“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” That old nursery rhyme was meant to describe a bride’s wedding ensemble, but in 2016, Bernie Sanders used that formula to clothe a national Presidential campaign.
In reverse order, color the Sanders campaign Democratic Party blue, and see how it borrowed from the successful campaigns of President Barack Obama a heavy concentration on granular digital analysis of public attitudes toward and appetites for issues and how they might be framed, and even greater use of the digital social media to reach and attach supportive voters.
What was new about the Sanders campaign was its sourcing of campaign funds: small-scale contributors, giving that famous $27 a pop – a number so unchanging over the months of the campaign as to suggest it was more symbolic than precise. Those small gifts popped up so consistently that, by the end of the campaign, Sanders had actually raised and spent more money than his victorious rival, presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.
There is a –as Bernie might say it – HUGE asterisk by that record: according to the Federal Elections Commission, the Sanders campaign raised $213 million to Clinton’s $212 million in direct fund-raising. But, according to the respected Center for Responsive Politics, the Clinton campaign benefited greatly from $85 million in contributions from political Super-PACs that Sanders disdained.
But the undeniable fact is, even with NO Super-PAC money, Sanders had more than enough to be as competitive as he could be from start to finish in the primaries and – ugh – caucuses.
For future politicians, that’s the take-home lesson here: Bernie Sanders’ new way to fund a campaign worked. And, if it worked once, it will certainly be tried again.
As one of the most dedicated Superdelegate supporters of Hillary Clinton put it to our guest today, Ned Resnikoff of International Business Times: “It’s great fundraising. It’s the purest kind of fundraising you can have, because nobody’s buying you.” Said Elaine Kamarck, of the Brookings Institution “It’s terrific.”
Ned Resnikoff is the Political Capital Reporter for International Business Times, where he covers the intersection of money and politics. He was previously a reporter for Al Jazeera America and MSNBC.