It’s been an astonishing year for the US left. Issues that mainstream politicians would have declared “off the table” just 12 months ago — free public higher education, universal health care, the $15 minimum wage, a national ban on fracking — are now acceptable topics for public discussion. A US politician who declared himself a socialist won more than 12 million votes, and even dared to advocate equitable treatment for Palestinians.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has accomplished more than most of us could have imagined a year ago. But what happens now that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are almost certain to be our “choices” in the fall?
Some of the millions energized by Sanders’ primary bid will come out to work for Trump’s defeat, others will campaign for progressive congressional candidates and still others will use the election season to build for a third party. The Sanders campaign itself seems focused on pushing reforms at the Democratic convention in July. These may all be worthwhile activities, but the fact is that election periods have an expiration date: Once an election has passed, only a small number of committed people remain excited by long-range electoral projects.