June 9, 2016
Bernie Sanders May Have Lost The Race, But He's Holding The Keys To The Future Of The Democratic Party --- And It Could Make Him The Most Powerful Man In Washington

Bernie Sanders was unable to pull off the frenzied finish he and supporters had hoped to pull him closer to Hillary Clinton and make his case that he is the stronger candidate to represent the Democratic Party, but despite the loss, his campaign may have found something that turns out to be even more valuable --- the roadmap for the future of the Democratic Party.

As the postmortems are written on Sanders' loss, many have pointed to his early missteps in failing to contest Clinton in her strongholds in the Deep South or his inability to reach far enough into her base of non-white, older, and women voters.

But there are also plenty of accomplishments to look to, the biggest perhaps being his grassroots fundraising machine. Bernie Sanders avoided the Super PACs that other candidates used to funnel millions of dollars toward their efforts, instead focusing on small donations from across many different donors. As he famously pointed out in his stump speech, the average donation was just $27.

In nurturing these fundraising efforts, Bernie Sanders was able to build an apparatus that could be used to fund future candidates. As Politico noted back in April, the campaign's list of donors is considered the hottest commodity in Washington right now.
"The post-campaign fate of Sanders' list — his 2016 crown jewel, and the backbone of the Vermont senator's online fundraising juggernaut — is the topic of frequent conversation among operatives working with the Democratic Party committees, down-ballot candidates and a variety of liberal interest groups. Some have already begun strategizing about how to access the list through informal conversations with people close to the Sanders campaign."
There are many different ideas of what Bernie Sanders could do with this valuable tool, which Politico referred to as an "electoral gold mine." There is thought that he could turn it over to Hillary Clinton for use in the general election, but this may not be likely. Howard Dean compiled a similar list in 2004 during his bid for the presidency --- as many credit Dean with creating the blueprint of utilizing online resources to access a huge number of smaller donors that Sanders used to perfection this campaign --- but Dean opted to keep the list in his own hands and send emails on John Kerry's behalf later in the campaign.

But there is growing sentiment that Bernie Sanders could turn in a different direction, using the list itself and in a larger way the enthusiasm he has tapped into among younger voters to create a permanent apparatus to elect progressive candidates.

That may already be happening. The PAC Brand New Congress has emerged as a way to keep the enthusiasm from the Sanders campaign and use it to elect candidates who fit his mold. As GQ noted, there are already targets for the PAC.

"The goal of the group, [spokesman Liam Clive] says, is to elect a spate of progressive candidates to Congress in 2018—replacing the current officeholders in all 435 congressional districts in America, along with the 33 senators up for reelection. Though the group isn't endorsing any candidates this cycle, progressive Democrats are running all across the country: There's Zephyr Teachout in New York, Nevada's Lucy Flores, and Tim Canova, who's challenging Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the primary for Florida's 23rd congressional district. This month, Brand New Congress embarked on a 100-city tour of America to find even more left-wing saviors. More than a thousand people have shown interest in the effort, Clive says, though there are only 100 active volunteers, and they've raised more than $70,000 so far."
For now, Sanders is still using the list for his own campaign. This week he sent an email to followers outlining his plans to continue his fight to the Democratic National Convention this summer, but his days as an active campaigner are likely numbered.
Whatever direction Bernie Sanders decides to take, his future in the Democratic Party --- and in a wider sense, the coming progressive movement --- will likely far outlast his upstart campaign.

[Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images]