by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
More than 13 million Americans voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries. And while the Vermont senator didn’t win the nomination, he walked away with a considerable consolation prize: a dedicated army of grassroots supporters that could be a potent force in Democratic politics for years to come.
As the 2018 midterm-election cycle heats up, the effort to transform that army into a force is advancing in fits and starts. It has been more effective at influencing the party rules than at sweeping its preferred candidates into office.
“It’s a little like the Howard Dean movement on steroids,” says Brad Todd, a political strategist who was the lead consultant behind the National Republican Congressional Committee’s strategy to retake the House in 2010. “The story’s been written about the traditional Republican-party leadership being overthrown by Donald Trump. What hasn’t been written as much is the story of the traditional Democratic party run by Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore being overthrown by people who don’t care to call themselves Democrats much.”
In August 2016, in a Burlington, Vt., senior center, Sanders announced plans to convert his campaign into a permanent activist group called “Our Revolution.”