Our job is to build a movement to transform the country. Part of that mission will be organizing people who are not yet as progressive as we are. If you are someone who has always been a true believer, you are rare. Most of us evolved after decades of programming by our education system and the media.
When I was 17 years old, I was in the Army and I thought Ronald Reagan was making us strong again. It was while in college after my time in the military that I read the writings of Oscar Romero. It was my time serving the homeless at the Community for Creative Non-Violence Shelter in Washington DC, and my time at the anti-nuclear vigil in front of the White House, that radicalized me.
I saw the world through different lenses. Our job is to get people to the view the world from the same perspective we do. To do that we need to organize people, not vilify them. If student activists at Syracuse had judged my past and refused to work with me because I wasn't as radical as they were, I might have joined the College Republicans. Instead, I ended up organizing for divestment from South Africa's apartheid.
If the Community for Creative Non-Violence had had a litmus test, my vote for Ronald Reagan was I was 18 might have prevented me from interning with one of my mentors, Mitch Snyder. If William Thomas had only worked with people who had never been in the military, I would not have joined the anti-nuclear vigil. Each step on my path, I became more and more radical.
I was not a progressive when I was 18. But at 51, thanks to many wonderful organizers along the way, I believe I am a warrior for progressive causes.
There are times when questioning someone's "progressiveness" and comparing progressive credentials is an important thing. Campaigns are such a time. Our job was to convince the American people that Bernie Sanders was the right choice for president. But the campaign is over, and our job now is to organize a movement that moves the country in a more progressive direction.