A Grain Of Saul: Thank You, Bernie. You Showed Us All What The Best Politicians Look Like.

A final goodbye to a legendary candidate.

Dear Bernie Sanders,

Thank you.

I know that as the Democratic National Convention has begun, something else will end: your quest for the White House.

For me and so many of your supporters, the conclusion to this amazing story will be one of disappointment and struggle. With you gone, we are left in a political conundrum; we must choose between two people we'd rather not. 

One, a man who is basically your opposite: spouting little more than divisive rhetoric and lies, a resume absent anything remotely resembling those of a Commander in Chief.

The other, a career politician whose history of failed military hawkishness, Wall Street cronyism, and a dedication to head-spinning political expediency that leaves us pulling our hair out. A politician you were left with no choice but to endorse.

Since the beginning, you have been my candidate of choice. Not just because we see eye-to-eye on so many issues, but because I love what you represent. You are a politician we can all admire, one whose populist stances were inclusive, not divisive. You are a man revered and respected even by those you most vehemently disagree with. You are a senator who, regardless of your political leanings, has been consistent, honest, and put actual policy behind your most quoted rhetoric for decades.

When you started this campaign, nobody gave you the time of day. Your stance was revolutionary: an anti-the establishment candidate who had worked for the establishment his whole career. A candidate so inextricably linked to the machine that few could have more authority when speaking about how it was broken. 

Those qualities — consistency, honesty, and a record of action — are all lacking in America's current options for the next President.

Now that the Democratic National Convention has kicked off, where Hillary Clinton will take the stage and be championed as the Democratic Party's nominee to stop Donald Trump, you are getting a final vindication: that you were right when you said the election was rigged against your campaign.

For the last year, you've has been pleading with mainstream news channels, the American people, and lifelong Democrats to see that the party, which is supposed to remain neutral during primary season, had already chosen Hillary Clinton as their presumptive nominee. 

Unsurprisingly, you were scoffed at. 

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, chair of the DNC, accused you and your supporters of propagating "conspiracy theories." News outlets and Clinton supporters repeated the tagline ad nauseam. My own friends accused me of wearing a tinfoil hat. You were called old and grumpy and annoying and ridiculous for staying in the race, and yet as your chances dwindled you stayed on message and reminded us again and again: the system is made for the elite.

But after this week's WikiLeaks bombshell, it's clear that you were right. Widespread collusion to ensure Clinton became the nominee is no longer a mere accusation, it is supported by a bevy of leaked DNC emails that had it all: feeding CNN questions to ask on air? Check. Young voters being paid to fight Sanders supporters online? Check. Floating ideas about questioning Sanders religious affiliation? Spinning pro-Clinton PR? Planting pro-Clinton stories? 

Check. Check. Check

Since the hammer has fallen, Wasserman-Schultz, the same woman who accused your supporters of spreading conspiracy theories, has stepped down.

There are, of course, nuances. Did a bunch of DNC emails win the campaign for Clinton? We don't know. Did these professional democrats have a reason to dislike or even hate you? Maybe. Will we find out some of the WikiLeaks emails were fake? Of course.

But the message that the system was rigged from the start is just one of many hard and important truths you told during your campaign. In the last year, you have taken us on a much-needed tour of the American reality, a reality far too many of us consistently choose to ignore.

You reminded us again and again that the richest Americans have a stranglehold on the political system. You told the stories of the 28 million Americans who live every day without health insurance. You pleaded for an economy that didn't leave out the 46 million Americans that live on food stamps. You said, over and over and over, that America has more wealth and income inequality than any major developed nation on earth. Whether we listen or do anything about these facts is up to us.

You told hard and inconvenient truths in a quest to help the people who needed it most. You didn't play into the mud-slinging politics that score headlines: you didn't insult your opponents or go after spouses. In fact, you actively avoided engaging in conversations about scandals and corruption. Instead, you talked about us, the people, our differences and our needs. You ran a campaign your supporters could be proud of.

You made college debt, taxing corporations fairly, and "Wall Street politics" mainstream political news. You presented one of the largest and most important plans for rebuilding the infrastructure that America has ever seen.

And you did it all without lying to Americans, without trying to scare us.  You did it by informing us.

And guess what? Your message resonated.

You received over 12 million votes, won 22 states, and helped choose a Democratic committee that created one of the most progressive platforms our country has ever seen, one that is much further to the left than the platform we saw in 2012. 

On Saturday, the Democratic National Convention Rules Committee reformed their rules so super delegates have less influence and are more responsive to grassroots efforts. Clinton has backed off her support for the TPP. The party platform includes a commitment to increased federal minimum wage, expansion of social security, a "pathway to future legalization of marijuana," a call to abolish the death penalty, and language about pricing greenhouse gases — or incentivizing the use of clean energy without having to pass a carbon tax — all cornerstone policies of your campaign.

Even after she joined Republicans in making fun of your free college tuition plan, Clinton introduced a nearly identical proposal earlier this month that would free families making less than $125,000 dollars a year from paying tuition at public colleges and universities. On Monday night, you got to explain that proposal to the American people on national television.

And with your campaign back in the shadows, it's back to the usual: no more caring for the poor, stopping climate change, reforming immigration or freeing millions trapped in our industrial prison complex. No longer will healthcare, climate change, reasonable solutions to terrorism and college debt make headlines. 

Instead, we're left arguing about Benghazi, Hispanic judges, plagiarizing speeches, actual conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination, and banning entire religions from entering our nation.

While pivoting back into the worst of American politics is inevitable as you leave, there is one more American story I'd like to thank you for shining a light on: the story of my generation.

If there is any evidence that we were not ready for you, that you were in fact ahead of your time, it's this: you, Bernie Sanders, won more votes from people under the age of 30 than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined. 

Thank you, Bernie, not just for telling us how it is today, but showing us what it might be like in our future.

Cover photo: Flickr