Once upon a time, I attended a small, picturesque Lutheran college in Minnesota. St. Olaf College, renowned for its choral program, was also an surprising hotbed of political activism. We had a large student Democrat organization, quite possibly the largest student Republican organization in the country, and a large, active campus Greens, of which I served as president for a couple years.
During my time in college, I participated in political action as often as I could. I marched in the streets against Bill Clinton’s sanctions and bombing of Iraq. I marched against the Free Trade Area of the Americas. I demonstrated during local controversies in Minneapolis. I spoke at campus forums. A coworker and I led a successful campaign that prevented a city road from going through our campus natural lands. And I wrote a ton of letters and emails.
One of the digital activist organizations that found its way to my inbox was Progressive Secretary. This was the late 90’s, which is eons ago in terms of online services. Progressive Secretary was ahead of its time. Run by one man, and eventually a woman (who I was recently shocked to learn, lives in my hometown) Progressive Secretary sent emails to members of Congress, governors, the president- pretty much any public official who had an email account. I often signed on to their emails, and they would send messages out in my name.
Out of the thousands of emails sent on my behalf, I’d say I probably received half a dozen responses. Well, one man who responded several times via the US mail was an independent member of Congress from Vermont. His positions were articulate, progressive, and totally inspirational to me. I didn’t really know who this Bernie guy was, but I knew I’d probably really like him. And I knew if the people of Vermont elected this man to be their representative, I’d probably like living in Vermont. This was an idea I entertained for a couple years, going so far as to apply to teach in the state.
While my great move to the Green Mountain State never materialized, I’ve still been somewhat enamored with what they have going on. Over the years, I’ve followed Bernie’s career, as he left the Congress and made a successful independent run for the Senate. (Is there another state in the country where this could even happen?) He has always stood for LGBTQ rights, environmental protection, independent art, small business, access to health care, access to higher education, peace- all the things I love about and hope for our country.
Early last year, I said I wouldn’t be excited to support a Democratic presidential candidate unless Martin O’Malley or Julian Castro ran. Well, I was wrong. My hero threw his hat in the ring. This is the guy I liked even more than Paul Wellstone, a progressive senator from Minnesota with whom I once marched on the state capitol, and for whom I wept when he died before his time. I almost couldn’t believe Bernie joined the fray last April. But, here we are in March 2016 with two candidates left standing on the Democratic side of the aisle.
A victory in Michigan lies behind him, and several large states lie ahead of him. Could we actually nominate this man who has always embodied compassion, strength of will, and respectful, honest dialogue? If we don’t nominate him, will his run have made any long-lasting impact?
For all of my adult life, I’ve wished we had more high profile public officials like Bernie Sanders. So, yeah. I’m totally in love with this guy’s ideals, passion, and consistent progressive record. I kept his letters for years, and I’m now kicking myself for decluttering and getting rid of them. But, I’m pretty sure my regret would be assuaged by the nomination of perhaps the most progressive high-profile American of the last half-century. Bern on.