Mass movements start in the streets, marching to the steps of city halls and statehouses to speak truth to power. They open up debates, forcing elected officials to think anew and respond to demands for racial and economic justice, immigrant rights, fair elections, real democracy, and peace. Eventually, however, those who are making the demands realize that they can and should be setting the policies. That sentiment is expressed in presidential politics by Bernie Sanders’s talk of a transformative political revolution. And in congressional districts across the country, some of America’s most ardent activists and deepest thinkers are entering the fray.
The next Elizabeth Warrens are running for Congress. Some are actually stepping out of academia, as Warren did in 2012, to campaign as champions of fundamental reform. Consider Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham University law professor who is seeking an open congressional seat in New York’s Hudson River Valley with encouragement from local Working Families Party activists and groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Teachout, an expert on money in politics and the author of scholarly texts on the corruption of elections and government, is unapologetic in her activism. She says she plans to focus on “connecting concentrated power and the new monopoly state with how campaigns are funded,” and how this is reflected in the country’s “unbelievably quick transformation to monopoly capitalism instead of competitive markets in area after area. And that’s a vicious cycle with the private-financing model.”