Sanders Campaign Offshoot, "Brand New Congress," Carries On Political Revolution

Posted June 15, 2016

MP3 Interview with Stacey Hopkins, co-founder of Brand New Congress, conducted by Scott Harris

sanders

After emerging victorious in a string of primary elections on June 7, Hillary Clinton won the pledged delegates needed to become the nation's first woman to capture a major party presidential nomination. Over the last week, Clinton has turned her attention to forcefully challenge the positions and caustic rhetoric of the Republican's presumptive candidate, Donald Trump. But while her Democratic party opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hadn't yet suspended his campaign – preferring to continue the fight until voters had cast ballots in the nation's last primary in Washington, D.C. on June 14, it was clear that his quest for the nomination was over.

Sanders, called for a political revolution, surprised many political observers by winning 22 state primaries and caucuses, drawing 1.5 million people to his rallies and raising $228 million from about 2.5 million small donors. The candidate reportedly will now pursue changes in the Democratic party platform that will include planks advocating a $15 an hour minimum wage, universal health care and tuition-free public colleges and universities.

But while thousands of Sanders supporters are expected to attend a national conference in Chicago from June 17 to 19, dubbed the “The People’s Summit,” to debate the future of the their revolution, a group of former Sanders staffers have already formed a new political organization called Brand New Congress. This new non-partisan group aims to harness the skills and fundraising power of the Sanders campaign to win congressional seats with the goal of moving the country in a more progressive direction. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Stacey Hopkins, co-founder and team leader with Brand New Congress, who discusses the short- and long-term objectives of this new Sanders-inspired political organization.

STACEY HOPKINS: We decided to come together, a couple of former staffers and volunteers who worked with the campaign and also the grassroots. We recognized that some of the missteps made were not recognizing the energy and organizing power and talent that was in the grassroots. And we said that we didn't want to watch the energy that was created go dormant or get distilled or, you know, fall into apathy. So we said, instead of asking the question, "What's next, what if we just say, 'We have an idea.'" So we launched Brand New Congress and the idea is very simple. One plan, one unified campaign and the goal is to have 535 members of Congress all supporting the Bernie platform. We realize that is a large goal, but it is a goal, you know. And it is definitely possibly. We definitely can change the face of Congress. We feel (Congress) is not representative of the people in terms of racial or gender parity. We have a Congress that is out of touch, that really can't agree on anything. I like to say they can't agree on lunch and they have brought us nothing but standoffs and shutdowns and obstructionism, and they haven't done the really necessary work of the people.

We have crumbling infrastructure, we have temporary stopgap measures that have damaging cuts to people who have done no harm and while we have see our coffers raped and pillaged to pay for endless wars. And so, we think that the people, the actual people who Congress is supposedly created by, should reflect that. So that is one of our goals and objectives to do that. And we're on tour and we are coming to communities across America and we're looking for those honest, accountable people that we need, and we all know them. So of them may actually be us. So, we are doing events, something like the Bernie Barnstorms and starting the conversation and starting the organization that's really going to be part of the infrastructure that's going to take this campaign, to not just 2018, but beyond.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Stacey, tell us a bit about how this new group is structured and how it's different from other political action committees and organizations try to get people elected to Congress. From my understanding, you're going to be fundraising at a national level to help your chosen candidates district by district which takes a lot of the burden off of the individual candidates where money has long been a major obstacle to getting grassroots folks elected to Congress who aren't beholden to special interests.

STACEY HOPKINS: Absolutely, so our campaign is a mechanism that frees our candidates from the hamster wheel and what is known as business as usual in politics by being the supportive financial mechanism for them. We're providing the services that they would have to seek, we would be giving voter files. This is a way of freeing candidates to do what they do best: meeting with the voters and getting their message out. We will provide in-house shops for them. The beauty is we all have the platform for Bernie and that is the agreement that the candidates run on so we support them, we free them up to be better candidates, which in turn gives us better government, which gives us better and progressive policies that a lot of people, regardless on which of the aisle they agree on.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Well Stacey, I wanted to ask you this: In your estimation and testing the waters with this new organization in recent months, do you believe that the organizers and Bernie Sanders supporters from the campaign can make the transition to a longer-term commitment without all the energy, media coverage and short-term goals that state-by-state primary elections bring? It's certainly a much larger commitment in the long run to move Congress in a way different direction than it is to win a statewide primary.

STACEY HOPKINS: It's going to be challenging. Any movement has that challenge and you know, with Bernie, he was ignored for a long time and it wasn't you mainstream media that made him or created those crowds. It was social media, it was independent media. We can't expect to create change by doing things old ways. We can't depend on unreliable system that weren't created in our favor to suddenly start acting that way.

For more information, visit Brand New Congress at brandnewcongress.org and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brandnewcongress.

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