On June 19, Sanders took part in an Ask Me Anything session on the subreddit, an indication that his campaign is well aware of the importance the digital groups still have. “Some of the grassroots love that we had in 2016 has become more of an official campaign tool, and a lot of the people who had previously been volunteers now work for the campaign or work for companies that now work for the campaign,” Fredrick, who is still one of the subreddit’s moderators, said.
The digital strategy group Middle Seat, which is working for Beto O’Rourke’s campaign, was founded by former Sanders campaign aides, and it has absorbed some of Sanders’s digital grassroots supporters, including co-founders of Millennials for Bernie and the subreddit.
And as demonstrated with the #NoMiddleGround effort in June, Sanders still has an army of volunteer supporters who spend their time promoting his campaign everywhere — on Facebook and Twitter, on Reddit, through Slack, and, of course, on the ground. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel this time,” David Fredrick, who co-created the influential Sanders for President subreddit in 2013, told Recode.
The money politicians raise through digital they can then use for television ads, which, while less targeted, may be more successful in reaching and persuading broad swaths of voters — it’s harder to skip over a TV commercial than an online video. “Most of this is about is connecting with the preexisting base,” Daniel Kreiss, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism, said. “I do not think anyone who is not already in love with Bernie Sanders is going to tune in to watch Bernie Sanders live.
For Sanders’s second presidential run, his official campaign has hired some key volunteers and media experts who worked online to help propel his 2016 bid forward. “Instead of telling people what they can do for Bernie grassroots, they’re telling people: here’s a job application,” Adriel Hampton, a progressive political strategist, told Recode.
Some members are regular Bernie supporters; others are administrators of relatively prominent pro-Sanders social media properties, including People for Bernie, Digital Left, Silvers for Sanders, and the Sanders for President subreddit.
Obviously, Trump can help stimulate this with millions of dollars in advertising spending,” Josh Canter, a Republican strategist at the communications group Harris Media, said. “But if the Sanders campaign can tap into their own energy and help connect supporters, they can help close the gap.
In some ways, Sanders’s campaign, including his digital and media strategy, is similar to Trump’s. “Both Sanders and Trump have a base that is energetic and eager to share their campaign messages.
On Thursday, the day Sanders will participate in the first round of Democratic debates, the Sanders campaign is launching a Twitch channel, and it’s planning recurring a “Bernie TV”-style rollout of live videos on Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube, in which Sanders and staffers will discuss the news of the day and provide campaign updates.
Sanders may have lost the Democratic nomination in 2016, but his campaign’s online savvy was on par with that of Donald Trump, who harnessed populist support on social media (not to mention an assist from Russia) to help catapult himself to the White House.
The point is to help supporters spread the word about Sanders and relay information to the campaign. (Some people have complained that the app feels a bit invasive and creepy, though it’s using data that is mostly publicly available.
One downside to Bernie’s digital army is that some of its members have developed a reputation for being abusive online to people who disagree with their candidate’s stances or campaign. “The internet can be the most powerful political tool ever imagined,” Adam Parkhomenko, the former national field director for the DNC, told Recode. “But it can also really hurt you.
Strategists and experts I spoke with were split over whether Sanders’s digital strength in the 2020 primary would matter much in the general election, because at that point, the entire Democratic establishment, presumably, will be behind whoever the nominee is. “The Democratic nominee will have 20 campaigns’ worth of field staff to hire from,” Amanda Litman, the founder of the Democratic candidate recruitment group Run for Something, told Recode. “Bernie as a human being truly believes in the power of direct media contact.
To give you a sense of the reach, during that same period, Vox had 2. 8 million Facebook interactions. (Winnie Wong, one of the volunteer founders of People for Bernie, is now a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign.
Because both groups are so decentralized, strategies for backing Sanders online and off can vary across chapters. “There’s a constant conflict in local organizations between individuals and the parent organization, and both DSA and Our Revolution constantly struggle with that,” Brett Banditelli, a digital strategist and volunteer for People for Bernie, said.
The campaign also has a podcast, Hear the Bern, hosted by Sanders campaign national press secretary and former Intercept editor Briahna Joy Gray. (Of course, Sanders isn’t the first candidate to come up with the idea — Hillary Clinton had a podcast, With Her, in 2016.
Video is “something that’s been part of Bernie’s entire career,” Josh Miller-Lewis, the digital communications director for the Sanders campaign, said.
Its moderators — Amanda Robertson, a former public school teacher from South Carolina, and Teri Gidwitz, a digital marketer from Chicago — are volunteers and aren’t officially affiliated with the Sanders campaign.
From Facebook to Twitch, Slack to Reddit, the online army behind Bernie Sanders is back in full force ahead of 2020.
The People for Bernie Sanders, an online group that backed his 2016 bid, continues to spread pro-Sanders messaging online.
Soon after, Sanders’s campaign and online grassroots supporters, including ones in a behind-the-scenes Slack group devoted to his support, began to spread a #NoMiddleGround hashtag across the internet, and it started trending.
One powerful grassroots organizing tool behind Sanders’s 2020 run is a Connect With Bernie Slack group, where power players and ultra-devoted volunteers make plans, get stuff done, and track the latest developments of the campaign.
Biden is outpacing Sanders in the discussion on Twitter by millions of impressions, Rosenblatt, from Lake Research Partners, said. (Other Democrats are far behind Biden and Sanders on Twitter. ) Not all of the conversation about Biden is good — between Trump supporters attacking him and the heat he’s facing from the left, a lot of it isn’t.
Onstage in front of California Democrats during the first weekend in June, Bernie Sanders warned that there is “no middle ground” on issues such as abortion and health care, taking a thinly veiled swipe at fellow presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Bernie Sanders is winning the internet. Will it win him the White House? https://t.co/Axe2tWmKc9— Recode (@Recode) June 25, 2019