Bernie Sanders asked his supporters to run for local office or volunteer to help in local campaigns, and they responded. The Sanders campaign reports that roughly 6,700 have expressed interest in running at the local level, another 4,000 or so say they want to volunteer.
Some commentators expected Sanders to concede the race to Hillary Clinton in his Internet rally on Thursday. He didn’t. In fact, the senator from Vermont had a few criticisms of the Democratic party and made almost no mention of Clinton at all. Instead, Sanders kept to the same message he had throughout his campaign about fighting for working class Americans through progressive reforms, but he also added a new call to action – for supporters to start their own campaigns.
In the process, Sanders criticized the Democratic party for turning “its back on dozens of states,” explaining that about 900 legislative seats had been lost to Republicans since 2009. There are 31 states where the Republicans control the state-legislatures, and 23 states where Republicans hold both the governorship and the legislature. Likewise, there were many races that were going uncontested by Democratic candidates. The Vermont senator said, “the Democratic Party needs a 50-state strategy.”
“We may not win in every state tomorrow, but we will never win unless we recruit good candidates. We must provide resources to those states which have so long been ignored. Most importantly, we need leadership that is prepared to open its doors… to young people.”
According to Politico, the current DNC leadership and Hillary Clinton have used down-ticket Democrats to avoid campaign finance rules this election season. The Hillary Victory Fund, supposedly a joint fundraising committee, raised roughly $61 million when Politico released its report, but only one percent went to down ticket Democrats. The rest went to the DNC and Clinton’s campaign efforts.
The Bernie Sanders campaign called it money laundering, and some local parties could have been left at a disadvantage because of the committee. Local officials said they feared reprisal from the national party if they spoke up.
Sanders’ movement is presenting a different vision of local politics. The senator said in a release it’s part of transforming the country.
“I have no doubt that with the energy and enthusiasm our campaign has shown that we can win significant numbers of local and state elections if people are prepared to become involved. This will be part of transforming our country from the bottom on up.”
Sanders added that the response from his supporters was “extraordinary.”
In the meantime, Sanders has yet to concede the race. Although the nomination will almost certainly go to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders hopes to get some of his most pressing campaign positions on the party’s platform, like a higher minimum wage and tuition-free public colleges.
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]