Campaign veterans and progressive allies of Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 Democratic presidential run gathered on a livestream late Tuesday to announce the formation of a new political action committee with the goal of advancing the struggle for Medicare for All, student debt cancellation, and the Green New Deal—longstanding priorities that have taken on new urgency in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're all disappointed that Bernie is no longer an active candidate, we have to pick up the ball. We have to continue to convince people that it matters to vote for Bernie."
—Larry Cohen, Our Revolution
The short-term objective of the Once Again PAC is to help Sanders win enough delegates in upcoming primary contests to exert influence over the Democratic Party rules and platform at the convention in August.
"Most importantly, if Bernie's [delegate] total goes over 1,200, we will have over 25% of the key standing committees: rules and platform," said Larry Cohen, board chair of advocacy group Our Revolution. "The rules committee matters because we want to at least continue the reforms we enacted between 2016 and 2018 that eliminated superdelegates' role on the first ballot."
Cohen said Sanders allies "want to fight to get in the platform Medicare for All, ending fracking, decent immigration, and many other issues." Under current party rules, reaching the 25% threshold would allow Sanders delegates to introduce minority resolutions on the floor of the Democratic convention, giving progressives leverage over platform negotiations.
"We're all disappointed that Bernie is no longer an active candidate, we have to pick up the ball," said Cohen. "We have to continue to convince people that it matters to vote for Bernie."
Sanders suspended his campaign on April 8 but said he intends to stay on the ballot in remaining states to continue adding to his delegate total, which currently stands at 984.
On Tuesday night, as Common Dreams reported, a federal judge ordered New York election officials to restore Sanders and other candidates to the state's Democratic presidential primary ballot after the Board of Elections voted last month to remove them.
The ruling, which New York election officials may appeal, represented a tentative victory in the effort to send as many Sanders delegates as possible to the Democratic convention.
Activist Linda Sarsour, an adviser to Once Again PAC, emphasized Tuesday night that more than 20 states have yet to vote in the Democratic primary.
"We can't continue the nihilistic Trump policy of grotesque transfers of wealth from the working and middle class to the 1%... We also can't go back to the centrist inertia of the Obama-Biden era."
—Winnie Wong, People for Bernie
"The movement is still here," said Sarsour. "Senator Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign but you can't suspend a revolution. We have a lot of work to do."
Sarsour acknowledged the demoralization many Sanders supporters felt after the senator suspended his campaign and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination but said the fight for progressive priorities must continue for the sake of vulnerable communities across the nation.
"I was disappointed too, but I'm an organizer," said Sarsour. "I'm an activist just like many of you are. And I know that this work was never going to begin with Senator Sanders and it was never going to end with Senator Sanders."
The Once Again PAC was founded by several supporters of Sanders and advisers to the senator's 2020 campaign, including Winnie Wong, Claire Sandberg, RootsAction.org co-founder Norman Solomon, and others.
According to Once Again's website, the group's platform features four major progressive priorities: Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, cancellation of all student debt, and ending U.S. wars overseas.
Wong, co-founder of advocacy group People for Bernie, said Tuesday that if Democrats want to take back the presidency in 2020 and "end the Trump nightmare," they must "rally around a truly progressive platform that doesn't capitulate to Wall Street elites or corporate lobbyists but puts working people and their health at the center of a visionary political platform."
"America is at an inflection point, and the people of this country have a crucial choice to make," said Wong. "We can't continue the nihilistic Trump policy of grotesque transfers of wealth from the working and middle class to the 1%... We also can't go back to the centrist inertia of the Obama-Biden era that exacerbated so many of the preexisting social and economic problems that continue to haunt the country."