WORTHINGTON >> I was sitting inside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, not making much noise or waving a sign around. But when Bernie Sanders came out onto the floor, I snapped up, cheering with tears flowing down my cheeks, letting everyone in that arena and all those watching on television know how much love and appreciation we have for this man and the movement he has inspired.
I started working for Bernie almost a year ago, first, as an enthusiastic volunteer organizing students at U-Mass-Amherst, and then later as the youngest full-time staffer for his campaign.
I've been asked many times, "Why Bernie?". What was it about this candidate that made me so passionate? And I suppose for some it may be harder to see — especially if you've been caught up in status-quo politics for a long time.
But to me, as a young person, I saw a candidate who was authentic. A person who fit the role of public servant, rather than politician. For me, it was his commitment to the issues — like getting big money out of politics and working to make college more affordable for those of us who are drowning in debt.
And I must admit, when I saw him on stage in Springfield that first time in early October, the energy and hope that filled the arena was contagious. I knew this was history in the making.
For the past year, thousands have dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to a U.S. senator willing to tell the American people the truth: We have a corrupt and broken political system. But even in that message he has given us hope because he has shown that it is possible to run a national campaign without the influence of large contributions and superPACs.
There was a sweet moment in New Hampshire when a young girl, accompanied by her parents, wanted to have a couple of blue Bernie stickers that were on the table in front of her. I grabbed a few, handed them to her, and asked why she liked Bernie. Her response was priceless: "He believes in me."
And indeed, he believes in all of us.
While I was in Philadelphia, I watched from a distance as people rallied under the slogan, "Bernie or Bust," yelling they wouldn't vote or would vote third party if Bernie did not get the nomination. For me, it was an incredibly sad moment to see so many people who were so disappointed and on a path toward further disenfranchisement. I feel the need now to address that crowd, to address those concerns.
Won the conversation
We've fought a very difficult race. And in this fight, we have stunned the political world with a record breaking number of campaign contributors and small contributions. We've made things like campaign finance reform, health care for all, and affordable education defining issues in this election. We may have lost the primary, but we won the conversation. That in itself is something to be proud of. Without Bernie, we certainly wouldn't have the most progressive platform in the Democratic Party's history.
But the fight continues.
In our current two-party system, it is certain that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. As a Bernie supporter, I've fought hard for a more progressive agenda that is about all of us, rather than the wealthy few. Trump is the biggest threat to continuing our movement. Say what you will about Hillary, she has the skill set, the fortitude, and the temperament to run for and hold this office. She also in her acceptance speech championed many of Bernie's core issues and even said she wants to work to overturn Citizens United and take us on the path of getting money out of politics.
The next step in our movement is electing Hillary Clinton our next president and ensuring we accomplish the goals we've set in out in the platform by holding her to her word. Most importantly, we must continue to stay organized, stay involved, and work hard to ensure Hillary and Bernie can accomplish what we hope to see. We must also elect progressive candidates up and down the ballot. That means showing up to vote on Nov. 8 and continuing our work the day after.
I might also add, that means showing up to vote in the state primary on Sept. 8 (full disclosure: I am the campaign manager for Andrea Harrington, the progressive candidate seeking the Democratic nomination to run for state Senate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden District).
So our adventure with Bernie may be over, for now. But if there's one thing I've learned, it's this, "Let us understand that when we stand together, we will always win."
Thank you to Bernie, Jane, and all the incredible staff and amazing volunteers. The political revolution has only just begun.
Casey Pease was a full-time staffer for the Bernie Sanders campaign.