Sanders supporters eagerly await a decision

by Kristin Simons

Image - Nevada Capital News

Carson City – A lot of Democratic presidential nominee hopefuls have announced their candidacies. From Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to Julian Castro to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and most recently Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), an expected field of candidates is taking shape with the notable exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), but even though Sanders has yet to reveal his intentions for 2020, his supporters stand ardently by.

Sanders was the popular and populist contender to be the Democratic presidential nominee, losing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Three years later his supporters still believe he has what it takes to be the next president. Earlier this month, a group called Organizing for Bernie held a nationwide livestreaming event to encourage Sanders to run.

Autumn Zemke was active in the 2016 Sanders campaign and was one of the Bernie supporters to host a recent livestreaming event in Carson City. In 2016, after the primary caucus ended in Nevada and the Sanders campaign left Carson City, Zemke led a group of Sanders supporters in the region to the state and county Democratic Party conventions. Zemke continues to work in support of Bernie Sanders and his policy positions.

“So, it was the petition that Organizing for Bernie put out like, to inspire him to run and then the next step is that we did like a organizer live stream, kind of like what they’re doing now, and then that’s where the ask was like get your people together who support him and the whole point of this is to inspire, one, for him to run, to show him that there is grassroots…,” Zemke said.

Bernie Sanders supporters gather at the home of activist Autumn Zemke in Carson City, Nevada in early January, 2019 for a livestreaming event intended to encourage Bernie Sanders to mount another campaign for president – image – Kristin Simons.

In a year with so many contenders, courting a candidate from 2016 could be seen as a regressive step, although Clinton did run three times before she became the Democratic nominee. While Sanders lost to Clinton, he paved the way for many other progressive leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and started national conversations about how progressive the left could and should be.

Sanders is Zemke’s top pick in large part because his progressive values resonate with her and more, Sanders is willing to start the conversations needed to better educate voters and organize and mobilize the left.

“So, my first choice is Bernie because all of those people are talking about policies that Bernie started, well no, I won’t say started I would say inspired and really drove the conversation forward on,” Zemke said. “So why not just elect that person? Why not just get the person whose inspired all of this? Thousands of people in Northern Nevada to get involved in politics, you know, and work on campaigns and volunteer, that haven’t been ever interested until 2016 happened, so why not just get that? We still have that chance and the thing we were just talking earlier about like age and how we have ageism because he’s old we also have ageism because somebody is too young. It shouldn’t be about that, it shouldn’t be about personality. It shouldn’t be about age. It shouldn’t be about anything besides what policy they support and their record and that’s why he’s my first choice. He’ll run and we’ll see”

Zemke still supports all the candidates throwing their hats into the ring because it creates a stronger democratic system.

“I also support, like, all of those other people stepping into the race because I believe so strongly in democracy…,” Zemke said. “And then if he doesn’t get through the primary, then he wasn’t the best candidate, like you have to work and if, if, I will say with a big if, if the system is fair for each candidate.”

The next step after this live stream is to keep preparing (and hoping) for his announcement. Zemke said the next steps are preparing and getting organized for when and if the paid staff comes in.

Time is of the essence for campaign announcements. Zemke said she believes that one of the missteps from the 2016 campaign was the late announcement.

” I think it really is important that he announces, sooner rather than late,” Zemke said. “I think that’s one of the mistakes that they made in 2016. I mean of course, he announced in 2015, but it wasn’t until the summer and so like we’re already so close to the first caucuses and you know, we’re third in the west, or you know, third in the nation, first in the West. So it’s really important we know what we’re doing to build up a team…”

At the end of the livestreaming event, people on screen went into detail about what the next steps will be guided by the leader of the event who had prepared materials to support the conversation.  The conversation continued for some time  while Sanders supporters at Zemke’s house sussed out many of their thoughts on the Democratic party, getting young voters to participate in politics and what their strategy will be for the upcoming election.

There were conversations on how the Clintons re-shaped the Democratic party for the worse and how Sanders is Democrat enough to run as one, despite what people said.

In Reno, former Sanders campaign intern Zachary Khan also hosted a Sanders livestreaming event. Khan is a former intern for the Sanders 2016 campaign and said Sanders running again seems plausible.

“I think Bernie will run,” Khan wrote in an e-mail. “From the whispers of former staffers to the news articles I’ve read about recruiting digital teams, I think there’s a solid chance. If Bernie doesn’t run, I’ll have to make a tough decision between Tulsi Gabbard and Elizabeth Warren.”

Sanders is Khan’s first choice because of his of his track record and policies.

“Bernie is still the only candidate that takes absolutely no corporate money for his campaigns,” Khan wrote. “They are entirely grassroots and people powered. His policies are also the most beneficial to the American people, including Medicare for All, Tuition-Free College, and the infrastructure program to rebuild our nations crumbling roads, dams, and bridges.”

Will Bernie Sanders run again? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, there are plenty of supporters waiting in the wings for their cue.

Correction for paragraph 3: the initial version of this report stated that Bernie Sanders conceded Nevada primary, but he did not concede the primary at that point.  Actually the Sanders campaign staff left Carson City, and Autumn Zemke became one of the leaders of the group at that time.