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Leave Your Best Progressives Where They Can Leverage the Most Power!

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a luncheon at the National Press Club on Monday, March 9, 2015 in Washington. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is considering running for the 2016 Democratic nomination as a liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton, focusing on income inequality and climate change. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

I doubt this needs to be said here, but I will say it anyway. The idea of Bernie Sanders as Secretary of Labor is a terrible one, even if he wants it. It’s probably not going to happen either way. But he is so, so much more effective in the Senate than he would be as Secretary of Labor. His work the last couple of days on the $2,000 checks and forcing McConnell to do something is brilliant Senate work. This is what he is good at. He needs to keep doing it.

There’s a broader point here about people being very good in key positions and leaving them in those positions. So often, when someone outside of elected office get well-known, everyone says “they should run for office.” To take one example that we have seen several times here, Association of Flight Attendants presidents Sara Nelson. She’s such a great voice for labor: charismatic, the future of labor, intense, militant. It’s what labor has needed for a long, long time. And she’s become pretty famous for it. So often, people have said, “she’d be so great in Congress” and things like that. Well maybe she would, but it’s a hell of a lot harder to find a great union leader than it is to find a member of Congress! Members of Congress have very little individual power. She has a lot of power right where she is. She’d have even more if she replaces Rich Trumka as head of the AFL-CIO, which is a possibility. But running for Congress? Why?

I feel the same about Stacey Abrams. Of course, Abrams may well run for governor again. That’s up to her. But she’s making a bigger difference now by creating the apparatus to turn Georgia blue than she could if she had run for Senate. She found other people to run for Senate. Raphael Warnock, how could you do better? But there are other people out there if he chose not to as well. What Abrams is doing is amazing, often out of the spotlight, work. This is great stuff.

Gaining power requires organizing. Most of that organizing takes place outside the electoral political system. Elections are for expressing that preexisting power or cutting losses in bad years. They are not the be all and end all. When you have someone great at what they do, like Sanders, Nelson, or Abrams, leave them where they are!

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