Thank you for this.

I get it, all of it. Yes of course Bernie speaks in tones that resonate with me. I want all of what he dreams of to at least be possible.

But a decade’s work has convinced me that those dreams — or any other reformer’s dreams, whether on the right or left—are just not possible until we fix the corrupted system at the core of this democracy.

That fixing will take more — much much more—than railing against “the billionaires.” It will take making clear the changes that would actually fix this corrupted democracy—changes that are both possible and effective. It will take a movement — call it a revolution if you want — that says “this is what we demand, now.”

Because without such a movement, focused and clear, there is no chance that the next President will have a mandate to make real change happen. All the power in the world is arrayed against this reform. There can be no ambiguity then about what reformers demand. There can be no uncertainty in the public’s mind about what change will need.

There is ambiguity now. Though the web pages at BernieSanders.com are beautiful when they sing about reform, so are Clinton’s. But the question isn’t what the policy geeks on the campaigns are saying. It’s what America hears the candidates to be saying—and what America expects the candidates will demand happen on January 20, 2017.

I don’t doubt Bernie’s “sincerity.” Of course he wants the change that his website describes (or at least, “in the long term” because I’ve yet to see him give a full throated defense, like Warren did, of the demand that we change the way campaigns are funded now).

But the question is not what he wants. It’s what he makes possible. And when I hear the pundits, and politicians, and media describe what Bernie Sanders wants, I don’t hear of a candidate who makes the change we need possible. He hates the influence the billionaires have. That’s clear. What he would do to fix that — beyond the impossible (a Congress-sponsored amendment) or the irrelevant (executive orders on transparency)—is not clear, to America at least.

This is what I believe is true. It’s not sour grapes—Bernie didn’t keep me from the debates; Debbie Wasserman Schultz doesn’t work for Bernie. It’s how I see the world. I would love more than anything to be proven wrong about what change will take.

But given what I believe, and given how g.d. important this is to get right, I can’t celebrate what we have. Not yet. And I won’t stop demanding something more.

That doesn’t earn me love. I get it. But I’m not running for anything. I’m not raising money for anything. I’m not trying to win any contest of popularity. I’m trying to say what I believe is true, and to describe what we need. Because if I’m right, and more come to believe it, there’s a chance we can get it. My words in response to a comment on a Medium web pages aren’t going to swing an election. The most they can do is get 10 or 50 people to understand this fight differently.

We have made enormous progress. For the first time ever, both candidates in the Democratic primary are calling for small dollar citizen funding of elections. Both candidates have committed to making reforms that change the way campaigns are funded a primary objective of their administration. Bernie has even said in a debate that “campaign finance reform” will be his first priority.

But we are not there yet. And it does no one any good, least of all this “revolution,” to pretend that we are.

Written by

law professor, activist.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store