Standing at the Precipice: Political Change & Spiritual Choice

Dear friends,

Just a week ago, the Forward ran an article reporting that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for President had received more campaign contributions from rabbis than any other Presidential candidate.

The week since then has been full of political upheaval.  And yesterday, despite the spiritual and practical support from all those rabbis, including my wife Rabbi Phyllis Berman and me, Senator Warren withdrew from the campaign. Nevertheless, she -- and we -- will persist.

And the letter she sent me and Phyllis and all her supporters says what I believe to be the truth. Here it is. I urge you to let its wisdom, its passion, and its perseverance soak in. 


Arthur --

I’m going to start with the news. I wanted you to hear it straight from me: today, I’m suspending our campaign for president.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you have poured into this campaign.

I know that when we set out, this was not the news you ever wanted to hear. It is not the news I ever wanted to share. But I refuse to let disappointment blind me — or you — to what we’ve accomplished. We didn’t reach our goal, but what we have done together — what you have done — has made a lasting difference. It’s not the scale of the difference we wanted to make, but it matters — and the changes will have ripples for years to come.

What we have done — and the ideas we have launched into the world, the way we have fought this fight, the relationships we have built — will carry through for the rest of this election, and the one after that, and the one after that.

So think about it:

We have shown that it is possible to build a grassroots movement that is accountable to supporters and activists and not to wealthy donors — and to do it fast enough for a first-time candidate to build a viable campaign. Never again can anyone say that the only way that a newcomer can get a chance to be a plausible candidate is to take money from corporate executives and billionaires. That’s done.

We have shown that it is possible to inspire people with big ideas, possible to call out what’s wrong and to lay out a path to make this country live up to its promise.

We have shown that race and justice — economic justice, social justice, environmental justice, criminal justice — are not an afterthought, but are at the heart of everything that we do.

We have shown that a woman can stand up, hold her ground, and stay true to herself — no matter what.

We have shown that we can build plans in collaboration with the people who are most affected.

This campaign became something special, and it wasn’t because of me. It was because of you. I am so proud of how you fought this fight alongside me: you fought it with empathy and kindness and generosity — and of course, with enormous passion and grit.

Some of you may remember that long before I got into electoral politics, I was asked if I would accept a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was weak and toothless. And I replied that my first choice was a consumer agency that could get real stuff done, and my second choice was no agency and lots of blood and teeth left on the floor. In this campaign, we have been willing to fight, and, when necessary, we left plenty of blood and teeth on the floor. I can think of one billionaire who has been denied the chance to buy this election.

And we did all of this without selling access for money. Together, 1,250,000 people gave more than $112 million dollars to support this campaign. And we did it without selling one minute of my time to the highest bidder. People said that would be impossible. But you did that.

Together, we built a grassroots campaign that had some of the most ambitious organizing targets ever — and then we turned around and surpassed them.

Our staff and volunteers on the ground knocked on over 22 million doors across the country. We made 20 million phone calls and sent more than 42 million texts to voters. That’s truly astonishing. It is.

We also advocated for fixing our rigged system in a way that will make it work better for everyone.

A year ago, people weren’t talking about a two-cent wealth tax, Universal Child Care, cancelling student loan debt for 43 million Americans while reducing the racial wealth gap, breaking up big tech, or expanding Social Security. And now they are. And because we did the work of building broad support for all of those ideas across this country, these changes could actually be implemented by the next president.

A year ago, people weren’t talking about corruption, and they still aren’t talking about it enough — but we’ve moved the needle, and a hunk of our anti-corruption plan is already embedded in a House bill that is ready to go when we get a Democratic Senate.

And we also did it by having fun and by staying true to ourselves. We ran from the heart. We ran on our values. We ran on treating everyone with respect and dignity. But it was so much more. Four-hour selfie lines and pinky promises with little girls. A wedding at one of our town halls. And we were joyful and positive through all of it. We ran a campaign not to put people down, but to lift them up — and I loved pretty much every minute of it.

I may not be in the race for president in 2020, but this fight — our fight — is not over. And our place in this fight has not ended.

Because for every young person who is drowning in student debt, for every family struggling to pay the bills on two incomes, for every mom worried about paying for prescriptions or putting food on the table, this fight goes on.

For every immigrant and African American and Muslim and Jewish person and Latinx and transwoman who sees the rise in attacks on people who look or sound or worship like them, this fight goes on.

For every person alarmed by the speed with which climate change is bearing down upon us, this fight goes on.

And for every American who desperately wants to see our nation healed and some decency and honor restored to our government, this fight goes on.

When I voted on Tuesday at the elementary school down the street, a mom came up to me. She said she has two small children, and they have a nightly ritual. After the kids have brushed teeth and read books and gotten that last sip of water and done all the other bedtime routines, they do one last thing before the two little ones go to sleep: Mama leans over them and whispers, “Dream big.” And the children together reply, “Fight hard.”

So if you leave with only one thing, it must be this: Choose to fight only righteous fights, because then when things get tough — and they will — you will know that there is only one option ahead of you: nevertheless, you must persist.

You should be so proud of what we’ve done together — what you have done over this past year.

Our work continues, the fight goes on, and big dreams never die.

Thanks for being a part of this,



If you want to check out the Forward article, here's the link:

The article also reported that Phyllis and I had contributed both to Senator Warren and to Senator Bernie Sanders. The reporter who interviewed me for the article had asked why, and I said:

Look --  America and Earth are both standing at the edge of a precipice; great danger, and great possibility for transformation. These are not just "political" choices; when the issues get that deep, we are making spiritual choices.

When you are standing at the edge of a precipice, how do you get across? Small incremental steps will just take you off the edge, into the pit, to lie there broken and bleeding. You must figure out a way to leap across to the other side.  Sanders and Warren have proposed programs and inspired people to leap across.

 That comment about the precipice ended up in the trash basket when the article was published. Yet  I thought, and think, that comment was the most interesting thing I said, even though -- especially if --  it seems that a small majority of Democratic voters disagree with it. So far a small majority is voting for small incremental steps. We shall see. That still might change.

How deep are the issues and the precipice? "It is the worst of times, it is the best of times." Our experiment in democracy is in greater danger and some of us are exploring fuller democratic transformation than at any time since the Civil War. And Earth is also standing at the edge of a precipice;  Earth’s experiment with the evolution of the human race has brought extreme peril upon the web of life and at the same time has created the fullest knowledge of the loving Interbreath among all species. And the two crises are intertwined: Whether the US succumbs to the Oligarchy of Carbon Pharaohs will have a great deal to do with whether Earth turns away from Climate Chaos.

So meanwhile, I intend to persist. "No one person can complete the task," said the ancient rabbis, "and no one is permitted to quit." I’ll be back with more thoughts about “big dreams” that never die, deep work that never ends. Dreams and work for love, justice, and healing ourselves and Mother Earth.

 Blessings to you-all of Truth, Justice, and Peace  -- according to some of the same ancient Rabbis, the three pillars that hold up the world.  --  Arthur