SFP Book Club: Our Revolution, Chapter Four – How Do You Run a Presidential Campaign?

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Howdy, y'all. Getting a start on this before lunch this time.

Similar to Chapter Three, this chapter comprises a rundown of soon-to-be major players in the presidential campaign. Bernie opens by talking about how he has no idea how to even begin to run a national campaign, only having ever run in the state of Vermont. He acknowledges a great fear that, if he frigs it up, it will be read not as a failure to organize but that "our ideas were rejected and that nobody supported our agenda" (86). This too was a great fear of mine, and it was definitely a contributing factor to my personal going all-in to make sure it didn't fail too catastrophically. He emphasizes a need to remain Bernie throughout the campaign, going so far as to say we "could lose the election, but we wouldn't lose our soul" (86). He stresses the need for an authentic message that drives a campaign, asking "What do you believe? What are you prepared to fight for?" at the end of the section (87).

He pivots into talking about Pope Francis and how inspiring he was to Bernie's campaign. This inspiration is what led to the injection of language of morality into so many of the stump speeches. Bernie goes on to demonstrate:

Is it moral that, when millions of seniors are unable to afford the medicine they needs, the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent? Is it moral that, when we have the highest rates of childhood poverty of almost any major country in the world, the twenty wealthiest people in the country have more wealth than the bottom half of America—160 million people! Is it moral that, when our citizens are working longer hours for lower wages, 52 percent of all new income generated today is going to the top 1 percent? (88-89)

He goes on like this for some time; it's pretty good. He then pivots into strategies on getting these questions and his answers out the people, starting with something we're probably all pretty familiar with: rallies. It should come as no surprise to you that Bernie was very experienced doing rallies and town halls in Vermont, and it should come as no further surprise that he considered them to be a cornerstone of his campaign.

We were going to make rallies and town meetings the central part of our presidential campaign, however, not just because I loved doing them or because I believed that's what democracy was all about. We were going to do a large number of rallies and town meetings because they generated excitement and energy and would win us votes. It was good politics. (90)

Having worked now with some politicians who don't see the value in the rally, I must say that Bernie has a very important point about generating excitement and energy. He then goes on to the issue of staffing and of learning from presidential campaigns past, citing three prominent examples: Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, and Barack Obama. From Reverend Jackson, he pulls the want for a "smart, guerrilla-type campaign" (94). From Dennis, he pulls the building of a "strong grassroots movement" with some advice about "fund-raising, staffing, and transportation" (94). Now, I'll hold a lot of tongue here about what I can estimate Dennis's advice was, but I will say that Dennis was one of the first major successful online fundraisers. Strange that he couldn't parlay that into…anyway, despite not mentioning him previously, he interjects Howard Dean here for the "concept of 'meet-ups' or house parties" as well as online fundraising (94). Lastly, little-known Illinois senator Barack Obama ran a very social media-oriented campaign to some success in 2008.

Now enter we into the part of the book where we list staffers and celebrity supporters. Many of these names are probably familiar to you: Jeff Weaver, Jane O'Meara Sanders, Kenneth Pennington, Hector Sigala, Arun Chaudhary, Jeff Merkley, Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Marcy Kaptur, Peter Welch, Nina Turner, Justin Bamberg, Harry Belafonte, Cornel West, Rosario Dawson, Sarah Silverman, Danny Glover, Mark Ruffalo, Shailene Woodley, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Dick Van Dyke, Killer Mike, Jim Hightower, Seth MacFarlane, George Lopez, Josh Fox, Tim Robbins, RoseAnn DeMoro, Larry Cohen, Tad Devine, and Danny DeVito. He ends with a short synopsis of online fundraising totals, claiming to have raised the "astronomical sum of $ 232 million" through "some 8 million individual contributions from 2.5 million people. The average donation was $ 27" (114).

Boy, I can't wait for this to get through all the stage dressing and start digging into the campaign proper. Feel free to talk about anything I've brought up or anything I've missed in the comments below.

Solidarity, –/u/writingtoss

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