The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book,
My Bernie Journey – A Behind the Scenes Look at the 2016 “Democratic” Primary
The book will be released on August 28.
I have been working on it for over a year and I really believe that it is an accurate portrayal of the disenfranchisement that Sanders and his supporters faced at the hands of the Democratic Party.
It’s a good read, full of the anger, sadness and euphoria that we all experienced as part of Sanders’ historic campaign.
This chapter was a lot of fun to write and I feel strongly that I must use my ability with language to not just deliver the facts, but also to paint elaborate pictures that inspire my readers to continue to take action.
I sincerely hope you find something that you can relate to in my ramblings.
After you finish reading the chapter, scroll down and there will be instructions on how you can obtain a copy of the book at no charge.
There is also an opportunity to be part of the team that gets the book to press.
Lastly, we are about to embark on a 22 city tour, where we will be meeting with amazing revolutionaries whose lives have been forever changed by this movement.
While we are on the road we will be shooting footage that we will be using in a companion documentary.
We feel strongly that these stories must be told so that we can continue our Progressive movement and be all the wiser as we go forward.
You can be part of this road-trip by clicking HERE and then clicking the follow button.
I sincerely promise to do everything in my power to promote this book to anyone and everyone who may help further the truth about the travesty that occurred against our movement during the 2016 “Democratic” Primary as well as to help inspire our path forward.
Please feel free to share this post with anyone whom you think may be interested in this project.
Without further ado, here’s the chapter.
Thank you for taking the time to read and participate.
Chapter 11 – District 5
Our hero and his merry band of misfits go deep into rural Indiana to practice the psychology of paradigm shifting on unsuspecting red-staters who really “love the Second Amendment”
The Bernie Sanders volunteer group I joined in Indiana was small but active. Our number one goal was just to get Bernie’s name out there and to familiarize people with his policies. We’d meet up for planning about every two weeks. It sounds crazy, but a lot of what we would do is just make up signs, put on colorful clothing and go to a busy intersection and smile and wave at people.
These tactics actually worked. People had no idea who Bernie Sanders was and seeing a bunch of people smiling and waving got people to stop and ask. Sanders’ policy position were far superior than any other candidate and his volunteers were incredibly enthused about his candidacy, so once people stopped to talk with us, they were sold on voting for him. I often forget that the average American doesn’t even know what a primary is and they certainly don’t know that they have to vote twice in a Presidential election. Most people don’t even start paying attention until a few weeks before the general election so getting people to show up and vote in a primary that was still six months away was kind of daunting, but we must have done a good job, because Bernie won Indiana, despite the Democratic establishment here pretending like we didn’t even exist.
We were rogue agents, operating in coffee houses, planning strategies to take the state from Hillary Clinton. We knew we had our work cut out for us, so we started working months in advance of our primary. Our team was small, but mighty. The people I worked with on the Indiana campaign are some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. I am still friends with many of them as I write this. Aaron, Greg, Julie and Phil always wore huge smiles and did amazing work organizing our group. None of them ever sought personal credit. They were completely selfless and inspiring. I never quite knew what I would be doing from one moment to the next, but I trusted them to always give me a job that used my abilities. We hosted phone-banking sessions and debate parties. We opened our home for Sanders’ volunteers from all over the state to come celebrate and learn new campaigning techniques. Soon I was teaching impromptu canvassing classes in our living room. I would tell people techniques that I had picked up at canvassing centers around the country (we didn’t have a campaign office in Indiana yet) and they would use these techniques to talk with friends and neighbors.
Pitching a Democratic Socialist in Indiana was not for the feint of heart. This is a state where Donald Trump received three times as many votes as did Bernie and Hillary during the primaries. But by far the greatest challenge we faced was simply getting Bernie Sanders name on the ballot so people could actually vote for him.
One Wednesday I received a text from my friend, Philip Sanders, telling me that there was a meeting that evening. I had a mountain of Bernie work on my desk (I had become a Bernie Sanders blogger and social media promoter in my off hours and this gradually began to eat away most of my time) and the last thing I wanted to do was stop my Bernie-work to go to ANOTHER Bernie meeting, but Philip informed me that someone from the national campaign would be there and that they needed all hands on deck.
At first I thought that our Indy4Bernie group had grown tremendously, but soon came to realize that I was sitting in a room will all of the Bernie groups from the entire state. The national guy began to speak and I kept dozing off. It was completely involuntary. I just could not keep my eyes open. The subject of the meeting was to alert us that there was a major problem with one of the districts that we had to collect signatures in. Apparently in order for Bernie to even appear on the primary ballot and be eligible for voting we had to collect 500 registered voter signatures per district. I had never worked on a Presidential campaign before so this was all new to me.
The reason why there were so many people at our meeting was because the signature collectors from all over the state had come to turn in their signatures. But there was a major problem. District 5 didn’t have their signatures and the deadline for turning them in was fast approaching. Not only did they not have the signatures, but the people who were in charge of collecting them had quit in exasperation, saying that they had been harassed and threatened. They had collected less than 10 signatures.
I snapped from my sleep and raised my hand. “So if we don’t get these 500 signatures in the next few weeks, Bernie’s name won’t even be on the Indiana ballot?” I asked.
“That’s correct.” the national guy informed me.
A man in a suit stood up and said “This district is particularly problematic. It’s a wealthy, all rural Republican area. There is lots of space between the houses and they don’t take kindly to Democrats and they like Socialists even less. Unfortunately they have been informed of our presence and have made a concerted effort to keep us out. We are not allowed on any business properties. In fact some of the local police have threatened to arrest us if we trespass on business property and many of the houses have put up No Trespassing signs. This area is extremely difficult and no one wants to be harassed. Everyone we have put on it has quit.”
“Does Hillary have her signatures from District 5?” I asked.
“Hillary has hundreds of paid workers. Plus she also has the help of the local Democratic Party. So, yes. She is already on the ballot.”
“Oh and there’s something else you should probably know.” the man in the suit said “The county clerk there doesn’t want a Democratic Socialist on the ballot so they will disqualify any signature that isn’t legible and they will disqualify anyone who has moved their residence in the last year and they will look for reasons to disqualify Bernie’s name, so our solution to this is to get three signatures for every one we need, so we need 1500 signatures, so who wants to be in charge of District 5?”
With this he held the clipboard high above his head.
The room went still. As I sat there, hoping, waiting for someone to take charge, I looked at District 5 on the map. It was far away from my home and I had been through there before and on several occasions had been harassed by the police there. The Hamilton County police are legendary in Indiana. They will pretty much harass you just for being from out of town. I could tell you stories about my experiences with them that I probably wouldn’t believe myself if I hadn’t been through them. There was no part of me that wanted to go to District 5 and be harassed and more than likely arrested.
No one raised their hand.
The national guy said “Look, if we don’t get these signatures then Bernie doesn’t win Indiana and it will be really difficult to compete against Clinton if we concede a state before the primaries even begin.”
I raised my hand.
Oh my god!! What had I done?!
I felt sick to my stomach as they explained to me what I would be doing. Honestly this whole campaign was stretching me way past my comfort zone. I was already inundated with so much volunteer work that my business had taken a back seat and I was having a hard time paying my bills. Now I was going back to a place where police had harassed me on multiple occasions. I was absolutely horrified. This would become the central theme in my life over the next year thanks to Bernie Sanders and his amazing campaign.
My fear was quickly cut in half when Cherish Foreman-Davis approached me. We had never met, but she informed me that she lived in that district and would love to help with signature collection. She told me that there was an election coming up that Tuesday in district 5 and that it would be illegal to kick us off the property as it was state owned. The only rule that they could enforce is that we had to stay 50 feet from the entrance.
We put out a call on social media in hopes of finding others to help us with this urgent and pressing matter. One lady, Holly Davis, agreed to meet with us and I also brought my daughter, Chloe, along to help.
We started in, smiling and asking for signatures, but we were met with avoidance and hostility.
“I vote Republican.” a man said to Chloe.
“I don’t vote for communists.” a lady told me.
Several people told us that we shouldn’t be there and that we were violating people’s rights by harassing them when they were trying to vote.
One man who held a high public office came up to me with a group of men and introduced himself directly to me, ignoring the female volunteers. He said
“I love The Constitution and my FAVORITE part of The Constitution is the Second Amendment. Do you get my drift?”
I am pretty sure that he was threatening me, but I simply replied
“I love The Constitution as well and The Constitution says that ALL people have the right to participate in Democracy, so I’m sure you want to sign our ballot initiative.”
He replied “Hell no, I’m not signing that and no one else is going to either. I’ll make sure of that.” and then he and his entourage started greeting voters and pointing at us. People just stormed by us and as we started to speak they would either ignore us completely or say something hateful and continue walking. One man started screaming at us and then one of the “Second Amendment lovers” said that he was going to call the police because we were causing a disturbance.
This was not working out. It was easy to see why the other District 5 volunteers had quit. This was more than frustrating. This was bordering on dangerous.
I wanted the men to believe that we were giving up so I huddled our group off to the side and waited for the men to leave. I told our group that we needed to change up our plan.
“I think I know something that these people hate more than Socialism.” I said “Here’s our new line. ‘Hi! Do you have 30 seconds to help keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?’”
This changed everything!!
“Hi!! Do you have 30 seconds to help keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?” was met almost every time with a hardy laugh and the reply “Well I’ve got all day for that.”
I taught the group that the follow up line was “I know we might differ on some issues, but one of the things I respect most about Republicans is that they believe in Democracy. By signing here you guarantee that Hillary has competition and doesn’t just have the White House handed to her. Let’s work together to make Hillary’s life as difficult as possible.”
Most people would say “I don’t like Socialism, but I agree with you that everyone deserves a chance to run for office and anything that hurts Hillary Clinton is okay by me.”
And they signed…
And they signed..
And they signed.
One thing that really helped us was when the county chair, a young Republican girl, came up to me and said “I don’t agree with your politics, but I admire you for standing out here. I can’t imagine that people have been very welcoming.”
I liked talking with her. We came at everything from opposite viewpoints, which usually makes for interesting conversation, but I also had an ulterior motive. I knew that as long as she was speaking with me, voters would see this and this would give us more credibility. She really liked me as well and kept introducing me to voters as her “Bernie friend”. People looked at her like she should blink twice if she was being held hostage, but they signed, simply because she endorsed us.
Hundreds of people signed!!
Our team stood out there all day and we gathered signatures, but Cherish did not stop there. She continued to push day after day to get the 1500 signatures required. I helped, but Cherish was the real powerhouse. One day I was going from business to business and each time I would go in the shop owner would say “We already kicked the one girl out of here and told her we would call the police if she came back.” Cherish had already been kicked out of every business in District 5. This was inspiring. This was revolutionary. We were not simply signature collectors. We were insurgents, behind enemy lines, facing arrest and bodily harm. The more they resisted the more we persisted.
I remember one signature very clearly. I had been standing out on the street, during an intense snowstorm holding a sign that said
“IF YOU CARE ABOUT DEMOCRACY PLEASE SIGN!!”
No one was stopping their cars. I was cold and feeling ridiculous. Honestly I began to doubt that we were ever going to get the signatures. It felt like the whole town was against us (because in fact they WERE against us). As I lost feeling in my hands, I went inside one of the businesses to order coffee. I sat there drinking coffee with my sign and my clipboard on the table.
A police officer walked up to me.
“What are you wanting me to sign?”
I saw his badge clipped to his belt and replied
“Believe me, you don’t want to sign this. It’s a petition to allow Bernie Sanders to be on the ballot against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primaries.”
At this point a teenage boy came around the corner and said
“Bernie Sanders is awesome, Dad! You should sign it!”
I said nothing. The man and his son sat down at the table with me and ate their food and talked about Socialism. The kid kept saying “But that’s not what Bernie stands for…” and then would go on to straighten his father out on Bernie’s platform. To Dad’s credit, he listened and then he said to me
“Is it okay if I sign it?”
I only got one signature that day, but I needed it so badly. It inspired me to continue to work and it reminded me that you can’t prejudge people. And thanks to the work of Cherish and Holly, we got the signatures required to get Bernie on the ballot here in Indiana.
The county clerk begrudgingly signed off on the signatures and Bernie went on to win Indiana along with 21 other states. Being part of that was one of the greatest accomplishments of my entire life.
I will forever be grateful that I got to be part of such a determined team. The entire town tried to stop us, but in the end our commitment to Bernie was stronger than their will to stop us.
Bernie Sanders made it onto the ballot.
And Bernie Sanders won Indiana.
THAT’S THE CHAPTER – I REALLY HOPE YOU ENJOYED IT!! THERE ARE MANY MORE EXCITING CHAPTERS IN THE FULL VERSION OF THE BOOK.
The video is kind of long.
There was a lot I wanted to fit in.
Here are the bullet points.
If you want an electronic copy of the book, I’ll send you one out absolutely free
Just send an email to
And I’ll get an electronic copy sent out to you as soon as it goes to press on August 28.
If anyone wants to contribute to the publishing costs, they can do so by clicking the link below.
DONATIONS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO RECEIVE THE BOOK!!
There is also an exciting bonus program for founding members.
Anyone who donates $27 or more will be part of The 27 Buck Club.
Those people receive a physical copy of the book, shipped to their home, along with a second book, The Independent Thinker Chronicles.
The Independent Thinker Chronicles is a compilation of articles I wrote while on the road with the campaign.
In addition, anyone in The 27 Buck Club gets their name credited inside the book for being an integral part of getting the book to press.
If joining The 27 Buck Club, please be sure to include the address of where your books are to be shipped.
If no one donates I’ll foot the entire bill for the publishing and I’LL STILL SEND OUT THE FREE COPIES!!
If the crowdfunding is successful and there is any money left over after paying the publishing costs, these proceeds go to pay Ari’s schooling (see video for details).
I wanted to structure this where everyone could get the book without paying for it.
But I also wanted to structure it where there was freedom to participate for those who wanted to and I wanted to reward those people with something exciting.
This is my first time doing crowdfunding and also my first time self-publishing so I hope I did a good job with the structure.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this chapter and I really look forward to getting the book to you.
I’ve spent so much time trying to make it amazing.
I sincerely believe that it is a book that needed to be written and I’m honored to be able to be part of such an incredible movement.
Your friend in Revolution,
Michael E Sparks