Tulane for Bernie ramps up organizing

Tulane+for+Bernie+members+host+voter+registration+drive+on+McAlister.

Courtesy of Ethan Faries

Tulane for Bernie members host voter registration drive on McAlister.

Coming off popular vote wins in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, Senator Bernie Sanders is emerging as the frontrunner in a still-crowded Democratic presidential field. Central to this success has been substantial support from young people, with just over 50% of Democratic voters under 35 saying they support Sanders, and Tulane appears to be no exception.

Tulane for Bernie has been organizing students this year for canvassing, phone-banking and voter registration drives to boost the Vermont senator’s campaign.

Ethan Faries, a senior and co-founder of the group, said Tulane for Bernie already has more than 100 members. With the first primaries of the Democratic contest having been held, Faries said students have become more energized and enthusiastic about organizing on the Vermont senator’s behalf.

“I think that definitely a lot more people who are interested in Bernie Sanders’ platform and his movement are getting more active in terms of signing up for a phone-banking event or just coming to meetings in general because we have entered that phase where actual votes are being counted and people understand that it’s not … going to be an easy way through the other contenders [who have] a lot of support and a lot of money,” Faries said. “So, I think people … are getting more excited about it, and they’re turning that excitement into action by getting involved more.”

This excitement has generated impressive results, according to junior and Tulane for Bernie member Alex Perlman.

“We’ve made over 500 calls at phone banking events and helped 98 people register at our Voter Registration Drive,” Perlman said.

Group members cited Sanders’ consistent record of fighting for progressive priorities like single-payer healthcare, aggressive action to combat climate change and an unapologetic class politics centering the needs of working people. For many supporters, Sanders’ decades-long record as an elected official was a convincing sign that he will continue to fight for these goals if elected president.

 “I believe it’s important for young voters to stay informed and get involved in politics, and it feels good to actively support a candidate I trust,” junior and Tulane for Bernie member Erin Sheehy said.

Having sworn off donations from billionaires and PACs, Sanders’ campaign has relied heavily on small-dollar donations from supporters to fund his campaign. According to campaign filings, Sanders raised a total of $96 million in 2019, with an average donation of $18. His campaign slogan of “Not Me, Us” has energized grassroots supporters who see Sanders’ campaign as a vehicle for promoting sweeping reforms of the country’s political and economic institutions.

“A movement in which the people who need it most finally feel empowered to stand up for themselves and vote. A revolution with 15 million grassroots donors from across the nation. A candidate funded by working people for working people,” as Perlman put it.

This focus on the need for sweeping institutional reform is accompanied by a belief among many Tulane for Bernie members that the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, far from an aberration, was symptomatic of deeper issues facing the country.

“I … recognize that these problems did not begin with Trump’s election,” Perlman said. “To stand up not only to the Trump presidency but also to the institutional inequality of America, we need a massive coalition of ordinary people.”

Sanders is banking on being able to turn out large numbers of first-time voters, so the importance of ground operations like Tulane for Bernie takes on particular significance for his campaign.

Faries encouraged those interested in getting involved or just learning more about Sanders’ platform to attend a general meeting on Wednesdays, where they can be added to a group message giving them updates about organizing events on weekends. Students can also like the Tulane for Bernie Facebook page and follow the group on Instagram @tulaneforbernie to stay up to date on the group’s activities.