Are There Are Problems In Bernie-Land? His Grassroots Group Appears To Be Collapsing

Posted: Jun 08, 2018 5:15 PM
Are There Are Problems In Bernie-Land? His Grassroots Group Appears To Be Collapsing

The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is ascendant. The energy, along with the anti-Trump hysteria, is coalescing around this group of insurgents, who have clinched primary winsacross the country. In terms of policy, Sanders’ initiatives of jobs for all, free college, minimum wage hikes, and single-payer health careare growing in support. So, this is fertile ground for a Bernie Sanders 2020 run, right? Maybe. The ground is fertile for a hard progressive candidate; Sanders had solid success, though he failed to garner enough support in the primaries south of the Mason-Dixon line. Clinton reigned supreme in the southern states, which gave her a lead that was insurmountable. The death knell was the I-95 corridor slate of primaries that sealed the deal for her nomination. Still, Sanders was largely written off at first, until he captured the enthusiasm of younger voters, a core constituency of the Obama coalition that Hillary was trying to cater to with little success. Post-2016, the divisions within the Democratic Party are deep. The establishment wing wants to win and thinks the Sanders wing could torpedo that, while the far left thought Hillary was untrustworthy, yesterday’s news, and did not push an agenda progressive enough to win; she should have been more radical. These feelings are still prevalent, with the added drama concerning the Democratic National Committee emails leaks prior to the party’s national convention in 2016.

In that document dump via Wikileaks, top DNC staffers were openly discussing ways to sink Sanders candidacy. It gave off the impression that the DNC was tipping the scales for Hillary. It’s probably why Sanders has refused to turn over his data and email lists to the DNC. So, 2020 should be easy, right? That remains to be seen. The next presidential election is eons away, plus Our Revolution, the grassroots group tailor-made to push the Sanders agenda, is in a state of disarray. Its grassroots army has virtually evaporated, with internal division over its president, former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, who is allegedly using the groups infrastructure to foster a presidential run of her own in 2020. Still, the irony is with this drama in Bernie-land, the far left continues to either score primary victories or make the establishment work for Democratic votes. At the same time, the group has yet to clinch a win of their own in these contests (via Politico):

…An extensive review of the Sanders-inspired group depicts an organization in disarray — operating primarily as a promotional vehicle for its leader and sometimes even snubbing candidates aligned with Sanders. Our Revolution has shown no ability to tip a major Democratic election in its favor — despite possessing Sanders’ email list, the envy of the Democratic Party — and can claim no major wins in 2018 as its own.

The result has left many Sanders supporters disillusioned, feeling that the group that was supposed to harness the senator's grass-roots movement is failing in its mission. The problems have also fueled doubts about Sanders’ organizational ability heading into 2020, even after his out-of-nowhere near-march to the nomination two years ago. Critics of the Vermont independent had been worried he’d have a juggernaut-in-waiting to fuel a second presidential campaign, but that anxiety has faded after watching Our Revolution the past year and a half.


Among the findings of POLITICO’s examination of Our Revolution, based on interviews with two dozen sources inside and outside the organization:

·Board members and Sanders presidential delegates from 2016 have raised questions about whether the group’s president, Nina Turner, is using her position to prepare for a presidential run of her own, and to settle scores with the Democratic National Committee from 2016.

·Two weeks ago, the group’s board of directors nixed Turner’s attempt to install her personal political consultant and friend as her chief of staff, even though the person had no experience in political organizing and had praised President Donald Trump repeatedly and attacked immigrants on Fox News.

·Monthly online fundraising totals have plummeted to just one-third of the group's take a year ago, based on an analysis of processing fees reported to the IRS by Act Blue, the tool Our Revolution uses, and verified by several people familiar with its finances. Our Revolution maintains that it’s still running a surplus and that repeat donations are steady.

·Amid the poor fundraising, Our Revolution earlier this month filed paperwork to launch a PAC so Sanders can help it raise money directly and so the group can coordinate directly with campaigns.

·A founding board member resigned last month, saying Our Revolution wasn’t paying adequate attention to Latino candidates and issues of importance to Latinos.


It also sat out Doug Jones’ upset Senate win in Alabama last year, and Conor Lamb’s triumph in a Western Pennsylvania congressional district that Trump carried by 20 points.

Though Jones and Lamb were ideologically to the right of Our Revolution, the group also had no part in either of the Sanders wing’s big primary wins a week ago. In Pennsylvania, Sanders endorsed Braddock Mayor John Fetterman in the lieutenant governor’s race; he went on to beat the incumbent Pennsylvania lieutenant governor, without the endorsement or backing of Our Revolution.

And in Nebraska, Kara Eastman, who was backed broadly by progressives, upset former centrist Rep. Brad Ashford in a House primary. Our Revolution skipped that election as well.

Our Revolution has frustrated Democrats by staying on the sidelines of so many races. Northam’s 2017 general election campaign was “the World Series of politics,” said Virginia Democratic Party chairwoman Susan Swecker, “and they chose not to go to the game.” It’s also left the group without tangible successes to point to or allies in power who’ll be able to help it or Sanders down the line.

It may be a pipe dream, but I’m not convinced that a declining progressive group means the death of Sanders’ 2020 chances. Yes, it’s popcorn-worthy that a grassroots group created to keep the Bernie fire going is fraught with failure and internal division. But let’s not kid ourselves; if Bernie ran, he would easily consolidate the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Yet, Bernie, who would be pushing 80 by 2020, could decide not to run. The 2020 field will be crowded, but its so-called star leaders, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) etc. are all unknowns nationally, with regional appeal. granted, they’re trying to increase their profile, but in an era that shuns elitism and one where Democrats need to win back rural voters, having a field made up of folks from the coasts and the Northeast is not the pool from which to pick a winner.