On Wednesday, July 29, supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will assemble in 24 gatherings across the State of Hawaii to watch a livestream video address by the senator as the next step in building a nationwide campaign organization. Sanders, lacking the financial resources some other candidates enjoy, is relying heavily on low-budget, grassroots mobilization, aided by a heavy reliance on social media and other opportunities presented by emerging technology.
In the absence of an official campaign organization here in Hawaii, volunteers have networked using social media to set up meetings and to share information about the candidate and gain additional supporters.
According to a press release sent out by the Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, Sanders has been able motivate people with zero prior experience with a political campaign to jump in and help kickstart his unofficial campaign, rather than wait for direction at the national level.
One such volunteer is Chelsea Lyons Kent, who organized the first gathering of Oahu Sanders supporters a few weeks ago at the Zippy’s in Pearlridge. A mother of three, Kent works as an office manager.
“Like so many others, I’m sick of stump speeches and talking points that sound nice, but leave me with more questions than answers,” she said. “Bernie Sanders is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise corrupt system. He isn’t the lesser of evils, but exactly the person we want and need as President.”
Kent has spent many hours building support for Sanders on Facebook and Twitter, and posting YouTube videos.
“I don’t have to take him at his word, I can simply view his political history and voting record. I trust him to speak for my interests in a time when trusting a politician is virtually unheard of,” Kent said.
Unlike Kent, Sylvia Ching has worked on other campaigns for candidates she supported. While older than Kent, she has also taken to Facebook to promote Sanders to her friends. But she also has taken the initiative to print and pass out Sanders stickers, and wears one on her clothing as she goes about her day. When people ask her about Sanders, she hands them a small pocket-sized flyer, which explains how to vote for Sanders in Hawaii at the March 2016 Democratic caucuses. On the back, it lists Sanders’ 12-point economic program.
“I’ve been talking to people about what Bernie Sanders wants to do to improve the lives of Americans,” said Ching. “Being a retiree, I am very happy he wants to protect Social Security and Medicare. These are two major safety nets seniors rely on.”
Ching and Kent will be attending a gathering at ProtoHub Honolulu in Kakaako. The event is being coordinated by Bart Dame, a Board member of Progressive Democrats of Hawaii (PDH). A veteran of the 1988 Jesse Jackson and 2004 Dennis Kucinich presidential campaigns, Dame notes some differences with the Sanders push and those earlier efforts.
“The Democratic race will be down to Clinton versus Sanders,” said Dame. “Clinton has support from the ‘institutional Democrats,’ the top elected officials and many of the party regulars. And she has a huge financial advantage. Sanders supporters are more enthused and better organized at this stage of the Hawaii process than previous ‘insurgent’ campaign efforts. Clinton’s support is pretty static. For her supporters, it is a matter of rallying their tired forces for one more attempt. The enthusiasm gap is obvious.” Dame further predicts “a lot of the base” of traditional Democratic networks, like union members, “will break for Sanders as the campaign goes on.”
The Sanders gatherings are open to all Hawaii voters interested in learning how to vote for Sanders in Hawaii. The PDH event will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at ProtoHub Honolulu, 458 Keawe St. 2nd Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813
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