Nick Brana, who was the national political outreach coordinator for Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign and I had an extensive conversation looking ahead to 2020. Brana and I talked about the new DNC rules passed over the weekend, but we also discussed Bernie in 2020 and his current standing with independent voters.
Listen to the full interview here.
The DNC passed new rules for 2020 that institute a party purity test for presidential candidates, bar superdelegates from voting on the first presidential nomination ballot at the convention, keep joint fundraising agreements, reduce caucuses, and keep lobbyists on the DNC.
Brana says voters longing for top-down reform are rightfully disappointed by what he calls the "crumbs" the party offered:
- The joint fundraising agreement in 2016 allowed the Clinton campaign to take over the DNC and the party to launder money through Clinton's campaign, an admission that former interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile revealed in a 2017 book;
- Not reducing or eliminating the use of superdelegates still gives establishment-backed candidates an artificial and inflated lead in the media and search results before voters even have a chance to make their choice;
- Putting the perception issue aside, the DNC could always force a second ballot at the convention if they wanted; and
- The DNC didn't back proposals that would open the primary voting process up so much as they are reducing the nomination selection process that a candidate with heavy grassroots support can do well in.
Bernie, however, praised the actions by the DNC, saying:
Brana disagrees with Sanders, but says the reason Bernie is making so many concessions to the Democratic Party is because he will likely run again in 2020, and he will do so once again as a Democrat.
"As a consequence of him deciding that he wants to run inside the Democratic Party, he simply will take anything the party will give him," said Brana.
He further explained that Sanders is in a position where he wants the support of Democratic members of Congress, Democratic senators, governors, and other partisan elected officials. Sanders doesn't want the party to repeat its actions against his campaign, and with a new rule that requires party purity -- he needs support from party officials.
"These are the dynamics that make the Democratic Party non-viable for progressives and working people to build legitimately in," Brana added.
He says at the core of Sanders' appeal in 2016 was his authenticity. It was his theory of change that challenged the establishment of both political parties. Sanders didn't just have the support of progressives, and disenchanted Democrats, but independents who wanted someone who took on politics-as-usual in Washington.
Yet there are many voters who still feel betrayed after 2016. They feel betrayed by the parties. They feel betrayed by the system. They feel betrayed by a candidate who campaigned on broad systemic reforms, and now is in bed with the very establishment that actively worked to minimize his candidacy.
The question I asked Brana was: Is Bernie Sanders in danger of losing his independent credibility? Or at the very least, has it been damaged by not fighting the establishment more? Brana said:
"If his theory of change reverses, as I'm afraid it is, to the perspective that you win, not by just speaking the unvarnished truth to the people, but you win by getting those establishment senators and congressmen on your side -- you win by having the party on your side -- then I think Bernie will have given up what was at the core of his appeal... and it was that independence."
Brana believes that the only way Bernie can preserve that now is to run as an independent -- not to reverse his theory of change from speaking to the people to speaking to the establishment, and pleading with them to give him a fair shake. Brana says this will never happen.
"No establishment ever concedes its own demise to a revolution," he remarked.
Be sure to check out the full interview with Nick Brana, and leave any comments, questions, or feedback you have. We want to hear from you.