should we call them? How about “Reagan Democrats”? I realize Bernie isn’t xenophobic either. His staff claims his single payer system will cover illegal aliens too. We can just trim everyone else’s benefits so we can cover the illegal aliens already here and all those incentivized with Bernie’s free health care to come here. That ought to work.

      • Creeayshun Sighuntist

        change subjects much?

      • strayaway

        My first post, before I responded to your off topic introduction of GOP stereotypes, xenophobia, and the Klan into this thread, was on topic.

      • Creeayshun Sighuntist

        Absolutely agree. It’s only February. Hillary is the likely nominee and Bernie is really doing a spectacular job of energizing and bringing in a younger demographic of voter. We should not interrupt the GOP circular firing squad, and then use all of those attacks against them this summer and into the fall. There is zero need to allow our primary process to devolve into a 3 ring circus, and this way we can start honing and fine tuning policy positions while repubs just call each other names.

  • Libertarianski

    Libbies are just British Loyalists who never left and never accepted defeat.