[In January 2017], thousands endured a bout of unfriendly weather to vote in their state’s Assembly District Election Meetings, oft-neglected elections that determine who will serve as delegates to the party’s yearly state convention, elect party officers, and represent their communities in the process of shaping the party’s platform.
In counties across the state, from San Luis Obispo to Sacramento, observers noted an unprecedented surge in activity. Where there are typically dozens of participants there were hundreds; extra ballots had to be printed to accommodate the turnout.
“I was in San Luis Obispo where veterans told me usually these elections might have 50 or so people come out,” Jonathan Tasini, a Bernie Sanders surrogate and long-time activist, told me in an email. “There were over 700 people who voted, cars lined the streets as far as the eye could see, the line looped around the union building where the caucus was held and people stood in the rain (in California!) to wait to vote sometimes for maybe an hour.”
The uniquely high turnout, Tasini noted, was “directly related to Bernie people organizing.”
Throughout his insurgent presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders argued forcefully that single-minded runs for the presidency are not sufficient — that there must be a grassroots “political revolution” accompanying any national objectives, and that this revolution must not merely adhere to a pattern of brief mobilization followed by apathy; political movements cannot succeed, he argued, if their activities are restricted by the peaks and valleys of our “quadrennial extravaganzas.”
Sanders supporters and progressive activists have taken this view to heart. After months of organizing and forming “slates” of candidates, former Sanders delegates, union members, and volunteers have turned the enthusiasm sparked by the Vermont senator’s national campaign into victories at the local level — including clean sweeps in many districts — with the ultimate goal of taking over the state party.
“Quite simply, the old guard didn’t expect to be so thoroughly out-organized, and it cost them big time,” notes Ryan Skolnick, who was elected as a delegate over the weekend. “There were around 1100 or so delegate spots…over 600 of them were taken by Bernie Sanders supporters and progressive activists.”
Though such local elections are rarely covered in the mainstream press, the work of activists and organizers in California did not go entirely unnoticed; Sanders applauded their victories in his recent CNN town hall. Also, Our Revolution, the organization set up by Sanders backers and volunteers last year, “sent more than 110,000 emails and 40,000 peer-to-peer text messages in January in an effort to mobilize Democratic voters for California’s local elections.”
But the groundwork for the remarkably successful [January] weekend was ultimately laid not by a prominent political figure or by an influential organization, but by tireless local progressives driven by a desire for systemic change. Read more here.