Many Former Bernie Staffers Eager for 2020
Heather Gautney, Executive Director at Our Revolution and author of Crashing the Party: From the Bernie Sanders Campaign to a Progressive Movement, refutes the largely baseless assertions in Politico that Sanders 2016 backers are unenthusiastic about a potential 2020 run.
Politico’s Alex Thompson published an essay this week based on interviews with a handful of the Senator’s former staffers. In it, he argues that “many Bernie backers aren’t feeling” a Bernie 2020 presidential run.
This Bernie backer IS feeling it. And the tens of millions of Americans interested in getting big money out of politics and making sure that every person in this country has quality health care and education, a dignified retirement, and a planet that’s habitable for future generations, are feeling it too.
As a sociologist, I’m disturbed that a professional journalist like Thompson would draw such a dramatic conclusion based on a few interviews. In my trade, scientific methods like random samples are used to ensure that conclusions have validity. This article lacks that rigor.
Politics is full of people who jump from campaign to campaign, trying to bet on a winning horse. Unlike any other politician today, Sanders has amassed an expansive base that is loyal to him, and more importantly, his agenda. He is not a typical politician — he the catalyst of a social movement.
Had Thompson cast a wider net, he may have found hundreds of thousands of members of Our Revolution — the political organization that Sanders himself inspired — already activated for a possible run. He might have interviewed the hundreds of candidates — like Ben Jealous, Christine Pellegrino, and Jovanka Beckles — who Sanders has helped to cultivate and inspire to run, many for the first time.
He might have tallied the tens of millions of Sanders’ engaged social media followers, the hundreds of thousands who attend his rallies, and the lion’s share of people living in my home state of Vermont — not to mention the tens of millions who voted for him in 2016 and who volunteered for his campaign.
Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the country. His premier policies, like tuition-free college and Medicare for All, are increasingly popular among a majority of Americans, including Republicans. Why should we take the opinions of a handful of former staffers and consultants as an indication of the views of the many? We shouldn’t.
Worse than Thompson’s methodological weakness is the blatant prejudice against Sanders on the basis of age, gender and race — a favorite tactic of establishment Democrats.
Our Revolution’s President, Senator Nina Turner, will be appearing with Senator Sanders on the upcoming tour mentioned in Thompson’s article. When preparing for the trip, she joked, “I stopped wearing heels just to keep up with him.” I had the same problem when he’d invite me for a walk in Burlington or around the Capitol. Talk to anyone who actually knows him and the response is unequivocal: Bernie Sanders is more than physically, mentally, and emotionally fit to be President of the United States.
In addition to ageism, Thompson falls into the same pit of crass identity politics that, in my view, helped fan the flames of Trumpism. Just because a person is a woman or a person of color does not mean that they represent the interests of all women or all people of color. Democrats would do well to remember that when considering the candidates in 2020.
Over the last three to four decades, neoliberal Democrats’ willful failure to address the needs of poor and working-class Americans, as well as their tawdry use of gender and race politics to undermine progressive alternatives, provided easy fodder for Trump and his appeals to “the silent majority” — those talked down to by the “lying liberal media” and left out of the Clinton Democrats’ so-called New Economy.
Sanders has been an unwavering champion of poor and working class people of all backgrounds. Some 2020 presidential hopefuls may be women and/or persons of color, but will gladly open their campaign coffers to pharmaceutical giants and other special interests or support hawkish policy abroad. Some of them are not progressive at all, but now that Medicare for All and College for All are popular, they’re smartly going with the grain.
Bernie Sanders has fought for single-payer health care for decades. He’s worked tirelessly to reduce drug prices and protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. He’s taken on Wall Street, opposed job-killing trade deals, promoted a living wage, opposed the war in Iraq and the U.S. Patriot Act, and has been out front on gay marriage and fighting climate change.
As a staffer in his Senate office, I witnessed firsthand his ingenuity and care in developing such complex legislation, working against the corporate agenda of establishment politicians, consulting with grassroots groups, medical professionals, small business owners, teachers, seniors, veterans and many others. Corporate lobbyists don’t bother to stop by.
This is why so many people across the country and the world want Bernie Sanders to be President — because he’s consistently stood up for the little guy and not blown with the political winds. Working people support him because we want a future we can believe in.