Bernie Sanders is pretty okay as far as politicians and presidential candidates go–but if his campaign is going to leave a lasting mark, his supporters are going to need to break from current strategies and think long and hard about how to create the conditions so that many more Bernie Sanders can emerge and win political power.
Even if Sanders wins the Presidency, he will find little support for his program among the more conservative, establishment-linked politicians that currently control Congress and both the mainstream political parties. If social democratic politicians aren’t elected to the House, and social democratic technocrats aren’t part of the White House staff, then President Sanders is going to be hard pressed to implement social democratic policies. Thus, Sanderistas are shooting themselves in the foot if they put all their energy and focus into the presidential race and talking about how awesome Sanders is, rather than trying to develop the political and social conditions to empower two, three, and many more Bernie Sanders to contest political power at all levels of government.
In many ways, this situation is very similar to the situation of Jeremy Corbyn, the socialist who was recently elected to lead the United Kingdom’s Labour Party. Corbyn was elected to lead the Labour Party by popular vote, but finds himself paradoxically in charge of a party dominated by much, much more conservative politicians. Thus, the task for those who rallied around Corbyn is to continue to organize and consolidate a broader movement that can fight conservative elements in the Labour Party just as vigorously as they fought for Corbyn’s election.
The task is the same for the Sanderistas this side of the pond. Without a broader social democratic or democratic socialist or whatever movement that functions, grows, and consolidates itself above and beyond a single presidential campaign, then the large amount of energy and activity that has emerged around Sanders will dissipate. And indeed, a broader mass movement is something that Bernie Sanders himself wants to see (and indeed, needs to see).
Whether Sanderistas expand their political involvement to engage in longer-term organizations and preserve the networks that have emerged around the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign will ultimately determine whether this campaign ends up as something more than yet another one-off, transient upsurge of leftist-liberal optimism, like Obama’s first campaign and Occupy Wall Street were.