The Top 10 Berniecrats of 2016

09/02/2016 08:19 pm ET

 

When Bernie Sanders co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus in 1991, it had but six members. 25 years later and it is 71 members strong, the largest membership organization among Democrats in Congress.

Welcome to the new America.

It is an America of Occupy, Black Lives Matter, #StopTPP, and ‘Keep It In The Ground.’ A nation where Glass-Steagall and Citizens United have entered popular vernacular. It is an America ripe with the percolation of patriotic progressivism.

Arising through the cracks of a broken political system is a group of politicians who do not represent the corporate paymasters, but the people — The Berniecrats.

When Tulsi Gabbard, in order to support Bernie Sanders in his bid for President, resigned as vice-chair of the DNC (despite ‘warnings’) it was a full display of her unique courage, principle, and dedication. Of course, these characteristics have become well associated with Gabbard.

At only 15 years old, she co-founded Healthy Hawaii Coalition, a nonprofit environmental organization. At 21, she became the youngest State Representative in Hawaii’s history and the youngest female State Rep. in the country. Shortly thereafter, channeling her inner Teddy Roosevelt, she postponed a promising political career to voluntarily serve in active military duty. After two tours of the Middle East, she returned home and became the first American-Samoan, first Hindu, and first female combat veteran elected to Congress.

And in the game of political ring-kissing, where toeing the line can make or break careers, it is Gabbard’s outspoken nature and impregnable integrity which make her truly Rooseveltian. In leaving the DNC, which WikiLeaks has since proven to be a festering cesspool of corruption, and recently starting a petition to end superdelegates, she has made herself an enemy of the Clinton power structure and a hero to progressives.

At 35, Tulsi Gabbard is a leadership figure for Americans rejecting a rotting status quo. She is a rocket ship. 

 

 

In 2007, Keith Ellison became America’s first Muslim member of Congress, swearing in on Thomas Jefferson’s Quran. Despite facing the type of vitriol and threats one might expect for a person in this position, Ellison has since been re-elected four times in a district which leads the state in voter turnout.

He is the current co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has become “more effective than ever” under Ellison. And when he speaks of “taking to the streets” in support of progressive causes, he does not speak merely in platitudes. Ellison was arrested in 2013 at an immigration rally for an act of civil disobedience, has participated in protests of the shooting of unarmed African-Americans, and was part of the 2016 House floor sit-in for gun reform.

At 53, he is the progressive leadership of today and tomorrow. 

 

 

Is Zephyr Teachout the next Elizabeth Warren? As a law professor and nationally recognized expert on political corruption — her book “Corruption in America” was critically acclaimed — she very well might be. And as the daughter of a lawyer and a judge, and a graduate of Yale and Duke, she is well-educated and well-prepared.

And while many may speak of political corruption and money in politics, few have the first hand experience of Teachout. In running for Governor of New York in 2014 she faced legacy candidate Andrew Cuomo; the son of New York’s 52nd Governor, and a man with over $45 million in his campaign war chest, 81% of which came from donations over $10,000. Teachout shocked the establishment by winning one-third of the vote in a race she was deemed to have no chance of winning. It is for this reason that Wall Street is “already pouring money into a Super PAC for her Republican opponent in this [Congressional] swing district.”

As we try to save a political system wallowing in the muck of avarice, progressives can be glad Zephyr Teachout is on our side. 

 

 

Pramila Jayapal came to America at 16 years of age, leaving her family in India and setting out on her own to attend Georgetown University. Pause to allow that statement to sink in.

For progressives, the story only gets better from there. After experiencing the depths of Wall Street from within, Jayapal decided to instead devote her exceptional talents to activism. Unsurprisingly, she became one of the leading grassroots organizers in the country. The founder of OneAmerica, and executive with numerous other causes, Jayapal was named a “Champion of Change” by the White House in 2013.

Now, the State Senator seeks to represent Washington in Congress, running a campaign backed by labor unions, environmental and women’s organizations, and groups such as MoveOn, Progress Change Campaign Committee, and Democracy for America.

She is truly a candidate from the grassroots for the grassroots. 

 

 

It is interesting and perhaps indicative to note that the fact that Bao Nguyen is gay is taken as somewhat of a side-note in his incredible story. He was born in a United Nations refugee camp and came to the United States at three months old with nothing but “the opportunity of success in America.”

As a college student he entered the political arena when he organized a protest against Senator John McCain over his use of the word “gook.” After finishing his education with a Masters Degree, Nguyen, who is fluent in three languages (English, Vietnamese, Spanish), became America’s first Vietnamese mayor. While in office, the practicing Buddhist would welcome the Dalai Lama to Garden Grove, and become a national pioneer in government transparency.

Now, with momentum and a consequential endorsement from the national nurses union, Nguyen is more than just a feel-good story. His story may, in fact, be that of the next member of Congress from California’s 46th. 

 

 

Preston Picus is the ‘Progressive Independent’ running against Nancy Pelosi who wants to “get in a fight with corruption.” The tools he would bring to said fight are formidable indeed. A Columbia graduate who “left a full-time career in marketing to become a full-time public servant,” he is the author of three books, including a work on political corruption called “Send Our Reps To Rehab.” Additionally, he has shown his commitment to positively impacting the next generation through his work as a teacher and coach.

With WikiLeaks exposing a disdain for democracy within the Democratic Party, and approval ratings for Congress at an historic low, perhaps establishment figureheads like Pelosi are not quite the impregnable incumbents they may have been thought to be. If there is to be a fight with corruption, Preston Picus wants northern California, and the progressive haven of San Francisco, to be a battleground. 

 

 

There is a proverb which says, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” This could, perhaps, be the campaign slogan for Dimitri Cherny.

At one time a high-roller in the tech industry, Cherny lost everything when the economy collapsed in 2008. He found himself jobless, broke and living in his car, in his own words “ready to make a sign to beg at the highway off-ramp.”

He was eventually able to find a job as a long-distance truck driver, and it was during this time travelling across 47 states, meeting people living paycheck-to-paycheck, that Cherny would have an epiphany about his country.

Returning to South Carolina, he would become a founding member of Black Lives Matter Charleston and Gun Sense South Carolina, along with working to help the homeless and the LGBTQ community.

Currently, he is riding his bicycle 700 miles across South Carolina’s 1st district to engage constituents and raise awareness for his Congressional campaign against GOP incumbent Mark Sanford. The former South Carolina Governor Sanford is these days better known as “The Luv Guv” – a man disgraced and disavowed by his own party leadership for using taxpayer money to carry on an extramarital affair with his mistress in Argentina.

Dimitri Cherny has been to the top, and, more importantly, he has been to the bottom. As such, he has unique insight into what it will take to make America great again. 

 

 

Growing up on Colville Indian Reservation, Joe Pakootas faced hardship. He was taken from his parents at a young age and put into foster care. Six of his siblings would become alcoholics or drug addicts, while a seventh would tragically die in a motorcycle accident. For a time, Pakootas himself would follow “the path of drinking,” derailing a promising athletic career.

But perseverance is central to the Pakootas narrative, perhaps secondary only to his unique ability.

He made his way from councilmember to CEO of the Colville Confederated Tribes, leading a stunning $10 million economic turnaround. He fought and won a lawsuit against a mining company which had been polluting his community, introduced ground-breaking sustainable forestry practices which have become industry standard, and created nearly 300 jobs (for a community of 9,500), winning an award from his alma mater – the University of Washington – in the process.

Now, Pakootas seeks to unseat a stereotypical establishment politician — Cathy McMorris Rodgers — who has been accused of being “more interested in Washington, DC. than Washington-05.” Joe Pakootas is not only an inspiration to the Native-American community, but a testament to the American fighting spirit, and a guiding example to progressives across the country. 

 

 

In a democracy, purported best in the world, which seems to exclude large portions of its population from the political process, there are perhaps few with a better understanding of this phenomenon than Misty Plowright.

Raised by a single mother who worked three jobs but still needed government assistance to get by, Plowright learned at a young age what it was like to “stare at cat food and wonder if you’re really that hungry.”

Misty Plowright is also a transgender woman.

The ‘T’ in LGBTQ has been in the news lately regarding bathrooms in North Carolina and the right of transgender Americans to serve in the military. But it has also been in the news for another reason. In winning a landslide victory in the Colorado Democratic primary, Plowright, along with Utah Senate candidate Misty Snow, became the first openly transgender major party candidates for national office.

While the “established powers of the Democratic Party” were, perhaps predictably, “against [her],” there was one national figure who endorsed Plowright — Bernie Sanders.

Now, she seeks to represent a district which has been held by a white Republican male since its inception, running against the “universally reviled” Doug Lamborn, the man who called President Obama a “tar baby.”

A recent analysis suggests that 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender, approximately the same number of people as the populations of North and South Dakota combined. While the Dakotas have six representatives in Congress, the transgender community has exactly zero. But that might be about to change. Transgender Americans may well be getting ready to ‘Plowright into Congress.’ 

 

 

While Peter Welch is running unopposed in Vermont’s at-large Congressional district in 2016, he warrants inclusion as a hero in the struggle between rectitude and machine politics.

Peter Welch and Bernie Sanders have been “friends for years,” often taking the same flight from their home state of Vermont to Washington, D.C. and splitting a cab. It should come then as no surprise that Welch endorsed him for President, following the will of the overwhelming majority of Vermonters who voted Sanders in the Democratic primary. What is curious is that he was the only representative from Vermont to do so. Others, it appears, were previously obliged. It seems that when challenged to bend to the will of the Democratic Party narrative, Peter Welch chose to support his friend and, more importantly, to represent his constituents. 

 

 

These are the Top 10 Berniecrats running in 2016. I urge you to donate to their campaigns, phone-bank, canvass, as well as tweet and share on their behalf.

This is a political revolution of, as Bernie Sanders said, “Not me, us.”

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