STAMFORD, Conn. — For Nina Sherwood, a young Stamford Bernie Sanders activist, this year’s presidential contest is a “culture change election.”
As Sanders (and Donald Trump) are showing, the old way — reshaping the core message to reach the uncommitted and undecided centrist voter — is passé. The new way is about attracting new voters to the core message.
For Sanders, it’s been about engaging millennials, many of whom are participating in their first election, to vote and to volunteer by making phone calls and knocking on doors. He is calling on them to help make the “Sanders revolution” a reality.
Sherwood, herself a millennial, explains how the campaign is working to make it happen.
Feel the Bern started in Fairfield County with early adopter activists signing up the committed, the interested and the curious to attend a Sanders house party in July. His “Enough is Enough” speech was simultaneously streamed to 3,500 homes, restaurants, even places where adult beverages are served, and heard by over 100,000 people.
Just 100,000 people can’t elect a president. But they did start a social media buzz to offset the lack of mainstream media coverage. In Fairfield County supporters began soliciting at malls, not for Sanders voters in Connecticut, but for volunteers to join phone banking and door knocking, to assure he’s “a viable candidate” for the state's April 26 primary.
By October, phone banks were calling Democrats and unaffiliated voters in the early primary states. They asked but three questions: “Are you planning to vote?” If yes, “If the election were held today, who would you vote for?”
If the answer was Sanders, they were asked to volunteer. If they were undecided their name went onto lists for the door knockers to talk with directly.
Sherwood knocked on doors across New Hampshire with other Fairfield County volunteers. With a partner, she knocked on about 75 doors a day, 550 in six days, working two three-hour shifts a day.
The first weekend, she was one of 19 door knockers, the second, one of 13. The quick math says that group reached about 7,000 doors.
Were they effective? Sanders won in New Hampshire by 22 points, despite having “no big money and no media coverage.” His margin brought weight to his post-election speech, helping him reach across the country, to many for the first time. In the following 24 hours, he raised over $6.5 million, a record, even for a campaign funded largely by online contributions averaging $27 each.
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