I attended a watch party Wednesday evening and I was underwhelmed. Already people were comparing notes and asking question whether or not Our Revolution would live up the name. Seems we were not alone.
Adam Gabbatt, reporting in Is Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution over before it even began? for The Guardian writes:
The next phase of Bernie Sanders’ political revolution had not begun before it began to unravel. Just days before Wednesday’s launch of Our Revolution, an organisation which aims to build on the momentum of the senator’s Democratic primary campaign, more than half of its staff resigned.
This was not a case of a few volunteers deciding they didn’t have the time to work towards a revolution. This was core staff members in key positions deciding Our Revolution was doomed to failure. Eight people quit – from a staff of 15. The entire organising department went. The digital director, Kenneth Pennington, went too.
For an organisation aiming to organise grassroots volunteers through digital media, this was quite a blow. It landed after Jeff Weaver, who managed Sanders’ primary campaign, was appointed president of the group.
Under the stewardship of Weaver—who has worked on Sanders campaigns for three decades—the Vermont senator won more than 13 million votes, proving an unlikely challenger to the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton. But even as Sanders was riding a wave of activism and involvement not seen for decades, dissatisfaction with Weaver was spreading.
Younger Sanders staff members were critical of money spent on television ads, funds they felt would be better spent on outreach. Grassroots activists spoke of a lack of coordination between the campaign and volunteers on the ground.
Claire Sandberg, until this week organising director at Our Revolution, was among the most vocal critics. “I left and others left because we were alarmed that Jeff would mismanage this organization as he mismanaged the campaign,” she told the New York Times.
Sandberg said she was concerned about how Our Revolution would raise and spend money, fearing the group would “betray its core purpose by accepting money from billionaires and not remaining grassroots funded and ploughing that billionaire cash into TV instead of investing it in building a genuine movement”.
An anonymous staff member told Politico they joined Our Revolution after promises from Sanders and his wife Jane Sanders—chair of Our Revolution’s board—that Weaver would not be involved.
Weaver’s appointment was not the only thing to turn activists away. Our Revolution has been registered as a 501(c)4 organisation, which means it is able to accept large donations from anonymous donors. Given that a large part of the senator’s appeal in the primary lay in his criticism of the acceptance of anonymous money in politics, this is anathema to many Sanders supporters.
Furthermore, the group is being run by two white men: Weaver and executive director Shannon Jackson. This is worrying to some supporters, given Sanders’ struggle to appeal to minorities. One source close to the project, from a minority background, said they had “concerns about how are these two people qualified to do the kind of work that needs to be done to organise people of color”.
There are also questions over what Our Revolution will actually do. On Wednesday Sanders spoke for 40 minutes. He spent 30 minutes heralding the success of his presidential campaign. Beyond listing the candidates and issues on which he said Our Revolution would focus, operational details were scarce.
Lack of focus is precisely he single greatest flaw in progressive politics.
I saw this even in our smallish group at the watch party Wednesday evening. People were listening intently to see if Bernie would hit their particular hot button or not. Republicans are focused on one goal (despite all the noise about family values, stopping abortions, LGBTQ rights, &c.) and that goal is to become wealthy. Nothing else matter for the people making the decisions, full stop.
Progressives, as I often do, can talk about the broad umbrella of Social Justice and Advocacy, but no one is interested in broad umbrellas. We’re like a family members facing the fatal illnesses of a loved one. We don’t give a flying fuck about financing for all fatal illnesses, we want to know how much money is being spent on our fatal illness.
I don’t know how to fix this. Maybe there is no fix. Maybe the fatal flaw really is fatal.