Dear Senator Sanders,
I’m one of those who worked for your campaign for over a year. Those who worked for you and got out the vote have made you a powerful figure in American politics. So we deserve to be able to talk to you about the future of our political movement. In other words, Our Revolution.
My experience (and that of several of my colleagues) is that it is very difficult to coordinate with your officials or to give your movement ideas. Ralph Nader said as much early in 2016. “There’s a problem with getting good ideas to him and strategic changes and tactical advice,” Nader says, regretfully. “But that’s part of his charm: I haven’t had a call returned or a letter answered in 15 years. . . . He’s really a lone ranger, and that’s a drawback when you run for president because I’m not the only one he’s not returning calls to.”
My own experience confirms Nader’s opinion. In late summer of 2015, Los Angeles Bernieites were trying to organize. I got the telephone number of Bernie’s campaign in Burlington, VT, and tried to find out if there was any system for sharing emails and telephone numbers through the central command headquarters so that we could get members in the Los Angeles area. I talked to a very low level person volunteer who said that he thought that this would be a good idea but he would have to talk to the higher ups. The higher ups never called me back, and so far as I know, there wasn’t a really good sharing system ever set up.
A friend of mine who is a very good organizer in Los Angeles actually took a trip to Burlington in those early days. She said that she was only able to speak with some low-level people and not with any of the higher-ups.
Later, I came up with an idea that I wanted to share with Bernie. By that time, I had actually gotten the email address of Jeff Weaver, his campaign manager. The idea was Kirk Douglas had written an article in which he agreed to endorse any presidential candidate who promise to apologize to African-Americans for the pain they had suffered as a result of slavery. This seemed to be a great idea, particularly in light of Black Lives Matter. I wrote an email to Jeff Weaver about this (I also wrote directly to the campaign), but I heard nothing. Later, I read that Bernie Sanders stated publicly that he would as president apologize for slavery. Yet I can find so trace of anything online to show that Bernie approached Kirk Douglas to get his endorsement! Why wouldn’t he?
Bernie Sanders is going on streaming television on August 24 to launch “Our Revolution.” “If we are successful, what it will mean is that the progressive message and the issues that I campaigned on will be increasingly spread throughout this country,” Sanders told USA Today. “The goal here is to do what I think the Democratic establishment has not been very effective in doing. And that is—at the grassroots level—encourage people to get involved, give them the tools they need to win, help them financially.” But the effort of “Our Revolution” has to be a two-way street. The volunteer members on the ground have to feel that their ideas are being heard, that they are contributing strongly and directly to the effort. Otherwise, “Our Revolution” will drift away into apathy.
Senator Sanders, let’s have a strong movement, with your people in Washington communicating directly to your supporters who want to make “Our Revolution” something unique in American politics.