Bernie Sanders’ call for a ‘political revolution’ against the establishment brought out over 12 million supporters who voted for him in primaries and caucuses. I joined his campaign in January 2016 and left on the day he publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton. What he didn’t make clear to most of his new followers throughout his campaign was that he had always tipped his Democratic Party establishment —Clinton, Gore, Obama—and 2016 would be no different.
Once Bernie endorsed Hillary, his supporters had several choices. The millennial neighbor I had recruited to help lead my precinct caucus tore up her t-shirt and sign and threw them in the garbage. Most of those who remained active followed Bernie’s lead. They stayed in the Democratic Party to fight to change it from a neoliberal party controlled by corporate/wealthy donors to a ‘party of the (working) people.’ They are the ‘Berniecrats’.
In Thurston County, Berniecrats took over the local Democratic Party in December with the election of new officers. Key leaders of Thurston Progressives, formed after the primary, helped with the “takeover” but their group includes independent members. Greens, Democratic Socialists and progressive movement activists of all types participate with Thurston Progressives in local committees focused on various issues. Locally there is one bright light of principled independence on the horizon: Tamborine Borelli, who was a national Bernie delegate, has joined the Green Party and recently announced that she will be running as an independent against the DP incumbent, Denny Heck, for Congress in 2018.
Nationally, Bernie’s supporters didn’t all become Berniecrats. Some joined the Green Party or stayed loosely aligned with various outgrowths of the campaign: Progressive Independent Party (PIP), Brand New Congress, Justice Democrats, Our Revolution or ‘Draft Bernie: For a People’s Party’.
PIP hopes to unite the Progressive groups that are independent of the Democratic Party. PIP seeks to bring all the disparate Independent forces together occasionally for ‘Progressive Unity Summits.’ Summit1 occurred on January 22nd in Philadelphia, the day after the post inaugural women’s marches. Summit2 is scheduled for August 18-20 in Seattle.
The Brand New Congress (BNC) has the goal of replacing the entire congress by running candidates against establishment incumbents in 2018 and beyond. They are working with the Justice Democrats (JD) in this effort. BNC came out of the Berniecrat movement and JD came from Cenk Uygur, founder of The Young Turks and Kyle Kulinski, host of Secular Talk. BNC and JD have raised close to $1million to support candidates in the 2018 congressional races.
Finally, Nick Brana, former national outreach coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign, founded the ‘Draft Bernie for a People’s Party.’ This movement hopes to win Bernie over to lead that effort, a fairly long shot given Bernie’s 25-year history of working inside the Democratic Party.
For more information on Tamborine Borelli’s independent candidacy for congress please contact her at:
Chris Stegman is a founding member of the Green Party of South Puget Sound who has been an independent leftist activist since 1971. Your comments are welcome: send to firstname.lastname@example.org