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The False Narratives Used to Try to Derail Bernie's Army

The most damning criticisms of Our Revolution in a new Politico piece are unquoted and unsourced

(Photo: Alexander Jonesi/cc/flickr)

On Monday, Politico ran a piece on the Bernie Sanders founded organization, Our Revolution, titled “Bernie’s Army in Disarray,” a pre-conceived, yet inevitable narrative that Sanders’ movement is somehow ineffective and failing. The new article, a follow-up to their May 29, 2017 piece “Sanders revolution hits a rough patch,” utilizes anonymous sourcing and various false comparisons to develop an unfavorable narrative to Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution.

Among one of the most reaching pieces of evidence cited by Politico is claiming New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was snubbed in the Our Revolution an endorsement process, omitting the vast political record of Cuomo’s that is entirely antagonistic toward progressive causes and everything Our Revolution and Bernie Sanders is predicated on. Under Cuomo, New York’s legislative government has been paralyzed by the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of rogue Democrats who joined with State Senate Republicans to grant them political control in exchange for perks. Cuomo has fundraised for the conference and enabled its existence.

Our Revolution endorsed Cynthia Nixon, the progressive primary challenger to Cuomo, yet Politico claimed “an aide to her opponent, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who last year was joined by Sanders at an event promoting a state initiative on the senator’s signature issue of free college, said his campaign knew nothing of the process and learned of the endorsement from a press release.” One appearance with Bernie Sanders doesn’t make Cuomo remotely progressive or a supporter of Our Revolution’s cause, nor does Politico acknowledge the enthusiasm or campaign behind Cynthia Nixon’s primary challenge to Cuomo from the left.

The Democratic Primary for Georgia Governor is another baseless claim used by Politico to establish the “disarray” narrative, but again ignores the political differences between the two candidates involved. Stacey Abrams, the Our Revolution and Bernie Sanders endorsed candidate, has called for the Democratic Party to stop abandoning their ideological principles to try to win over Republicans. In contrast, her primary opponent Stacey Evans has focused on appealing to moderate voters.

A fundraising shortfall by Our Revolution in favor of former Virginia Governor candidate Tom Perriello is used to demonstrate the organization’s inability to fundraise from Bernie Sanders’ 2016 lists; a promised $150,000 campaign haul only managed to come up with under $50,000 for the candidate. Omitted is that Tom Perriello, who was also endorsed by Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta, had little name recognition and had difficulty portraying himself as a progressive outsider with a background working in the Obama Administration and Washington DC. It's misleading to attribute a fundraising shortfall for a candidate solely to Our Revolution without addressing the candidate and their campaign itself.

The most damning criticisms of Our Revolution in the Politico piece are unquoted and unsourced. “An organization in disarray,” and “failing in its mission,” are among the characteristics attributed to the organization, though what evidence offered to substantiate such characterizations are downright false or grossly mischaracterized. Its purely speculative how one can look at the popularity of Bernie Sanders and successes progressives have made in pushing the Democratic Party to the left and making formidable to successful challenges in primaries and general elections and conclude Our Revolution’s mission is failing, regardless of the debatable role they’ve played in it.

Our Revolution was not involved in Senator Doug Jones’ win in Alabama last year or Connor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania. The assumption Our Revolution should have openly supported Lamb, Jones, and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, all moderate candidates, make Our Revolution out to be some sort of vehicle for the Democratic Party rather than one in place to transform it into a more progressive and inclusive party.

Anchored with this baseless criticism is one that Our Revolution didn’t endorse Kara Eastman in Nebraska or John Fetterman in Pennsylvania. As Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb serves on the Our Revolution Board, the organization would seem unlikely to intervene in one of the state’s primaries.

In regards to John Fetterman, Our Revolution backed Congressional Candidate Jess King, three state representative candidates and one state senate candidate in Pennsylvania who won their primaries. The organization has put a national spotlight on several candidates in down ballot state representative races who otherwise would be largely ignored outside their respective districts.

Much of Our Revolution’s success has stemmed from supporting local candidates, like Lee Carter in Virginia who unseated one of the state’s top Republicans in November 2017 or Christine Pellegrino, who won a state representative special election in a New York district that widely favored Trump. Many of these victories have received national attention, in part due to Our Revolution’s spotlight of their campaigns and the historic trends such victories point to in progressive candidates winning races that just a few years ago would have been written off as unwinnable for Democrats.

One of the Our Revolution’s early criticisms among progressives was its founding as a 501c4, making it unable legally to coordinate with campaigns. Its recent filing of a PAC to correct this shortcoming was portrayed as a flaw rather than an inherent part of the building process its current President, Nina Turner, had no control over.

Nina Turner’s appointment to President of Our Revolution was widely praised at the time, as she is seen as a leading surrogate of the progressive movement. Throughout her time in the spotlight as a leading progressive voice, she’s inevitably been a target of several smears and criticisms.

Most notably in August 2017, a BuzzFeed article on Turner’s criticism of the DNC preventing her from passing barriers outside the DNC headquarters to deliver a petition incited several Hillary Clinton supporters to add donuts to their Twitter handles in reference to donuts and water that were offered to Turner and supporters instead. Other criticisms have been predicated on racism, with Jeremy Fassler of The Daily Banter cited his visit to a civil rights museum to claim Turner’s protests were “expressing privilege of the worst kind.” Democratic political consultant Sally Albright referred to Turner as “Bernie’s Omarosa,” a claim that is often repeated by progressive critics on Twitter.

The focus in the Politico article of Turner’s attempt to hire Tezlyn Figaro, as Our Revolution Chief of Staff, is an extension of this barrage of criticism toward Turner. A disagreement on a hire is framed as “disarray” among those in the organization, with unsourced claims that Tezlyn Figaro has praised Trump, which Figaro has refuted. Figaro, who served as the National Justice Director for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Campaign, is never mentioned. On Twitter, Figaro criticized the article for never reaching out to her or anyone she’s worked with to defend herself from, cited she has 15 years of experience organizing and working on campaigns, and dispelled a claim she criticized immigrants on Fox News. Figaro also noted she never criticized immigrants whatsoever, and as an Afro-Latino woman was appalled her words were used to sew division.

Support for Bernie Sanders and progressive politics will never translate to ubiquitous uniformity among grassroots activists, elected officials, and organizers. Despite this, the consensus among progressives is far from disarray or an attitude toward Our Revolution that the group is failing.

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Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato is a Florida-based journalist focusing on environmental and civil rights issues.

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