Bernie Sanders on Why a Simple Political Tactic Is So Effective

December 16th 2016

Dave Fonseca

Since the election of Donald Trump, many Americans who didn't support Trump's presidential campaign have been looking for ways to effectively advocate for political change.


In recent weeks, both Twitter threads and live Google docs outlining steps to pressure legislators have gone viral.

The topic was also on the mind of at least on attendee of a Q&A session recently held by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and comedian Sarah Silverman, which was broadcast on Facebook Live Thursday night.

"What are practical effective strategies for us to move forward a progressive agenda, for example do online petitions even make a difference?" asked one audience member during the event, which was filmed on Nov. 29.

Here's how Sanders responded.

Yes, petitions have an impact

To illustrate his point, Sanders pointed to a 2013 petition drive, which rallied popular opposition to planned cuts to Social Security.

As The Nation reported in April of 2013, a Sanders-led coaltion delivered to President Barack Obama "petitions signed by 2.3-million Americans" who opposed the benefit reductions. In November of that year, 700,000 more signatures were delivered to the office of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

A few months later, congress passed a budget that didn't include the proposed cuts to Social Security.

Sanders said it's a "politician's dream" to "pass major legislation without you knowing anything about it."

win that fight

republicans will win

Sanders' commentary echoes the viral political guidebook "Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda," which was published on Wednesday. In it, former Democratic staffers stress that political action rarely takes place unless politicians fear the consequences of upsetting their constituents.

"Every House member runs for office every two years and every Senator runs for election every six years," the guide states. "Functionally speaking, MoCs are always either running for office or getting ready for their next election, a fact that shapes everything they do."