In a display of grassroots might, the Bernie Sanders campaign hosted an estimated 4,700 simultaneous organizing events Saturday and boldly predicted that its candidate would help bring "a wave up and down the Democratic ballot" on Nov. 3, 2020, against President Donald Trump.
"You're not only going to have Sen. Sanders winning the White House," campaign manager Faiz Shakir told a gathering of supporters in Boston, where he and the Vermont senator taped prepared remarks, to be livestreamed at thousands of similar house parties. "My friends, you are going to see a wave — a wave up and down the Democratic ballot. That is what we are fighting for."
Shakir's speech, a bullish overview of what he says is a campaign built to win, reflects a candidate who — months before voting even begins in a primary field of 20 Democratic candidates — has talked freely and with confidence about the general election and what he will do “when we are in the White House.”
"The goal is simple—and that is win. To win," Shakir said once more. “We are building a campaign that is architected from the bottom up but designed to win from the very beginning."
Shakir's boss, taking the mic next, was just as self-assured. "I will need your help the day after the inauguration," Sanders said. "We are going to have to bring millions of people into the political process. And when we do that, we can transform this country in so many respects."
Sanders, 77, is considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, along with former vice president Joe Biden, who jumped into the race Thursday. In his own demonstration of nationwide support, Biden said he raised $6.3 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign — more than Sanders' own $5.9 million. (Biden, however, raised that money from about 97,000 donors, about half as many as Sanders’ total of 225,000.)
Sanders, who took pride in forcing C-SPAN to add a new line to its congressional-record graphics for “independent” when he came to Washington in 1991, still has a complicated relationship with the Democratic Party following the factional nominating process three years ago, and many still doubt that he can unify the primary electorate behind him.
In the fall of 2016, he campaigned across the country for his onetime rival Hillary Clinton, holding 39 rallies in 13 states. Two years later, he traveled to key states on behalf of Democratic candidates, helping the party take back control of the House of Representatives, though at the time he expressed skepticism in the “blue wave” many anticipated in 2018.
Shakir, the campaign manager, said he believes that Sanders' strength in the Democratic primary will be in two "core" constituencies that lie beyond the "traditional Democratic constituency": first, young voters; and second, he said, "what I call the disaffected voter," a category he described as "people who are now independents," "used to vote Democratic," or "who have checked out of the process."
"They are going to be brought back into this campaign," Shakir told the group in Boston. And young people, he predicted, "are going to come out and vote in droves."
Claire Sandberg, the campaign’s national organizing director, called the Saturday organizing event “historic” — the “largest distributed day of action ever in a presidential campaign,” referring to a model of “distributed organizing” that aims to build volunteer networks in areas without official campaign staff.
Sandberg, who also spoke at the pretaped Boston event, said that house parties were scheduled in all 50 states, including at hundreds of college campuses, as well as 30 other countries from Japan to Senegal.
"Many voices will attempt to diminish what we're building here together and argue that our movement has run its course,” Sandberg said. “The reality is that we grow larger every day.”
To ensure that the campaign is able to harness the energy its officials are confident Sanders still inspires — and in a show of organization that it lacked during his first presidential campaign — officials have built a new online app called "Bern."
Through the app, aides said, volunteer leaders ("ambassadors for this campaign") will be encouraged to recruit other volunteers and identify new supporters. The app will also help volunteers help register people to vote, request a Democratic primary ballot, and remind people of voter-registration deadlines in key states.
"A movement that grows is a movement that wins," Shakir said.
Sanders is scheduled to spend Saturday afternoon calling into various house parties, an aide said.
"We talk about us, not me. Because this is a very profound statement," Sanders said. "What does it mean? It's not just a bumper sticker. What it means — and I believe this as someone who's been involved in politics 13 years in the Senate, 16 years in the House — is that no president, not the best intentioned, not the most honest person in the world, no one person can do it alone.
"And remember," Sanders said moments later, pumping his hand in the air. "It's not Bernie! It's us! Don't forget that: Us! Us! Us!"