BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You

politics

This Is How The Democratic Candidates For President Talk To Progressives

A grassroots progressive group's presidential endorsement process shows of the various pitches Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley are making to the hard left.

Posted on December 9, 2015, at 2:01 p.m. ET

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The three candidates for the Democratic nomination are attempting to win the endorsement from Democracy for America, a progressive grassroots group founded out of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign.

DFA is going to make a primary endorsement soon, and that means leaders from the group are polling its members to find out who they like the most. Whichever Democratic candidate wins the DFA membership vote will get the group's endorsement, as well as grassroots political efforts to bolster that candidates campaign using DFA's well-established national political network.

The Democratic campaigns are pushing to win that vote. And so this week, each candidate is sending a letter to DFA members stating his or her case for the group's endorsement. Members then vote in an online poll running through next Tuesday. Final results will be announced next Thursday.

BuzzFeed News obtained the candidate letters this week. A top aide at DFA said their endorsement program "marks the first time that these candidates are openly competing for the support of members of a grassroots progressive group."

Much of each letter is boilerplate, easily found in the respective candidate's stump speeches or fundraising communications. But there are some key differences, tailored for the liberal audience, that showcase some of the strategy each campaign is using to win over the left.

Hillary Clinton brings in a progressive hero to make her case for her.

Howard Dean founded DFA and is a Clinton supporter. But the group will go its own way on the endorsement — if Sanders gets more votes, he'll get the backing of DFA. But Clinton is taking advantage of the situation. Her letter to DFA members is "forwarded" to them by Dean, who sings her praises.

The email:


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Hillary Clinton & Howard Dean
Subject: Your vote
To: [recipient]

[Recipient] --

As you make your decision about who Democracy for America will endorse to be our next president, I want to share a few words about my choice: Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is the candidate who shares our progressive values on issues like climate change, immigration reform, and LGBT rights -- and she has the experience and ability to turn those values into policies that will help Americans. She has spent her entire career fighting for families, from her first job out of law school helping disabled kids at the Children's Defense Fund to her courageous work standing up for women and girls around the world as First Lady and Secretary of State.

In the 25 years I've known Hillary, I've learned that she has a work ethic that drives her to persist until the job is done and done right. And she has a record in the Senate of successfully working with both sides of our very combative political spectrum in order to accomplish goals that improve the lives of ordinary Americans. I trust her do the same as president.

I trust you, too. I know you'll take this decision as seriously as I have, and I hope that Hillary will be your choice. Click here to vote for Hillary in DFA's 2016 Presidential Endorsement Poll now.

That's enough from me -- read on to see what Hillary has to say about why your vote matters to her. Thanks for your commitment to this process, and to our democracy.

- Howard

Gov. Howard Dean, Founder
Democracy for America

------- Forwarded message --------
FROM: Hillary Clinton
SUBJECT: Your vote

Ashley,

I want to thank you for your involvement in Democracy for America, and for taking the time to be thoughtful and engaged in our democracy. I'm excited for all that we're going to accomplish together during the course of this campaign, and I'm really looking forward to all the good we can do if I'm elected president.

I've said before that I'm a progressive who likes to get things done. So I want to talk to you about the things I'd like to accomplish in the White House.

First, I'll work to make sure all Americans are treated fairly -- no matter what you look like, where you live, or who you love. I'm going to fight hard for racial justice in this country: The first speech of my campaign was about ending mass incarceration, and I want to require body cameras for every police force in America. I support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. I want to make sure everyone earns equal pay -- an issue that disproportionately affects women of color. And I'll work to make sure LGBT Americans finally have equal protection under the law, especially trans Americans, whose needs are too often ignored.

I'm going to raise wages for the middle class. I believe this is the defining challenge of our time. I'm the only Democrat in this race who's pledged not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year, and I have a comprehensive plan to grow small businesses, make health care and college more affordable, and give employees a chance to share in their companies' profits just like shareholders do.

If you agree that we need to strengthen the middle class, stand with me: Ask DFA to endorse me by casting your vote in their 2016 Presidential Endorsement Poll now.

I'll also work to bring the best of American values -- equality, justice, and innovation -- to tackle our biggest global challenges, whether that's climate change or the Syrian refugee crisis. When I was Secretary of State, I brought leaders to the table on issues like girls' education and LGBT rights in countries where those issues had previously been non-starters -- that's how you make progress. I hope to continue that work as president.

Finally, I want to make sure that my term in office would ensure a strong progressive legacy for decades to come. That means appointing the right judges to the Supreme Court and the federal bench, and it means protecting voting rights and overhauling campaign finance law to ensure that people -- not corporations -- are choosing our leaders. I'm going to get corporate money out of our electoral system, even if that means a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

We all know I'm not afraid to go after Republicans when I need to, but I'm also not afraid to roll up my sleeves and do the hard work of getting unlikely allies to join coalitions. I did that as first lady when I fought for the Children's Health Insurance Program (which still covers 8 million kids today), as a senator when I got health care for 9/11 first responders, and as Secretary of State when I convened a global coalition to bring sanctions against Iran.

I take a backseat to no one when you look at my record in standing up and fighting for progressive values. The plans I've outlined above aren't rhetoric; they're a concrete outline of what I will do everything in my power to accomplish if I'm elected president.

If you support the bold vision I've outlined above and you're ready for DFA to join Team Hillary, please cast your vote for me in DFA's Presidential Endorsement Poll today.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to earn your support. I promise that if I'm elected, I'll keep working for it every single day I'm in office.

With deep appreciation,

- Hillary

Bernie Sanders brings the wonkery.

Sanders has drawn huge crowds and millions of dollars in small-dollar donations with his issues-focused, eat-your-vegetables campaign. His stump speech is nearly an hour long (sometimes more) and Sanders is known for filing detailed legislation to show how many of his proposals would work and be paid for. He takes a similar approach in his letter to DFA — it's the longest of the three by a significant margin.

The email:



From: Bernie Sanders
Subject: Let me be very blunt and tell you why I am running
To: [recipient]

[Recipient] --

As I travel across the country, I am constantly struck by the level of enthusiasm to do something about the rising levels of income inequality in this country, providing health care for all Americans, criminal justice reform, and reclaiming our democracy from a billionaire class buying candidates and elections.

This is not a time to think small. What is required in this moment is a political revolution that takes back our democracy from establishment politicians and the billionaire class. But that can only happen if we stand together. If we do, we will win. If we are divided, the big money interests win.

That's why I want to ask for your vote in DFA's endorsement process. Your voice and your vote are critical -- make both of them heard today. It's important.

Elections should be determined by the power of good ideas, not who can hustle the most money from the rich and powerful. They should be about the issues that impact the lives of ordinary Americans — not the day-to-day soap operas of campaign staffers, personal emails or fluctuations in the polls. I know that you agree.

In the meantime, let me be very blunt and tell you why I am running.

This country faces more serious problems today than at any time in modern history, and establishment politics will not successfully resolve them.

Corporate greed is rampant, and the very rich keep growing richer while everyone else grows poorer. Despite an explosion in technology and a huge increase in productivity, the middle class continues to disappear, most Americans work longer hours for lower wages, and 45 million live in poverty.

The skyrocketing level of income and wealth inequality is not only grotesque and immoral, it is economically unsustainable. It is unconscionable that a majority of all new income goes to the top 1%. It is absurd that the top one-tenth of 1% own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, and that one family (the Waltons of Walmart) has more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans.

As a result of the disastrous Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, the billionaire class is spending huge amounts of money to buy candidates and elections. We are now witnessing the undermining of American democracy and the rapid movement toward oligarchy where a handful of very wealthy families and their Super PACs will control our government.

The scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, is caused by human activity, and is already bringing catastrophic damage to our planet. Yet, the Republican Party is prepared to reject science in order to gain campaign contributions from the Koch brothers, Big Energy companies and others who make billions on fossil fuels. If we do not act boldly on climate change, the planet we leave to our grandchildren may be uninhabitable.

The United States once led the world in terms of the percentage of our young people who had college degrees. Today, in a highly competitive global economy, we are now in 12th place. Hundreds of thousands of bright young people have given up on the dream of higher education, while millions of others leave school with oppressive debt.

Our infrastructure -- roads, bridges, rail, airports, water systems, wastewater plants, levees, dams -- is crumbling, and Congress refuses to appropriate anywhere near the necessary funds to rebuild it. If we do not invest substantially in infrastructure, a bad situation will only become much worse.

Despite substantial gains, we still have a long way to go to achieve equality for minorities. Instead of investing in opportunities, we are locking people up at an incredible rate. We now have the highest incarceration rate in the entire world with over 2 million in prison and millions more on probation or parole. We have a broken immigration system that divides families and keeps millions of hard-working people in the shadows.

Most of the major Wall Street financial institutions that we bailed out because they were "too big to fail," are now bigger than they used to be. The six largest financial institutions now have assets equivalent to nearly 60% of our GDP, issue 35% of the mortgages, and oversee 65% of credit cards.

Our tax system is wildly unfair - rigged to benefit the very rich. Major corporations that earn billions in profits stash their money in tax havens and pay nothing in federal income taxes, while billionaire hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than nurses or teachers.

Despite growing poverty among seniors, almost all Republicans, and some Democrats, want to cut Social Security and benefits for disabled veterans. They want more austerity for the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, and more tax breaks for the rich.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. The United States spends more on the military than the next nine biggest-spending countries combined. Today, there are massive cost over-runs with defense contractors and the Pentagon cannot even pass an independent audit.

We are at a moment of truth. We need to face up to the reality of where we are as a nation, and we need a mass movement of people to change that reality.

Let's be clear. This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It's about a grassroots movement of Americans standing up and saying: "Enough is enough. This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires."

If you want Democracy for America to endorse me and the movement we're building, cast your vote in their 2016 Presidential Endorsement Poll now.

I have discussed some of the major crises that we face. Let me give you the outline of an agenda that addresses these problems.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: The truth is that real unemployment in our country is not the "official" and widely-reported 5.4 percent. Counting those who are underemployed and those who have given up looking for work, real unemployment is almost 11 percent. Even more disturbingly, real unemployment for white and Hispanic youth is over 30 percent, while African-American youth unemployment is over 50 percent.

We need a major federal jobs program. The most effective way to do that is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. To do that, I have introduced legislation that would invest $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country's physical infrastructure. This would create and maintain at least 13 million good-paying jobs. It would also make our country more productive, efficient and safe.

As a member of Congress who voted against NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China (PNTR) and is helping to lead the opposition against the TPP, I will continue my opposition to trade policies which have cost us millions of decent paying jobs as corporate America shuts down plants here and moves them to low-wage countries.

Raising Wages: Today, millions of Americans are working for starvation wages and median family income has declined by almost $5,000 since 1999. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is totally inadequate. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage - $15 an hour over the next few years. Our goal must be that no full-time worker in this country lives in poverty. We must also bring about pay equity for women. There is no rational reason why women should be earning 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who perform the same work.

Further, we need to implement "family values" for American working families. It is unacceptable that the United States is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee family and medical leave, sick time and paid vacations.

Wealth and Income Inequality: Today, the richest 400 Americans own over $2.2 trillion in wealth, more than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. Meanwhile, nearly half of all Americans have less than $10,000 in savings and have no idea how they will be able to retire with dignity.

In order to reverse the massive transfer of wealth and income from the middle class to the very rich that we have seen in recent years, we need real tax reform which makes the wealthy and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes. It is fiscally irresponsible that the U.S. Treasury loses about $100 billion a year because corporations and the rich stash their profits in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other tax havens.

We need a tax system that is fair and progressive. Children should not go hungry in this country while profitable corporations and the wealthy avoid their tax responsibilities.

Reforming Wall Street: I have introduced legislation that would break up the largest financial institutions in the country. In my view, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself investing trillions in risky financial instruments. We need banks that invest in the job-creating productive economy. We do not need more speculation and gambling in casino-type activities.

Campaign Finance Reform: We need to return to a one-person, one-vote democracy. It is not acceptable that the Koch brothers and other billionaires are spending endless sums of money to buy elections. I have introduced legislation that would overturn the horrendous Citizens United decision and will only appoint Supreme Court justices who are prepared to do that. We must also demand disclosure of all large campaign contributions. Long term, we need to move to public funding of elections.

Fighting Climate Change: The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good-paying jobs.

Health Care for All: The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance and many more are under-insured. Yet, we continue paying far more per capita for health care than any other nation. The United States must move toward a Medicare-for-All single-payer system.

Gun Violence Prevention: Here is the very sad truth: it is very difficult for the American people to keep up with the mass shootings we seem to see every day in the news. It is long past time for Congress to pass expanded background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. We should ban the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines and close loopholes in our laws that allow stalkers and domestic abusers to buy guns. We should close the "terror gap" so that people on the FBI watch list can't buy guns and we should vastly improve mental health care in this country so that people who need care can get care when they need it, regardless of their level of income. Those are just a few steps, of many, that we should take -- all of which enjoy the support of an overwhelming number of Americans.

Protecting Our Most Vulnerable: Today, the United States has more people living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation, and millions of seniors and people with disabilities struggle to put food on the table because of insufficient Social Security benefits.

In my view, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that no American goes hungry or sleeps on the street. We must also make certain that seniors and people with disabilities can live in dignity. Not only must we vigorously oppose Republican attacks on the social safety net, we must expand benefits for those most in need. That is why I have recently introduced legislation that would extend the solvency of Social Security until 2065, while increasing benefits for those most in need.

Expanding Opportunity and Equality: We need to stop using prisons as a response to poverty. Our criminal justice system needs to be reformed so that we do not continue to house non-violent offenders at huge expense when that money could be used to rebuild communities and create opportunity. We need federal leadership to reform policing in America, to end racial profiling, and to fight the illegal activities of hate groups. We need comprehensive immigration reform that protects families and leads to a responsible and realistic path to citizenship.

Dismantling Structural Racism: Throughout much of our history, the elite in America has divided people along racial lines in an effort to consolidate wealth and power. We need to simultaneously address the structural and institutional racism which exists in this country while at the same time vigorously attacking the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality which is making the very rich much richer, and everyone else - especially the African-American community - much poorer. Meanwhile, too many people of color in this country find themselves subjected to a system that treats citizens who have not committed crimes like criminals. We have more people locked up in jail than any other country on earth. We need to invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration. Finally, no person should have to worry that a routine interaction with law enforcement will end in violence and death. Black lives matter: we must reform our criminal justice system, move away from the militarization of police forces, and invest in community policing.

College for All: The United States must join Germany and many other countries in understanding that investing in our young people's education is investing in the future of our nation. I have introduced legislation to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lowering interest rates on student loans.

War and Peace: I voted against the war in Iraq, and that was the right vote. We must be vigorous in combatting terrorism, but we can't do it alone. We must be part of an international coalition that includes Muslim nations which not only defeats ISIS but which works hard to create conditions for lasting peace. I will vigorously oppose an endless war in the Middle East.

My approach to campaigning is pretty simple and straight-forward. We hold a lot of public meetings in towns that are big and small. People ask questions and make comments. We discuss the important issues facing our country. And that's it. Nothing very fancy. It's called democracy and I like that approach very much. It's something I've done my whole political life.

I hope that you will become part of our campaign team. And I hope that you will cast your vote for our campaign in Democracy for America's endorsement process.

Let us never forget: This country belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.

Sincerely,

Senator Bernie Sanders

Martin O'Malley goes with the progressive bad boy look.

O'Malley's email brings the contrast, and drops the H-bomb.

"I have never represented Wall Street, and I sure as hell won't be taking economic orders from the big banks of Wall Street when I'm in your White House," he writes in a clear shot at Clinton.

"We're not going to make our economy work again for all of us by trying to scrap capitalism and replace it with socialism," he writes later, taking a clear shot at Sanders.

"We must not resort to the worn out politics of the past," he writes, taking a clear shot at both Clinton and Sanders.

The email:


From: Martin O'Malley
Date: Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 5:45 PM
Subject: I am asking for your vote
To: [recipient]

[Recipient,]

My name is Martin O'Malley -- I'm the former Mayor of Baltimore and the former Governor of Maryland. I'm a life-long Democrat who is running for President to rebuild the truth of the American dream that you and I share and to build upon the progress made under President Barack Obama.

With fifteen years of executive experience, I have learned how to be a very effective leader. I have learned how to get things done. In Maryland, I made it easier -- not harder -- for workers to bargain collectively for better wages for all of us. Instead of cutting public education funding, we made our public schools the best public schools in America for five years in a row.

As governor, I brought people together to pass the Dream Act, to pass Marriage Equality, and to pass the most comprehensive gun safety legislation in the nation with background checks and a ban on the sale of combat assault weapons!

As a member of Democracy for America, you are part of an organized, grassroots movement that believes our country best moves forward when progressives are elected up and down the ticket. You grew tired of politicians who talked a big game, but were never able to deliver because they were beholden to powerful special interests.

Talking about progressive ideas on the campaign trail is one thing. Taking action when elected is what really matters, and I have proven that I am able to do so, while achieving progressive results.

Democracy for America represents the best of our Democratic Party -- and that's exactly why I'm asking for your vote in DFA's 2016 Presidential Endorsement Poll.

Over the summer, I put forward 15 goals to rebuild the American Dream. I want to make the option of debt free college a reality within 5 years, expand Social Security, move America forward to a 100% clean electric energy grid by 2050, and create 5 million new jobs along the way.

Nothing you and I care about can be accomplished by words alone. We must take action. We must not resort to the worn out politics of the past. We must find our backbone again to stand up for what is best for our country and what is best for all Americans.

I have never represented Wall Street, and I sure as hell won't be taking economic orders from the big banks of Wall Street when I'm in your White House. And as your President, I will have the independence and the backbone to fight for you: If a bank is too big to fail, too big to jail, and too big to manage, then it's too damn big, and it needs to be broken up before it breaks our national economy once again!

We must also have the courage to put our children's safety and public safety -- each and every day -- ahead of the craven and morally bankrupt interests of the National Rifle Association.

We're not going to make our economy work again for all of us by trying to scrap capitalism and replace it with socialism. Nor are we going to make our economy work by turning a blind eye to criminal behavior on Wall Street, or by taking our orders from the big banks and submitting to the sort of crony capitalism that has wages declining for 70% of us -- creating an economy of the few, by the few, and for the few.

There is a better way. And that is the way forward. We need new leadership that can forge a new consensus to rebuild the American dream.

I know that, if elected, I will be the kind of effective leader who can move us forward together. If you believe that, too, vote for me now in DFA's 2016 Presidential Endorsement Poll.

- Martin

Support our journalism

Help BuzzFeed News reporters expose injustices and keep quality news free.

Start
ADVERTISEMENT