By Fredo Martin
As of May 10, the California Democratic Presidential primary is only 43 weeks away, on March 3, 2020. When U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) announced his candidacy, a core 2016 Madera Bernie team of volunteers organized online within hours.
The team’s initial meeting involved meaningful discussions about the past three years: reminiscing on the 2016 campaign efforts, detailing activities undertaken since the wrong president took office, expressing frustration with the daily news cycle and reinforcing a commitment to ultimately electing Sanders as President.
Three years ago, the Madera Bernie 2016 team knocked on more than 3,500 doors in the city of Madera during the three months prior to the June 7, 2016, primary. With access to the campaign’s database, equipped with a powerful app that allowed the targeting of homes with Democratic and No Party Preference (NPP) registered voters, the team could effectively gauge the voting tendencies of the local centrists and left-of-center population.
Madera Bernie actively engaged in conversations, registered voters and informed local voters on issues, Sanders’ policy proposals, his personal history and his lifelong dedication to helping working American families, thereby arming them with real information, often debunking the predigested daily spins that were incessantly delivered to them in the media—social or mainstream.
Madera Bernie 2016 involved a core team of a dozen dedicated Berners, with occasional boosts of welcome additions. Whenever available, more local progressively minded dreamers, Democrats or NPP voters came to lend a hand to the canvassing efforts, under the beating and unforgiving sun, in the triple-digit heat of the last 10 weeks before the June 2016 primary. The team got a further boost from eager activists as the election date approached.
The Madera Bernie team started early, well before the official Central Valley Sanders local Fresno office was staffed by paid campaign employees. In fact, early efforts to contact the official campaign were frustrating.
After many failed communications attempts, the campaign eventually met with Madera Bernie and realized the opportunity that the local team was offering the campaign. Soon enough, the Fresno Sanders campaign HQ gave Madera Bernie access to the campaign tool of choice: miniVAN.
That superlative canvassing tool was straightforward: Upon successful login, canvassing routes, or “turfs,” were cut such that while approaching homes on neighborhood walks, registered Democrats or NPP voters appeared on the smartphone apps, based on one’s GPS location, revealing the targets for prospective conversations. It makes sense in a Democratic primary election to talk only to voters who will end up voting in that primary and not spend time talking to GOP voters.
With Madera being a conservative area, it was essential to talk to neighbors who were potentially like-minded voters during the primary cycle, saving time from unfruitful interactions with conservative voters, whose votes would not directly affect the Democratic primary election outcome.
Nevertheless, conversations with conservative neighbors did occur, particularly because Sanders proved far more palatable to some conservatives than other Democratic contenders. Conversations with GOP voters make more sense after the party nomination is determined, but there were many insightful discussions with conservative voters and, surprisingly, more often than one would expect, there was often common ground, particularly around healthcare-related concerns.
What is different for Sanders in 2020? Principally, the 2016 Sanders campaign never really ended after the Philadelphia Democratic Convention nominated his primary opponent to head the Democratic ticket. Sanders supporters remained engaged through November 2016, and the Our Revolution movement, which quickly formed after Trump got elected, was critical in galvanizing a veritable army of volunteers, a vast number of which were Berners.
Berners used that energy to help feed and shape the Blue Wave of 2018 that regained Democratic control of the House of Representatives. Within a few weeks of Sanders announcing “Us not Me,” the vibrant mass of Sanders volunteers has now grown to more than 1 million dedicated enthusiasts nationwide, many of whom live and work in the Central Valley.
To date, Sanders has collected more donations from more people than all the other candidates combined—all of them small donors because, as his campaign mantra clearly states, “They have the money, We have the people!”
Madera Bernie 2020 has been canvassing for two months, sharing Sanders’ policy information, debunking misinformation and registering voters, waiting for the campaign data infrastructure to become available. Volunteers plan to canvass every weekend until the March 2020 California primary.
Elections are all about numbers, so here are some significant data points. There are 40 weeks until the California primary will give the state an opportunity to weigh in heavily on the next Democratic Presidential nominee. Although 40+ weeks might seem like a long time, ponder this: The current president was elected 130 weeks ago and took office 120 weeks ago.
The current administration will be up for grabs in 78 weeks, so the primary is about halfway between now and the Nov. 4, 2020, general election. Time is ticking, and no one wants to regret inaction come November 2020.
Bernie Sanders is a genuine candidate who will faithfully represent Central Valley working families.
Fredo Martin has been a resident of Madera for 19 years. He is a former Assembly District delegate to the California Democratic Party and is the owner of Working Arts, a digital marketing agency. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook/twitter @Cal4Bernie or call 559-296-0702.