What’s Next for Bernie’s Revolution?

Bernie Sanders has helped kick open the door for the next generation of change agents, and his “political revolution” is passing the torch forward.


| Winter 2016



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Millions of people are fed up with politics as usual—but can this energy be harnessed into a lasting movement that produces electoral and legislative results?

Photo by Benjamin Kerensa/Flickr

Political campaigns open and break hearts, then disappear. In the end, signs come down, campaign offices empty out, voter and volunteer lists coated with coffee and sweat are shredded. The moment and the movement dissolve.

But in this most unusual election year, Bernie Sanders and his passionate supporters aim to break that pattern. Sanders’s call for a “political revolution” ignited a fierce urgency that had been percolating under the surface of America’s stultifying politics—and initiatives such as Our Revolution and Brand New Congress, and smaller “Berniecrat” clubs and networks sprouting from the grassroots, are carving new pathways for progressive reform. The passion of the post-Bernie movement is undeniable. Within days of Sanders’s first public mention of Our Revolution in late June, 24,000 people expressed interest in joining. The group’s August 24 launch inspired more than 2,600 house parties around the country, and more than 240,000 viewers on Facebook Live alone. Brand New Congress, meanwhile, is touring the country to build support for running more than 400 reform candidates in 2018.

This revolution-in-progress confronts many challenges. Millions of people are fed up with politics as usual—but can this energy be harnessed into a lasting movement that produces electoral and legislative results? How will these efforts relate to a Democratic Party that, despite Sanders’s remarkable campaign, remains wedded to Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and corporate America?

Most important, is there hope for a grand alliance (institutional or strategic) among progressive Democrats, labor, the Green Party, and independent nonpartisan movements, including Black Lives Matter? While maintaining their independence, can these groups, along with Our Revolution and Brand New Congress, work together to produce concrete change?

With a king-sized assist from Sanders, Our Revolution is headed by the Senator’s former campaign manager Jeff Weaver, political director Larry Cohen (former president of the Communications Workers of America), and twenty-seven-year-old executive director Shannon Jackson, who rose from being Bernie’s driver to one of his top campaign aides. The group will draft and support candidates for everything from school boards and city councils to state legislatures and Congress, as well as ballot measures around the country. This electoral thrust will be buttressed by the Sanders Institute, a political education outfit.

But the project stumbled out of the gate. On the eve of its launch, eight of fifteen staffers walked out, protesting the leadership of Weaver, who they say prioritizes raising money from big donors and using television advertising over ground-level organizing.