By Jewel Hurtado

I was half asleep when I reached for my phone. I needed to see what all the buzzing was about. This particular Wednesday I had no meetings, no obligations, and quite frankly, I was irritated that I was woken up before I needed to be.

Reaching for my phone, my face ID scanned, revealing the first of many texts. It was from an LA Times reporter, of all people. The text was simple enough, yet one that would derail so many things that I had been fighting for and working towards:

“Hi Jewel, have you read the news about Bernie dropping out?”

My heart sank. I felt tears begin to flow from my eyes, and I knew that the moment that I had been dreading had come. I felt defeated, sad, angry, and I did not know how to process it all.

I continued to see messages from friends and I just wished that I were dreaming. I had hoped so badly that this time would be different. That unlike 2016, the voices of the people would prevail. I felt heartbroken, much like I did then, but this time stung so much worse. I spent the rest of the day being bombarded with phone calls and texts, but I was numb and unresponsive.

I immediately went to my journal and wrote this down:

“This feels similarly to when there is a death in the family. I am being hit with the ‘everything is going to be okay’ and ‘everything happens for a reason’ song and dance, but right now I just want to FEEL.”

This has been a movement unlike any other that I have experienced up to this point in my life. My everything went into the Bernie Sanders campaign. But let me be clear: this was not just another campaign to me. No, I had a vested interest – this fight literally means the difference between life and death. I will never forget holding my 7 month old son in my arms and crying because his 24-day supply of medication cost $900. Just one medication of many that he needed in order to survive. I felt hopeless and helpless, because there was no way that I could come up with that kind of money month after month.

Bernie was the first presidential candidate that I had heard to boldly proclaim that  healthcare is a human right – and for the first time, I felt seen. There are so many families just like mine, making futile attempts to get ahead in an impossible and rigged system. I felt like Bernie shone a huge spotlight on the injustices of our nation, and reminded us of our value and worth. He gave us something to believe in, and a future worth fighting for collectively.

After allowing myself the space to grieve, I was reminded that the movement was never about Bernie Sanders. Bernie was just the catalyst we needed to fuel our revolution. The real power, fire, and change was and always will be people who are willing to fight – not only for themselves, but for someone they don’t know, too. While Bernie Sanders may have created the space for everyone to feel included, it will be the people who sustain it. The same movement that realized we are only as strong as the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

And so how do we move forward from this point?

Well, after some crying – and I mean ugly crying – I remembered that this fight is far from over. Millions of Americans continue to be uninsured. In the middle of a global pandemic, and with health care being so closely tied with a person’s employment, the issue is only exasperated. Bernie Sanders will forever be the person who set the standard high, but how we move forward is up to us. We must continue to champion progressive values and policies and unapologetically advocate for Medicare-for-All. We must demand actions be taken to stop the climate crisis that we are in and we must fight to lift the burden so many are crushed by when it comes to college debt. We must win seats in local, statewide, and national elections. We must continue to say that we are worth more, and that our lives have value, and that the status quo isn’t doable for us anymore. We must remind ourselves that people come and go, but ideas last forever.

Hasta La Victoria!