Now that I am working to promote the Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka campaign for the Presidency, I think I see some lessons to be learned.
I started on the Bernie Sanders campaign before May, 2015. I know that date, because that is when I started to go to meetings of the “We Want Bernie – Worcester” group.
The Jill Stein campaign, with less than two months to go until the election, is at about the same place as the Sanders’ campaign was 15 months ago. How did this happen?
My conjecture is that there was not such a tough primary contest in the Green Party to cause Jill Stein to gear up back then the way Bernie Sanders did. Moreover, Bernie was getting so much attention, that he sucked all the air out of whatever efforts the Green Party and Jill Stein could have mustered.
Of course, had Bernie not run, there wouldn’t have been 13 million votes cast for him and his platform. So, without Bernie, there would not be any where near as much interest in the platform as there is now.
Here is where we can see some strategic flaws in what Bernie Sanders did. In order to get credibility with Democratic Party voters, he made a promise that he would support the nominee of the party in November no matter who that turned out to be. Without that promise, he undoubtedly felt that he could not be trusted to be an actual Democrat after his years of being an independent who caucused with the Democrats.
Was there another strategy he could have chosen, and how do we know it would have been successful had he chosen it? Donald Trump showed that there was a better strategy, although you could not have known that in advance. Donald Trump made threats of going the third party route if the Republican party did not treat him well. There were efforts from high ranking party members to thwart him, but not the rampant vote rigging, voter suppression, and other shenanigans deployed against Bernie Sanders by the Democratic Party. We now know that Donald Trump actually became the Republican nominee whereas Bernie Sanders failed to get the Democratic nomination. Maybe the Democratic Party “leaders” would have shown some restraint with respect to Bernie Sanders if there were a threat of a third party run hanging over them.
OK, so we see that there probably was a better strategy for Bernie Sanders to have chosen at the outset. However, given that he made the choices that he did, we need to look at the ramifications.
Since Bernie Sanders did not create an escape hatch for himself, and being a man of his word, he has no other choice but to strongly support the Hillary Clinton candidacy. His initial promise prevents him from even hinting that he is not enthusiastic or suggesting his former backers should be switching their support to Jill Stein.
Had Bernie been able to switch his support to a Jill Stein ticket, or perhaps even joined the ticket, or perhaps even headed that ticket (all of which were opportunities that were presented to him), the effort to build a Progressive movement would be light-years ahead of where it is today.
Jill Stein has just announced that she thinks that upping her ground game is very important. She has just hired three people for the entire country to “explode” the size of her ground game less than two months before the election. We former Bernie supporters can see how far behind the curve that this effort is. We can see what the campaign should have been doing for the last 15 months which we were doing when we were on the other team. We can see why this effort didn’t happen.
Some of us were warned by Green Party supporters of past years how hopeless the effort would be when we switched over. I felt there was a certain amount of irony in that these people were deserting the party just at the moment when it had its greatest chance of success.
The lesson is not that they were right, and we were wrong. The lesson to be learned is what we have to continue to do up to November and beyond. We need to infuse the Green Party with the experience of what it takes to attract huge numbers of voters. We need to build the size of the party as much as we can for this election, so that we have some momentum going forward to future elections. We have to try to make sure that this wasn’t the greatest opportunity the party ever had that was muffed because of certain decisions that seemed right under the circumstances.