Hello fellow revolutionaries!!
This is a chapter from my new book My Bernie Journey – An Inside Look at the 2016 “Democratic” Primary Through the Eyes of a Bernie Sanders Volunteer. In the book, we discuss en depth what the Progressive movement is all about and why it is alive and well even in the era of Trump’s alt-right fascism.
The book is deeply personal, but everyone who has read it has stated that it echoes their own experiences and has inspired them to increase their activism while bringing them renewed hope.
Right now we all need to band together to take on the corruption, not only in the GOP, but also in the “Democratic” Party that cheated Bernie Sanders out of the nomination in 2016.
I’m incredibly proud of the book. I worked very hard on it for two years and traveled to more than 50 cities, getting down in the trenches to make it real and authentic. It’s funny. It’s sad. And yes, it will make you angry. But more than anything it will remind you that we are actually winning this fight.
After reading the chapter, scroll down to the bottom of this page and you can order a FREE electronic copy of the book. Or if you prefer a signed copy delivered to your door, with a FREE second book, The Independent Thinker Chronicles, there are links for you to order that and I as long as you order before 12/20 it will be delivered by Christmas.
Happy reading!! 🙂
Chapter 18 – The Vermont Bernie Sanders Write-In
In which the author proves his absolute insanity by trying to hack into an exploit in the United States presidential race at the risk of pissing off the very person he is trying to help
Bernie had been very clear about the plan. We all vote for Hillary and then Bernie would use the leveraging power of millions of die-hard supporters to push Clinton to endorse Progressive policies. The plan was simple enough. The problem was that this plan involved Hillary Clinton becoming president and that just seemed too much to bear for people like myself who had given everything to Sanders’ campaign. There had to be a better way.
Many noted that Hillary seemed ill. “Perhaps she will die.” people would say, but then because they were good liberals they would add “Not that I would ever wish death on anyone.” There was also a looming indictment, but none of us really believed that the courts could touch someone so powerful. But there had to be a way. Looking back now I accept that I was simply in denial. But I kept looking. “There has to be a way.” Carrie would catch me saying aloud while I tore through article after article.
Then one day, while traveling, I pulled over to get coffee. While standing in line, reading The Inquisitr, I stumbled across an article by Dawn Papple called Could Just Thousands In Wyoming or Vermont Hold the Key to a Surprise Bernie Sanders Presidency? The article spoke of a ludicrous idea that people had been discussing on Twitter. In a nutshell, the idea was that we could focus in on seven states that allow write-in voting and canvass those states, Sanders could win those states, depriving Trump and Clinton of the 270 electoral votes needed to attain the presidency. This would force the House of Representatives to choose the President, as is the law. In short, there would be a slim chance of a Sanders presidency.
One who is informed on political matters would quickly note that The House was controlled by Republicans and therefore Trump would be the obvious choice between Sanders, Clinton and Trump. This was more than likely true, but my counterpoint was that establishment Republicans hated Trump and that there was a slim chance that some may step out on both sides of the aisle to support Sanders, especially after the Democrats had blackballed him in the primary. Granted this was a Hail Mary, but when that’s all you got, you throw it deep and hope for a miracle.
To Dawn’s credit, she kept her sanity and journalistic integrity. She wrote the article with a whimsical “wouldn’t it be nice” folly. I, on the other hand, being completely desperate and insane, took the words far too seriously and began to research. I started calling into the seven states asking them about their write-in laws. I began reading obscure passages in each state’s law, getting stuck and making phone calls and asking odd questions that no one knew the answers to. I would get referred to someone who had spent their entire life studying voter law, who probably hadn’t been asked a question in twenty years. These people would be so grateful for my query that they would want to talk forever, discussing the finer points of said law and its origins. I did not have that kind of time. “Thanks!! Gotta go!!” I’d say, hanging up and heading off to the next challenge. My desk was a mess of printouts and sketches. I felt like a mad scientist who had discovered time travel and only needed a single equation to bring the whole thing together. Sleep became a distant memory. I researched and researched and researched until it was all very clear.
OH MY GOD!!! WE CAN DO THIS!!!
I’ve spent my entire life intentionally pursuing delusion. I’m not insane. I get it. I know how things work. I know statistical probabilities. But I also know that all great things are done by people who decide to do something that everyone around them thinks is completely crazy. After all, my hero is a man from Vermont who decided to run against the Clinton empire when it had already been preordained that Hillary Clinton was going to be the candidate. Bernie knew that the deck was stacked against him. He ran anyway. And now I’m sitting here writing this book and your life, just like mine, has been forever changed by him making this completely irrational decision.
When I started the Vermont Bernie Sanders Write-In Campaign someone said “This has a one in a million chance of succeeding.”
I replied “The odds of success are actually much lower, but the chances of Sanders becoming president if we don’t try this is actually zero in a million.”
So I got to work. The first thing I did was to write an article about it. I needed every volunteer I could get so I wrote an article that explained every aspect of how the plan would work. I wrote it in a question and answer style that was fairly easy to understand. Sanders’ supporters are generally pretty intelligent and this was necessary as I was attempting to explain a loophole in our electoral process and most Americans have no idea how that process even works. I didn’t either when I started the movement. People think that I’m some sort of expert on politics. Honestly, I don’t know a damned thing. I just have a burning desire for The Truth, so I read a million articles on every subject I’m passionate about. I don’t seek out articles that reinforce what I believe. I am not lured in by this appeal to my ego, nor am I seduced by extreme opinions on an issue. I seek only the illusive reality that can be found only when one is able to anesthetize their confirmation bias and enjoy the pleasant feeling of accepting that they had been previously wrong. For much of humanity’s time here on Earth, those in power kept the serfs ignorant as a means of control. Now, for this brief time in history, we have access to the entire wealth of human knowledge, yet the serfs keep themselves ignorant by diving into toxic rabbit-holes filled with rhetoric and hyperbole. It’s very sad. I suspect if you are reading this, you are as frustrated with this trend as I am.
The article exploded. Its blatant insanity inspired people to action. My email box was overflowing. I simply could not keep up. I live my life by a saying, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” The first mighty force that came to my aid was Shannon Blosser-Salisbury. She became my assistant and quickly recruited others to assist her and just like that, before I knew what was happening, the Vermont Bernie Sanders Write-In Campaign was off and running.
I made several attempts to get phone lists for Vermont so that we would be able to phone-bank into the state. Everyone I asked for assistance with this project told me that I was insane, that only legitimate political campaigns had access to this information and that I was wasting my time trying. This information seemed to be accurate. I was making zero headway and time was the one thing we did not have as we had started our desperate campaign just six weeks before the general election. Finally Shannon had the idea that we would simply call through the Vermont phone-book. I wrote out a script and began training phone-bankers and then heroically, Terje Oseberg came in with the actual phone-bank info for every single person in Vermont!! He even used his own money to pay for it!! Mighty forces were coming to my aid so fast that my head was spinning!!
I had done the math and knew that we needed to convert one out of every four voters that we spoke with. Expecting this kind of result in normal phone-banking is just delusional, but we were calling into Bernie’s backyard. The people of Vermont absolutely love Bernie Sanders. The key was having an effective script. Explaining a plan to usurp the United States general election in just a few seconds in a way that sounded fun and was easy to understand was one of my greatest writing challenges to date. I must have nailed it because we were converting 75% of voters!! Even though we were angry revolutionaries who wanted to right a great wrong perpetrated by the Democratic Party, I knew that the people of Vermont would not want to hear anything like that. Instead we framed it as a “celebration of Sanders lifetime of service to the people of Vermont.”
The people of Vermont loved our idea and most everyone hung up the phone saying that they would write in Sanders name on their ballot. The problem we were running into was that we had to call 625,000 people and we only had about 20 people volunteering to phone-bank. This was incredibly frustrating. I knew that I had built a successful model, but as determined as our volunteers were, we just didn’t have the bodies to make this work. It was at this point that I promised myself that I would build a political organization that was able to generate enough funds to support worthwhile projects in the future. Had I been financially prepared for this opportunity, I could have hired a bunch of kids who needed jobs, paid them $15 an hour, rented a call-center and flooded Vermont. I can tell you with extreme certainty that Bernie Sanders would have won Vermont if only I had had the money to pour into this project. Our phone-bankers were amazing, but we just didn’t have enough of them.
I called every major newspaper in Vermont. My goal was to run full page ads alerting the population of Vermont to our plan, but I simply could not afford it. To run these ads for six weeks would have been about $20,000. I was too proud to crowdfund the project. I was used to paying for everything myself. In retrospect I was just being selfish, letting my pride get in the way like that. I should have open the conduit and let others pool their resources. We would have won Vermont if we could have raised $40,000 dollars. Of course, we know now that it wouldn’t have made any difference. In order for our plan to work, Trump and Hillary would have had to be incredibly close in the electoral college. It wasn’t close at all. Trump won the electoral college handily. Still our movement taught me a lot and I realized that in order to get anything done in politics, great ideas and determination were a great starting point, but in reality, money is required.
For such a small group, we made a lot of noise. We even had people travel to Vermont to canvass. One family came all the way across the country from Colorado, with two small children, and were greeted with smiling faces at nearly every door they knocked on. Vermont resident Claudia Pringles did the same in her own backyard. All reports were that the residents of Vermont were incredibly receptive to our initiative. Phish drummer, Jon Fishman, even wrote an open letter to Vermont residents encouraging them to write-in Bernie Sanders. Before we knew it, Vermont news stations were covering our movement and The Washington Post contacted me and asked me to do an interview on what we were doing. A similar movement even popped up in Utah, as upstart Evan McMullin decided to throw his name in the electoral college lottery by trying to win that state. Another movement, OpDeny270, sprung up to focus on the other six write-in states. It was abundantly clear that the people were not happy with the “choice” between Clinton and Trump and would grasp at any and all attempts to be able to vote for an honest candidate who represented The People.
Just when I thought my Bernie Journey was over, I found myself planning a trip to Vermont to canvass, one last time, for this great man. I scraped together a few hundred dollars and told Carrie and the kids that I was headed off to knock on doors. They had dealt with me darting off to different cities so many times at this point that they didn’t even bat an eye.
But I was scared. One thing that I had been incredibly concerned about during the entire process was the fact that I was trying to get Bernie Sanders elected president, even though he had already stated very clearly that he was endorsing Hillary Clinton. I knew that if we contacted him directly about our movement that he would be forced to denounce it, as per his agreement with the Democratic Party, so basically my goal was to keep it hidden from Bernie until we had already canvassed all 600,000 Vermont residents. In the back of my mind this always nagged at me. What if Bernie didn’t want to be the president any longer? What if he was just exhausted and relieved that he didn’t have to take the job? Would Bernie be angry at me when he learned that I was going against what he had asked me to do? Was I deceiving Bernie Sanders with all my hard work?
In addition to keeping our movement a secret from Bernie, we also needed to keep it a secret from the Democratic Party, who had become well-known for using underhanded tactics against anyone who became a threat to their agenda. Vermont was an easy win for Clinton. What would they try to do to us if they found out we were trying to steal electoral votes from her? As it turned out, we did have a political campaign attack and sabotage us, but it wasn’t the Clinton’s.
I had to get a few things lined up on the home-front before I could head out. It would be two weeks before I could touch down in Vermont. I put out an advertisement looking for a canvassing coordinator to train incoming volunteers until I could get there. This is where the wheels came off the entire operation.
The most qualified applicant was a woman named Lisa (changing her name to protect her). Lisa was not only an experienced canvasser for Bernie Sanders, but had even been canvassing for Jill Stein after Bernie was cheated in the primary. Lisa said that she lived close to the Sanders’ residence and that in Vermont, Bernie and Jane were just normal people. She added that she remembered swimming in their pool when she was a little kid. In retrospect, I should have realized that this was too good to be true, but remember, I was desperate for help and as a result I was really susceptible to believing what I wanted to believe. I forgot to anesthetize my confirmation bias and it cost me dearly. Hiring Lisa proved to be a complete fiasco.
Lisa was supposed to go to college campuses to explain our initiative and recruit canvassers, but instead each day she would tell me about how busy she had been dealing with kids, work, etc.. While I certainly understood how life can place incredible demands on us, I still reminded her that we had to get our canvassers on the ground immediately. She agreed each time and then the following day came at me with a variation on the same excuses. When I told her that I would need to hire a different canvassing coordinator, Lisa told me that her busy schedule wasn’t the real reason why she had been dragging her feet. Lisa told me that the real reason was that she felt like she was betraying her lifetime friends, Bernie and Jane Sanders.
I had to do some deep soul-searching. In my desire to see Sanders elected president I had not only started a major movement behind his back, but now I was asking his friends and neighbors to keep a secret from him. I messaged Lisa back and told her that if Bernie knows then he will have to denounce the movement or risk his position with the Democratic Party. I asked her if she would be willing to compromise and ask Jane Sanders. Lisa agreed and I waited on pins and needles for the entire day. The following morning Lisa messaged me and told me that Jane was incredibly moved by what we were trying to do, but that she wanted us to stop it. Jane said that Bernie didn’t want to be president and pleaded with us to stop doing what we were doing and to “vote for someone who is actually on the ballot.”
I was devastated. I went to our volunteers and told them that I was walking away from the movement. To their credit they told me that they were going ahead without me. I loved them for that, but I simply could not bring myself to force something on Bernie that he didn’t even want. I felt so sick and foolish. I contacted The Washington Post and told them that I was canceling my trip to Vermont. That night I wrote an addendum to the article that had started our movement that simply said that Jane Sanders had asked us to stop and that I would no longer support a movement that went against the wishes of the person it was intending to honor.
The following morning I awoke to chaos. Someone had shown my article to Jane Sanders and Jane had tweeted that my article was a lie. Jane said that no such conversation with Lisa had ever taken place and that she would never advise someone to not vote for Bernie. Also someone sent me a video of Bernie Sanders being asked about our movement and Bernie laughed and said something to the effect that it would probably be okay due to the fact that Vermont only had three electoral votes.
This was incredibly scary. Bernie and Jane knew about our movement and had both given it a pseudo-endorsement. On the other hand, I had spread misinformation about the Jane Sanders. I immediately went into damage control mode. I released a statement saying that the write-in initiative was still in effect and apologized for the confusion I had caused, even though I still really had no idea what was going on.
Sifting through thousands of messages I found a series of screen shots from a conversation that Lisa had had with someone who worked very closely with Jill Stein. I’m not going to say this person’s name either, but the gist of the conversation was that Lisa was supposed to infiltrate our group and convince us to stop our initiative. It turns out that Lisa was telling the truth about one thing. She was a huge fan of Jill Stein. Apparently some of Jill’s loyalists had come up with the naive notion that our progress in Vermont was somehow threatening Jill’s chances of attaining 5% of the nationwide vote. At 5% The Green Party would qualify for federal funding in the next presidential election cycle. Some people, close to Jill Stein, had decided that we were a threat to their federal funding and hatched a plan to sabotage our campaign. If this sounds ridiculous it’s because it absolutely is. Jill Stein was not a serious candidate in the state of Vermont or any other state for that matter, so I have no idea why her people would think that 175,000 votes (our target goal) would affect her either way. While I don’t hold Jill personally responsible for the sabotaging efforts against our campaign, it is hard to believe that she didn’t know about what was happening, considering her proximity to the person who initiated the sabotage.
In the end we didn’t win, but I took some personal satisfaction in the fact that we managed to get more people to write-in Bernie Sanders than all those who voted for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson and the other two small-party candidates combined. Our campaign for a man who wasn’t even on the ballot managed to get three and a half times as many votes as the campaign that attempted to sabotage us.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish something. With a little more time and money, we would have accomplished our goal and Bernie Sanders would have been the first write-in candidate in American history to actually win a state. We were a lot closer to achieving this than most people realize.
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It’s your book.
I’m just the guy who wrote everything down.