“Anyone that tells you politics aren’t important you ask them why the Koch brothers are gong to spend a billion dollars on this election.” — Sen. Bernie SandersBy Scott Galindez Reader Supported News (6/25/15)
If I had told you six months ago that the largest rallies in the race for the 2016 presidential election would be held by Bernie Sanders, you probably would have looked at me funny. To date though, only Hillary Clinton’s launch in New York City has rivalled rallies held by the senator from Vermont. This past weekend, Bernie Sanders spoke to 5,000 in Denver, Colorado. The University of Denver had to simulcast the rally on the scoreboard of a lacrosse field, where over a thousand people who were turned away from the gymnasium where Sanders spoke viewed the event. It was the largest non-announcement event of the campaign. In a close second was Bernie’s Minneapolis event on May 31st, when over 4,000 attended an overflow event at the Native American Center.
“This is an extraordinary turnout,” Sanders said as he surveyed the crowd after climbing onto the Hamilton Gymnasium stage at the University of Denver. Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” played (with the singer/songwriter manager’s approval) as Sanders was introduced to the people assembled there.
When the crowd chanted his name, Bernie stopped them. “This campaign is not about me,” he said. “It is not about Hillary Clinton or any other candidate. This campaign is about you, your kids and your parents. It is about creating a political movement of millions of people who stand up and loudly proclaim that this nation belongs to all of us and not just a handful of billionaires.”
Sanders is not only drawing huge crowds, he is starting to rise in the polls and has established himself as a threat to win the Democratic nomination. A recent poll by Suffolk University in New Hampshire has Bernie Sanders within 10 points of Hillary Clinton in the granite state.
David Paleologos is the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which conducted the poll. “Don’t underestimate the power of the progressive nerve network,” Paleologos said, adding: “It is alive, far reaching, and it is translating into political muscle in the New Hampshire Democratic primary.”
Could the same thing happen in other primary states? The Suffolk University poll found that Hillary Clinton leads Bernie by only three points among those who “know both” candidates, which suggests that the race could change significantly as more voters learn about Bernie and his platform.
Sanders Welcomes Former Warren Supporters
Over the last week Sanders staff in Iowa has doubled. The campaign continues to welcome aboard former Run Warren Run staff members.
“Elizabeth Warren is a good friend. Like millions of her supporters around the country, I have great respect and admiration for her,” said Sanders. “That is why it is so gratifying that so many people who wanted Elizabeth to run for president are now getting behind our campaign to restore America’s middle class and take on Wall Street and the big banks.”
In Iowa, Sanders’ campaign hired Blair Lawton, who served as field director in Iowa for the Run Warren Run effort, to serve as political director. Sanders’ new Sioux City regional field director, Susana Cervantes, was the Western Iowa Field Director for Run Warren Run; the Iowa City regional field director, Beth Farvour, was a regional field director for Run Warren Run in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District; and the Dubuque regional field director, Marrgaret Jarosz, also was a regional field director for Run Warren Run in Iowa. These hirings are significant since these organizers have been on the ground in their communities for months and have developed relationships with local Democrats and identified progressives that will give the campaign a boost. There will not be a learning curve like there would be for many new hires. The new Iowa state director, Robert Becker, said,
“Run Warren Run has been on the ground in Iowa for six months now, organizing Iowans who share the progressive values that are the foundation of the Bernie Sanders movement. The staff assembled by Run Warren Run are extraordinarily talented and passionate, and their transition to our team is seamless.”
Run Warren Run was not the only organization attempting to draft Warren. Another group, Ready for Warren has changed their name to Ready to Fight and will be supporting Bernie. “Sanders has captured the imagination and support of people looking for a real progressive challenger in the 2016 Democratic primary,” Ready for Warren campaign manager Erica Sagrans and cofounder Charles Lenchner wrote in an op-ed. Bringing in active organizations like Ready for Warren can only add to the Sanders campaign’s momentum.
Key Iowa Democrats Join Campaign
Robert Becker has signed on as state director. Becker was a regional director for Bill Bradley in 2000 and ran Bill Richardson’s campaign in Iowa in 2008. Becker has worked on Democratic campaigns across two states and managed several groundbreaking efforts, including Jared Polis’ historic 2008 victory in Colorado, in which he became the first openly gay man to run and win a seat in Congress. Becker’s experience at running campaigns in Iowa will be an asset for the campaign. “After 25 years in the trenches working for Democrats, I am excited to be helping a candidate who is sparking a movement aimed at addressing income inequality and progressive policies. I am honored to be a part of the Bernie Sanders political revolution,” Becker told RSN.
Another experienced addition is Brendan Summers, who is an expert on the Iowa Caucus process. Summers returns to Iowa in the role of statewide caucus director. Summers is an Iowa politics veteran, having worked in many roles over the last decade, including serving as the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2008 Caucus-to-Convention Director and from 2010-2012 as the party caucus director. Summers possesses extensive expertise on the Iowa Caucus process. He was responsible for drafting and maintaining compliance of Iowa’s 2008 and 2012 delegate selection plan. Robert Becker told RSN,
“Brendan Summers is an extremely valuable addition to our team. His vast experience at Iowa’s Democratic Party and immeasurable understanding of caucus rules will be vital our organization.”
“From day one we vowed to assemble a top-notch campaign team in Iowa and we continue to demonstrate our commitment to doing just that,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ national campaign director. “Iowa’s caucus process is tailor-made for Bernie Sanders’ grassroots style of campaigning, and we will continue to build a first-in-the-nation organization to capitalize on that strength.”
Labor Ready for Bernie?
The Vermont National Education Association endorsed Bernie on Wednesday. “School teachers and educators are real American heroes. I am honored to have their backing,” said Sanders. Martha Allen, a K-12 librarian from Canaan, Vermont, and the state NEA president, announced the endorsement. “We want to let the whole country in on what we in Vermont have long known,” she said. “Bernie’s core values are in line with ours: he is pro-family, pro-worker, pro-education and pro-labor, and we believe the time has come for his vision to become a national reality.”
Okay, I hear you: that’s Vermont, it’s to be expected that his longtime allies in his home state will endorse him. But Vermont is not the only place where signs are Sanders will win the backing of Labor. In the early primary state of South Carolina, the executive committee of the AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling on the state national AFL-CIO to back Bernie. “We call on the AFL-CIO, union members and working people everywhere to unite behind Bernie Sanders and elect the president America’s workers desperately need,” the resolution said. The resolution “strongly urges” the national AFL-CIO to endorse Sanders.
With fast-track making it through Congress while Hillary Clinton sat on the fence, expect more Labor support for Bernie.
Media Starting to Take Notice
Social and internet media are still out front on coverage of Sanders, but the crowds and New Hampshire polls have forced the mainstream media to take notice. They still trip over themselves to cover every word uttered by Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, but there is progress. Most publications are at least saying Bernie Sanders has emerged as the Hillary Clinton’s chief rival for the nomination. The left of center publications are even acknowledging that he can win. Progressive members of the media believe he can win. As the campaign continues to pick up steam, it is only a matter of time before all the media start covering Sanders like a frontrunner. In the meantime his supporters are going around the talking heads, and the social media effort continues to mushroom.
The national polls might not be showing a major rise for Bernie yet, but if they could measure the level of enthusiasm and energy, the polls would show that Sanders is way out in front of any of the candidates running for president in either party. I have been in Iowa since early February, and no other campaign is connecting with voters as well as Bernie. There is no slick presentation; his staff throws a banner behind him and a sign on the podium. Until Neil Young scolded Donald Trump for using his song and announced he was supporting Bernie Sanders, there was no theme song. The excitement has all been generated by Sanders’ message. He is not delivering poll-tested soundbites, he is delivering his agenda with a genuine anger that is also felt by millions of Americans, and they are responding.