Erik Forman
Apr 8, 2016 · 6 min read
Photo credit: ERIC TADSEN

Sign on to the letter here.

Dear Bernie,

We are amongst the millions of donors and hundreds of thousands of activists who have pushed your campaign forward against seemingly unbeatable odds. What can we say? We love you. Some of us have felt this way for years, as we watched your long march from maverick Mayor of Burlington, VT to solo socialist in the US Senate. Some of us were only more recently smitten by your bolt-from-the-blue presidential campaign, which has injected life and hope, and a small bird, into the lifeless and hopeless American political landscape. This is a happy moment for our relationship. We are slowly turning the tide against the liberal machine in the primaries, riding high on a surge of popular support.

Things are good right now in the campaign, but we want to talk about the future. We want something long-term, we want to make something together that is built to last. We want to talk about how we can turn this moment into a movement.

This is a hard conversation for many of us to have. We’ve been hurt before. Many of us have developed a deep and healthy mistrust in electoral politics, moving to workplace and community organizing to build popular power. There is a reason for this. Many of us poured our hearts into the presidential bids of the Rainbow Coalition, or the long-shot campaigns of Ralph Nader and other Green Party candidates. Many of us turned out to put Obama in the White House on the backs of what was until then the largest grassroots mobilization in a presidential election in history. Whether they won or lost, all of these electoral campaigns left little behind but broken hearts, and in the most recent and notable case, broken promises. On a deeper level, we feel that the changes we seek cannot simply be voted into existence- we want to bring participatory democracy to life in all spheres of society. For many of us, participation in electoral politics feels like an abusive relationship.

We want this time to be different. Let’s build something real together. Let’s make not just a political revolution, but a social and economic revolution by building not just a campaign for president, but a lasting movement.

We thought of four ways that our relationship could go to the next level:

1. Build our own lists. The conflict with the DNC and NGP-VAN shows us that we can’t trust the Democratic Party machine with our organizing infrastructure. We need our own membership lists that they don’t control.

2. Let us become members and organizers. Change will not happen with one election or one politician. We need a social movement. Social movements are made up not of one politician speaking out on stage against the establishment- but of millions of individuals standing up and working together. Create a pathway to membership in your campaign, which would bring with it more responsibility and a long-term commitment. If your five million donors became members, we would be larger than any labor union in the United States and on par with the NRA, which has more effectively held a gun to the head of the government than any political organization in US history. If we provide training to help members become organizers, there is no reason why we couldn’t double or triple the size of your base, large enough to make the political revolution permanent and pervasive– and extend it into workplaces and communities as an economic and social revolution.

3. Practice democracy. What sets your campaign apart is the promise of democracy. Let’s make that promise real inside the campaign. Allow us to become not just donors, voters, or consumers of Bernie, but producers of this political revolution. Formalize a democratic process for campaign members to decide on campaign planks and plan actions. This will allow you to outflank Hillary’s latest gambit to market herself as the “intersectional” candidate by giving an open invitation to labor, racial justice, feminist, environmental, LGBTQ, anti-war, and other social movements to become not just talking points or staff positions, but full coalition partners in the campaign. It will also reassure those of us who have been hurt by politicians in the past that this will remain a relationship of equals, and you won’t forget about us when we get you elected. And it will help turn the political revolution into a revolution of everyday life- where democracy becomes something we practice every day in our neighborhoods, workplaces, unions, and community organizations, not just every few years at the ballot box.

4. Take the fight local. You’re a fighter. That’s what we love about you. Let’s commit to staying in the fight together, making global change through local organizing. Whether we get you elected or not, the struggle will only have just begun. If you are in office, you will need a massive grassroots apparatus to unseat Republicans and pressure or remove moderate Democrats to see through the political revolution, and extend it into an economic and social revolution. If the centrist machine steals the election, then we can work together to pressure the government for our demands directly or elect democratic socialist representatives at lower levels of government. And no matter who wins the election, we need to organize for change in our workplaces and communities — making a political, economic, and social revolution through organizing at the local level. So let’s keep the campaign offices open (as many as we can afford to, at least) after the election, and turn them into hubs for organizing. If we build an organization capable of campaigning beyond the election cycle, and in workplaces and communities as well as in the political sphere, we can’t lose.

What do you say, Bernie? Can we make this work? The last year has been magical. Let’s keep the magic alive, let’s give our campaign a future we can believe in.


your supporters

[to sign on to the Love Letter to Bernie, add your name via this form]

Organizational affiliations listed for identification purposes only.

Erik Forman, UFT & Movement of Rank-and-File Educators

Caleb-Michael Files, digital strategist, the People for Bernie Sanders

Jesse Alexander Meyerson, Grasping at the Root

Sarah Hughes, Murphy Institute

Dominic Leppla, teacher/researcher & IWW

Eli Friedman, Cornell University

Louis Guida, Union Organizer

Leah Feder, Murphy Institute

Noam Chomsky

James Cersonsky, Intern Worker Alliance

Jamie McCallum, Vermont Workers Center

Rinzin Wangmo, CUNY

Bill Zoda, PASNAP

Megan Erickson, NYC Public School Teacher

Michal Rozworski, Toronto, Canada

Winnie Wong, Co-Founder, People For Bernie

Kamil Ahsan, University of Chicago

Nick Orloff, CSU Chico

Moumita Ahmed, Co-Founder, Millennials for Bernie Sanders

Colin Kinniburgh, Dissent magazine

Clayton Dewey

Lina Nasr, York University

Edward Scanlon

Brianna Burton, IWW

Nisse Greenberg

Benjamin L. Forman

Adam Cornford

Eva Lewis, No More Deaths

Irene Arellano, Penn State Center for Labor & Global Workers’ Rights

Beka Economopoulos, Not An Alternative

Peter Hogness, former newspaper editor, PSC/CUNY (AFT Local 2334)

Chad Perkins, CWA

Abigail Parrish, IWW

Kianoosh Asar, George Mason University

Alexandra Thebert

Cassie Warholm-Wohlenhaus

Rebecca Reynolds

Clayton Beverly, Albuquerque Teachers Federation & Albuquerque Caucus of Rank and File Educators

Michael Gould-Wartofsky, Graduate Student Organizing Committee (UAW Local 2110)*

Aleksandr Revzin

Daniel Sadowsky

Joseph van der Naald, IWW

Will Henry Lapinel, IWW, General Union of SDSU

Aisha Ahmad

Evan Mitchell, urban planner

Daniel Gutérrez, former Head Steward UAW Local 2865Rachel Swaner, New York University

Fhar Miess, District of Columbia Bicycle Messenger Association

Paulina Pawlica, Yale University

Julie Wilson, Allegheny College

John Choe

Don Raskopf, New Yorkers Against Fracking

J. B. Mack

Ke’ Chingaos, Elotero

Joe Tompkins, Allegheny College

Jason Boughton, Pittsburgh, PA

Erika Grohoski Peralta, Co-Founder of Miami for Bernie, Founder of the Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade

Rev. Duane Clinker, clergy and former union/community organizer

William Ladd

Steve Abraham

Peter Brogan, National Union of Healthcare Workers*

Chelsea Harris, IWW

Mike Ballard Australian Labor Party and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (retired members division, Western Australia)

Katrina Forman

Michael Reagan, UAW 4121

Nick Adams, Ph.D. — Founder & Director of Goodly Labs

Jacob T. Lang, St. Mary’s County Public School teacher, Community Organizer.

Felipe Vara de Rey, filmmaker

Rahula Janowski, Catalyst Project

AmyBeth Willis

Kevin Cashman, IFPTE Local 70, IWW

Carle Brinkman

Rachel J. Chapman, Teaching Fellow, City University of New York

Raechel Tiffe, Merrimack College

[to sign on to the Love Letter to Bernie, add your name via this form]

(*For identification purposes only)

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