I’ve been on extended vacation – practice retirement really – traveling the East Coast, exploring, visiting family and friends. We stopped in Greenville, SC and found the recently opened Bernie headquarters. My wife Gloria and I spent a couple of hours door knocking in the Black community. It was good. People were friendly. Most hadn’t really thought much about the election, several had watched the debate, out of about 12 contacts I’d say, 2 were leaning Bernie. The key issue for most people was health care.
I watched most of the Republican Debate tonight. I was scarily impressed. They were all Bernie Sanders. Like Hillary, they recognize that Bernie has touched the nerve and now they are all like women are more in poverty while the lobbyists and special interests get rich. And it’s all the fault of big government! The banks and the corporations have gotten so big because the government has gotten so big. These people aren’t morons, not even Trump, and we underestimate them at our peril.
I hate to dampen the enthusiasm of the Sanders movement, but we’re (me too) a little bit caught up in the cult of personality. It’s useful, this cult of personality, I get that. People should vote for Bernie because he’s honest, trustworthy, authentic, uncorrupt and all that. But we need to keep our eye on the ball which is the building of a movement.
Bernie could lose the nomination. No one hopes more than I do that he doesn’t lose, but we need to cover out butts. How do we build this movement and keep it going regardless of what happens in either the primary or the general.
From what I’ve seen of the professional campaign, at least in SC, is a rather traditional approach to go after likely primary voters. The two staffers in Greenville are both young and white. Greenville is 30% Black, and Blacks probably make up 70% of the Democratic voters in this red state. I’m hoping they diversify the staff asap.
So it appears that the official campaign will be fairly traditional. It remains to be seen whether this will work for the election or not, but it almost certainly won’t work for the on-going revolution that we need. For that, it’s going to take a serious grass roots effort. We need to organize our neighborhoods. As far as I can tell, despite some inroads into the Black and Latino communities, the campaign as a whole is still pretty white. In our neighborhood organizing we need to prioritize our neighbors of color. If we live in neighborhoods that are mostly white, we might want to choose a more diverse neighborhood to organize.
There’s no short cut to this. We’ve reached the limits of social media, and now we need to go door-to-door. Here’s what I plan to do when I get back to Oakland. Start on my own block, go door-to-door looking for Bernie sympathizers. Keep doing it block by block until I’ve met enough Bernie sympathizers in terms of numbers and diversity who would be willing to meet and talk about the campaign and other issues of concern in the neighborhood. My goal would be about 12 people, half of whom are people of color. I expect this to take about 2 months, going out for a few hours a week. Maybe it can happen more quickly. I would see if one of the people of color would co-lead a pot luck gathering with me. My hope would be that we would keep meeting, that this grouping would be the unit of our part of the revolution. I’m confident this strategy could work in Oakland. How it would translate to other less progressive parts of the country, I don’t know. I’ll keep you posted.
One further note: It would really help if Bernie came out strongly for the debate about Black lives that our Black Lives Matter allies are demanding.