Despite being unable to overcome Hillary Clinton’s 300-or-so pledged delegate lead, the political revolution sparked by Bernie Sanders’ fight to win the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party continues to and beyond the national convention in July, contrary to the expectations of anti-Sanders wiseacres. As we wrote in August of 2015:
“If Sanders loses to Clinton, his campaign faces three basic evolutionary possibilities:
“1. The Sanders campaign serves as the breeding ground for future third-party or independent electoral efforts at the local or state level. We’ll call this the Rainbow Coalition scenario.
“2. The Sanders campaign’s remnants remain wedded to the Democratic Party as an arena of struggle and never ventures beyond the confines of the two-party system. We’ll call this the EPIC scenario.
“3. The Green Party ends up not only capturing would-be Sanders vote in November 2016 but also a significant chunk of his grassroots activist base. We’ll call this the Green Party scenario.”
Based on Sanders’ livestreamed call to action (below) watched by hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country, he is opting for option #1 and implicitly adopting what we have dubbed “the Berniecrat strategy” — running independents or third-party candidates where possible and within the Democratic Party where forced to by necessity.
The grassroots response to Sanders’ call was nothing short of astounding, as a Sanders press release one day later noted:
“Less than 24 hours after U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders called on his supporters to run for office at the local or state level, nearly 6,700 people have signed up on BernieSanders.com/Win to learn more.
“In total, almost 11,000 supporters expressed interest in running for office or volunteering for other Sanders supporters who run.
“The 6,685 supporters who expressed interest in running cover 51% of state house districts, 69% of state senate districts and every congressional district in the country.”
By way of comparison, 6,685 potential Berniecrats is far greater both the total attendance of the 2016 Left Forum and the combined memberships of all American socialist groups (aside from Democratic Socialists of America). 6,685 potential candidates is enough to make Socialist Alternative’s 2012 call for the left to field 200 Kshama Sawant-style candidates look almost comically quaint. If even only 10% of these 6,685 got elected, together they would outnumber all the elected officials from the Green Party and the Vermont Progressive Party put together.
And none of these forces command the financial support of anything remotely close to Sanders’ donor base of 2.4 million people.
But turning those 6,685 potential Berniecrats into actual Bernicrats that appear on the ballot is not something in most cases that can can be done in time for the 2016 November general election. Instead, that task will have to be tackled by Sanders and local activists for elections that occur in 2017 and the 2018 midterm elections and perhaps from there these Berniecrats combined with Sanders’ massive donor base can form third parties capable of seriously contesting governorships and eventually the presidency. In the mean time, Sanders and his supporters will have their hands full battling the Clinton machine at the Democratic National Convention and electing down-ballot progressive candidates Sanders has endorsed:
The few times Sanders has used that power for another candidates’ benefit, it has netted big money. Tim Canova, who is challenging Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in her Florida district primary, raised $250,000 off just a single fundraising email from Sanders.
He also helped Nevada congressional candidate Lucy Flores generate more than $600,000. Yet that fundraising support showed its limitations Tuesday: Flores lost by double digits to state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who was backed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a wielder of tremendous influence in the Silver State.
Sanders has also raised money for former Sen. Russ Feingold in his Wisconsin race; Zephyr Teachout, a progressive House candidate in New York; Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal; and eight state legislature candidates in seven states.
Sanders’ close allies also expect him to work hard at helping elect other Democrats in the fall. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first member of Congress to endorse Sanders’ presidential bid, said the two-term senator is excited about the potential role.
In addition to the initiatives coming from the top of the Sanders campaign, there are initiatives from below such as the protests outside the Democratic convention and the recently concluded People’s Summit in Chicago which brought together thousands of activists and organizers from Occupy Wall Street, the fight for $15, Palestine solidarity work, the union movement, and a host of other causes.
The end of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign is the beginning of a generational struggle against oligarchy and to make government work for working people. The struggle continues.