Could Bernie Sanders lead a new political party?

Bold Vision of a Bernie Sanders-Led People’s Party Launched by New Group

A group of former staff and delegates from Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign have joined with hundreds of others this week to launch a campaign called “Draft Bernie For A People’s Party.”

The goal is to convince Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that the Democratic Party is corrupt beyond redemption, and that the creation of a powerful new party is not only possible but one of the best things that could happen for the country and planet right now.

The launch of “Draft Bernie For A People’s Party” is led by Nicholas Brana, former national political outreach coordinator for Bernie 2016.

“People are yearning for something positive and honorable that they can build as their future,” says Brana, adding that the new party intends to capitalize on the desire for progressive change that the Sanders campaign so prodigiously tapped into. “While Trump is busy dividing us, Bernie can continue to do what he did during the campaign—unite us — only this time outside the corporate, neoliberal constraints of the Democratic Party.”

A new People’s Party, with Sanders at the helm, would launch with at least half of the Democratic Party, Brana asserts. Added to that formidable number could be millions of anti-establishment voters, white working class voters, young voters, indigenous communities, LGBTQ communities, third-party voters, people of color, disaffected conservatives who want a just society, and — last but not least — “independents.”

“It’s the independents who hold the keys to all future elections in this country,” says Brana, pointing to the most recent Gallup poll conducted on party identification, which shows an increase in those who identify as independents. The number rose from an already-substantial 36% last November, before the general election, to a whopping 44% in January. Gallup estimates that number will rise to 48% by 2018, and by 2020 cross the 50% threshold. At that point, when Sanders or someone else in a new People’s Party might make a run for the White House, if indeed a majority of voters call themselves independent — the very designation that Sen. Sanders himself has held for most of his career—that candidate could theoretically be well positioned for victory.

“The Time is Ripe”

Brana has worked on Democratic campaigns and on Capitol Hill for years, and he believes the time is ripe for the creation of a progressive party that could overtake the Democratic Party as one half of the two party system. “Bernie has already laid the foundation,” Brana explains. “This is a logical extension of a campaign where millions rose up and, through $27 donations, thrust a man of integrity into the national spotlight and nearly into the White House.” Like the Sanders campaign, the grassroots movement the group envisions will employ social media, appeal to people across the political spectrum, and take no corporate donations. An announcement appearing yesterday on Huffington Post set forth the group’s intentions.

Nicholas Brana, former political outreach coordinator for Bernie 2016 and current director of Draft Bernie for a People’s Party

In addition to Brana, the campaign to Draft Bernie is guided by a twelve-person steering committee. “These are staff and delegates who proved themselves to be incredible organizers at the top of the campaign, be it in field, national or digital coordinating,” Brana says.

Steering committee members include Jonathan H. Martin, a professor at Framingham State University and an expert on third party politics; Paul Todd Fletcher, deputy research director with Bernie 2016; and Carol Ehrle, a public relations expert.

“There is now a majoritarian demand for progressive reform in this country,” says Martin, “particularly on issues of class and economic equality. The level of frustration has grown after the recent recession, and the Sanders campaign of 2016 demonstrated just how many people now feel this way in this country. Many millions of people feel this way. The two major parties have not addressed these issues, and this has opened the door to a movement for a new party. Over the past century the Democratic Party has occasionally supported progressive reform, but it has drifted further and further to the right over the past thirty years to a point now where its rhetoric and its practice have greatly diverged. And efforts to change that have repeatedly failed.”

The steering committee and the supporters it is attracting plan to use petitions, parties, social media, donation pledges, and debates at college campuses in their attempt to grow the Draft Bernie campaign and persuade Sanders to join and start the new party. Dozens of his influential supporters are already working on the campaign, according to Brana.

“We’d like to​ spark a conversation in the movement ​between reforming the Democrats and​ forming a new party,” says Brana. He asserts that even the most optimistic assessment of reforming the Democratic Party with a progressive chair would take thirty years and would involve replacing nearly all the elected state and congressional representatives backed by corporate money, plus hundreds of staff and leaders of the DNC and its affiliates — the DSCC, DCCC, DLCC, DGA, state party chairs, and state central committees. “Even the most progressive candidates for DNC chair haven’t proposed barring party members from accepting large campaign contributions, lobbyist gifts, or closing the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street,” says Brana, suggesting that there is simply too much endemic corruption at the top of the party for true reform ever to take place. While he calls efforts at the local level to take over the party, such as the most recent ADEMS elections in California, “laudable,” Brana says it’s ultimately “disingenuous” to think that such efforts will change anything at the top echelons where power is consolidated at the expense of the state delegations.

“The Lincoln of our Times”

Brana points to US history for inspiration and comparison. The last time a major party was replaced was when Abraham Lincoln’s fledgling Republican Party replaced the Whig Party in under four years, a trajectory that could resemble Bernie Sanders’s rise over these next four years. Brana points out that at that time the country was more sharply divided than it is today. “The issue of slavery was far more divisive than the present-day issues of money in politics, income inequality, and the rest of Bernie’s platform. If Bernie starts a people’s party representing the political views of the majority of the American public, we can replace the Democrats in four years.”

A cover image on the new group’s Facebook page.

In a more detailed essay he published in November, Sanders Can Be the Lincoln of Our Times, Brana lays out the fascinating history of the 1860s and also his vision of Sanders going full circle politically: Sanders began as an independent politician in Burlington, Vt., railing against the excesses of both parties, and it would be a return to his original principles to become the President of the United States in 2020 as a member of an independent party.

The overwhelming response to that original article formed the catalyst and the basis for Draft Bernie for a People’s Party, says Brana.

“Not even Sanders’s help could prevent Trump from winning,” Brana points out. “Not even Sanders’s help could save the Democratic Party establishment from a public desperate for change. With Bernie at the helm, we will be an unstoppable force against Trump’s hateful rhetoric and divisive policies. We will be an unstoppable tidal wave of progressive change. Bernie will be the Lincoln of our times.”

Learn More or Sign Up

Does Bernie Sanders want to join a new party? He’s been enigmatic when directly asked by the media. He might do it next week, he might do it next year. He might be waiting to hear from you and your friends.

If you’re interested in supporting a potential “Lincoln of our times” and supporting an effort to create a new party, visit the new group’s website, DraftBernie.org. The two things the group requests right now:

  1. Sign the petition. This petition will be delivered by hand to Bernie once a “large” number of signatures are gathered.
  2. Make a “conditional pledge.” This is a risk-free pledge to donate to the new party if Bernie Sanders agrees to join. Your donation will not be withdrawn from your account unless and until Sanders officially joins the new party, but the amount at stake, perhaps more than the petition, will indicate the potential strength of the party and movement.