Head Of National Nurses Encourages Sanders To Start A People’s Party

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Even if you attended the 4,000-strong Peoples Summit in Chicago on June 9-11 organized by folks from the Bernie Sanders campaign and National Nurses United (NNU), you might have missed the most significant moment of the gathering. It was a seemingly offhand comment made by NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro during the Saturday evening session when Bernie Sanders spoke to an adoring crowd, but a comment that adds kindling to a potential 2020 fire.

The audience in the packed Chicago theater included volunteers for a new effort called Draft Bernie for a People’s Party. They waved Draft Bernie signs and throughout Sanders’ speech, urged him to launch a new party.

The group is made up mainly of young staff and volunteers who worked on the Sanders campaign but were so disillusioned by the Democratic Party that they are determined to start a new one. They are sympathetic to and want to collaborate with the Green Party and other existing third parties, but they want a new, fresh progressive party like the European ones that captured the public imagination and made sweeping gains. While their focus right now is getting Sanders on board, they say they’ll build a People’s Party even if he refuses to join.

At the end of Sanders’ rousing address at the Summit, he was joined on stage by his wife Jane Sanders, whose Sanders Institute was launched this weekend, and by NNU’s RoseAnn DeMoro. DeMoro looked directly at the Draft Bernie people in the audience and grinned. “We’re going to take a few questions but I want to thank all the Draft Bernie people here,” she said.  Then came the zinger. “I’m with you,” she added, as she turned around to look at Bernie and his wife. Then she pivoted back to the audience, “Nurses, are we with them?” As they roared their approval, DeMoro turned to Sanders again. “I always say: ‘heroes aren’t made, they’re cornered.”

“It was amazing,” said Nick Brana, Draft Bernie founder, who was former national political outreach coordinator for Bernie 2016 and former electoral manager for Our Revolution. “We knew that RoseAnn was supportive but had no idea that she would announce that support publicly, on stage, with Bernie Sanders standing next to her and in front of thousands of cheering fans.”

I don’t think most people in the audience realized the potential significance of the DeMoro’s endorsement. Her union has about 150,000 members and spent about $1 million on the Sanders campaign. It’s one of only six national unions that backed Bernie Sanders for president. Under DeMoro’s leadership, the nurses have become heavyweights in the progressive world, championing everything from universal single payer healthcare to a Wall Street tax to pay for free college education.  Just imagine if DeMoro could get her whole union to back a new party, and leverage that to get other unions and progressive institutions on board.

Throughout the summit, speaker after speaker railed against the Democratic Party. TV personality Van Jones trashed Hillary Clinton’s campaign for failing to connect to working-class and minority voters. “Let’s be honest,” Jones shouted. “They took a billion dollars, a billion dollars, a billion dollars, set it on fire, and called it a campaign!” Author Thomas Frank said Democrats signed off on Wall Street bailouts, mass incarceration, and the Iraq War, giving up everything the party supposedly stood for. Former State Senator Nina Turner, who had the crowd on their feet during her entire speech, said the Democrats would have to follow the people to the left, or they’d be left behind.

But criticizing the Democrats and ditching them are two entirely different things. There are certainly sincere leaders still determined to change the party from within. The Summit heard from Congressman Mark Pocan, a progressive champion who was recently elected co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. And most of the Summit was focused on getting more leftist Democrats elected, from former NAACP head Ben Jealous running for Maryland governor to the dozens of attendees running for city councils and state houses.

Getting Bernie Sanders to break with the Democrats is a long, long, long shot. And even if he agreed, creating an effective third party in the US “winner-take-all” electoral system is a treacherous path littered with dead bodies, from Ross Perot’s Americans Elect to the Tony Mazzochi’s US Labor Party.

But for those who see the Democratic Party as unfixable and the existing third parties as ineffective, what have they got to lose?

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK, works with both the Green Party and Progressive Democrats of America

  • I don’t know who I love more: You, RoseAnn or Naomi, Amy or Nina or Margaret (my mom’s name). But those whom I do love above all, are all of us – We the People, who sometimes travel great distances and endure stifling financial difficulties, in order to participate in these Historic Times. Following our Hearts and our ‘Bliss’ (Joe Campbell) – to make the fight for our collective lives, here at this time and space for our home, Mom Earth. The Good Fight is out the door, down the street and to the street corner and protest – with sign and smile, every weekend possible – to meet one another. My gratitude. My love to you and all at Code Pink – you guys and gals would make Picasso, Matisse and Gauguin rise again and reveal on canvas (in our street banners – you bet!), the Goddess in us all. My sign says “Stop Shopping! Honk if you can! lol” Bob. The Reverend and The Church of Stop Shopping – ROCKS! Some very soul-soothin’ – body-shakin’ “Motown Greats” playing in the background! Ciao.

    Go Bernie Green. Go Bernie reformed Dem. Go Bernie whatever happens! We be Jahmin’ with the Benjamin!

  • Jon

    I encourage people to go to gp.org and click on “platform” and you will see the content of a true people’s party. What we need is mass defections from the corporate parties and a surge of independents to join us and overthrowing the monopoly of the two corporate parties. Beyond signing up, we need people to be ACTIVE in the party!

  • Mudge

    Why do people saying “We need a new progressive party” bend over backwards to avoid mentioning the Green Party, which already has ballot access in at least half the states? Do they have any clue what it takes to start a new party, state, by state, from scratch?

  • DHFabian

    By now, it appears to be a lost cause, in terms of building a People’s movement. I read what was hailed as the People’s Agenda, and I wasn’t surprised that it turned out to be a “Some-People’s Agenda.”

    Those who are not on the right were split apart 20-some years ago, and the past eight years confirmed that this is permanent. It’s not just that the Dem voting base was split apart, but those who aren’t on the right wing as well, pitted against each other by class and ideology. While liberals were marching to protect the advantages of the middle class, the overall life expectancy of the US poor fell below that of every developed nation — as a direct result of the policies of the Clinton Democrats.

  • kevinzeese

    What is missing from the People’s Agenda. It is an evolving document so interested to know. https://popularresistance.org/peoplesagenda/ The final point seems to deal with a lot of the issues you comment about on this website. It says:

    Economic Security for All – People should have basic economic security throughout their lives. To end poverty and homelessness and insure economic security throughout life, we urge a guaranteed national income for all, sufficient to meet basic needs. The United States can end poverty for tens of millions by putting in place a basic income which has been supported by economists on the left, right, including libertarians, conservatives and radicals. This will be a supplemental income for many and the only income for others. In retirement we advocate doubling the Social Security payment and paying for it by removing the cap on the Social Security tax and creating a progressive tax for all forms of income including investment income.