Speaking through live streaming to over 200,000 people across the country, Bernie Sanders launched a new political organization last week called Our Revolution.
Sanders said “Over time, Our Revolution will involve hundreds of thousands of people. These are people who will be fighting at the grassroots level for changes in their local school boards, in their city councils, in their state legislatures and in their representation in Washington.”
Sanders continued “They will be involved in major ballot initiatives dealing with campaign finance issues, environmental issues, healthcare issues, labor issues, gender-related issues and doing all that they can, in every way, to create an America based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”
Our Revolution will work to defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and will play an active role in #Fightfor15, a grassroots movement to guarantee living wages and union rights for all workers in the U.S. It will also join movements for racial justice and immigration rights, for free college tuition and for Medicare for all. It will bring the need for campaign finance reform to the front and center of the national political debate.
Sanders explained that to begin with, Our Revolution is supporting 64 candidates spread across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Forty are running for seats in state legislatures, 11 for city or county offices, 12 for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and one for a seat in the U.S. Senate, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.
Sanders said eventually Our Revolution will support 100 candidates and seven ballot initiatives across the country. The overall goal is “to help develop the next generation of progressive political leaders, empower millions to fight for progressive change and elevate the nation’s overall political consciousness.”
People listened to the Sanders speech at 2,600 “watch events” across the nation.
He emphasized the importance of grassroots movements to support the electoral struggles to defeat right-wing forces. “As I have said a million times, real change never takes place from the top on down. It always takes place from the bottom on up when millions of people come together and demand fundamental change in the country.”
A success in Chicago
At a “watch” gathering in Chicago attended by about 100 people, long time activist Beatrice Lumpkin said that Our Revolution “is a magnificent opportunity to expand the progressive coalition beyond labor and to reach out to important sections of the younger generations.
“Organizing online is very important for any revolution, but in the last analysis, you have to put bodies on the line and boots on the ground.”
The Chicago event took place in Workers United Union Hall and was sponsored by Labor for Bernie and National Nurses United. The meeting itself showed that Our Revolution is already succeeding in one of its goals: bringing together local people, union leaders, office holders and candidates to develop campaigns for progressive change.
Clem Balanoff, Illinois director of the Sanders presidential campaign, emceed the gathering. Among the attendees were Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Illinois State Representative Will Guzzardi, ATU Local 308 President Ken Franklin and Chicago Principals and Administrators Association President Troy LaRaviere.
LaRaviere spoke about the corrupt relationships between elected officials and financial interests, who are cooperating to make the working people of Chicago pay for the costs of corporate giveaways.
He said “In 2018, [Illinois Governor Bruce] Rauner is up for re-election. It is important not just to replace Rauner with a Democratic governor but to replace him with a progressive Democrat!”
Ramirez-Rosa, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, spoke about connections between corporate power and the oppression of migrant workers.
“NAFTA created a system where workers in the fields lost their lands in Mexico,” she explained. “When those workers went North to look for jobs, U.S. businessmen made money off of them because they were put in private, for-profit prisons.
“TPP is NAFTA on steroids,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “If we don’t demand that our congressional delegation and President Obama vote ‘No’ on TPP, this story will become ten times worse.”
She concluded, “Hillary Clinton says that she’s against TPP, but we need to make sure that our congressional delegation hears from us. We need to not just beat [the right wing] in the streets; we need to beat them at the ballot box. We need representatives who put people and planet first, not corporations.”
Our Revolution is organized as a 501(c)(4), which means it can advocate for issues or candidates, but only within certain limits. It will be associated with Sanders’s existing Leadership PAC which can directly support specific candidates and with a 501(c)(3) which will focus on policy studies.
Jeff Weaver will head up Our Revolution and Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America, is chairman of the board.
“All members of the board will be volunteers,” Cohen emphasized. “The board of Our Revolution will be key leaders from the various movements that make up progressive America; for example, from the civil rights and environmental justice movements. Also on the board will be people who are running for office.”
He added, “there will be no contributions from billionaires.”
Throughout his talk, Sanders emphasized that his campaign revealed a deep hunger in the U.S. for far-reaching progressive reforms. He pointed to the hard work of his campaign workers and credited them with winning the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.
“If anybody thinks that document, and what is in that platform, is going to be on a shelf collecting dust, they are sadly mistaken,” said Sanders. “We are going to make that document the blueprint for moving forward in this country.
“We changed the conversation regarding the possibilities of our country. That is what we changed.”