People's Summit Offers Hope for a Movement Bigger Than Bernie

A conference organized around the progressive issues that formed the cornerstone of Bernie Sanders’ presidential run has re-energized the American left, attendees said, as the gathering provoked conversations and connections that will invigorate political and social movements to come.

Coming in the wake of Sanders’ primary losses earlier this month, and after the recent murders in Orlando and in the U.K., the so-called People’s Summit became a “place of healing,” said activist and author Naomi Klein, who took part in the opening panel.

“I could feel that people were down,” Klein said of the start of the summit. “This was not a rah rah rally. People came in licking their wounds.”

Klein continued:

“This was very much an exchange,” Klein added. “It was as much about the conversations you’re having in the hallways and over meals as the speeches. It was very much the connective tissue of movements that was what this was all about.”

“You really felt how much bigger this movement is than Bernie.”
—Naomi Klein

“There was a sense among many activists—not all, but most—that the Bernie campaign was not a defeat,” Jeff Cohen, director of the Park Center for Independent Media, told Common Dreams via email. “That it was not an end, but a big acceleration of movements that existed pre-FeelTheBern—for example, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Fight for Fifteen, immigrants’ rights, etc. That it will lead to all sorts of progressive electoral interventions in the coming years.”

Indeed, “if the summit had any common theme, it may have been ‘Don’t count us out,'” reported D.D. Guttenplan in The Nation. “Though there were more than a handful of Bernie-or-busters in attendance[…] Becky Bond, a former senior adviser to the [Sanders] campaign, spoke for a much greater proportion when she said, ‘Bernie didn’t create this movement. He recognized the movement moment we are in.'”

Klein agreed, noting, “You really felt how much bigger this movement is than Bernie. This slogan, ‘Not me, us,’ is so much more than a slogan.”

Cohen observed that “normally when a candidate does not win a hard-fought race, the candidate slinks away and supporters of that candidate drift off disheartened.”

“Unlike most electoral campaigns,” Cohen wrote, “the Bernie campaign resulted in a massive conference this weekend, a search for candidates to run for local offices, some real networking among progressive groups, and a plan for major national protests in February in D.C. and locally, no matter who is elected.”