On June 22nd, Revolt Against Plutocracy launched their campaign strategy to ask voters to write in Bernie Sanders for President if he’s not the Democratic Party nominee. Three months later, they had over 10,000 pledges taken, and this week they topped 25,000 pledges and posted two primary campaign ads including the one shown above. They also have a new treasurer after the sudden resignation of their first treasurer.
RAP is an organization that evolved out of a Facebook community page that began as Citizens Against Plutocracy in the lead up to the 2014 Supreme Court decision McCutcheon v FEC. That decision removed the limits wealthy people can donate to candidates from a mere $64,000 to over $3 million during one election cycle. Plutocracy, their website notes, is “country or society governed by the wealthy few.” Every month they publish a new Bernie or bust narrative, and they recently posted a Spanish version of their pledge narrative. RAP campaign coordinator, Charlie Hobbs of Saint Cloud, MN, answered a few questions about their campaign.
Victor Tiffany: It took you three months to attain 10,000 pledges and two months to get the next 15,000 pledges. You only have just over two months before the Iowa caucuses. Do you think you’ll have enough pledges by then to sway Democratic Party caucus attendees and voters?
Charlie Hobbs: Clearly the momentum for Bernie or bust pledge idea is increasing. The mainstream media has not mentioned this campaign and may not until we have an actual impact on a given primary outcome, if then. According to H.A. Goodman, writing in the Huffington Post, 14% of Democrats will not support Hillary Clinton for President. That is somewhere around 8 million voters. We believe, when more of them find out about the Bernie or bust pledge, many of them will take it. As we run ads next year, more people will find out about the pledge; and as the primary season proceeds, we’ll get more than enough voters taking the Bernie or bust pledge to have an impact. As Senator Sanders runs low on money, especially after super Tuesday in March, we’ll gain in numbers and influence.
VT: Your primary marketing strategy is borrowed from network marketing: take the pledge and recruit just two more people to take the pledge. How’s that working out?
CH: If most people, who take the pledge, actually recruited two more people to take it, we’d have far more pledge-takers by now. Most people seem to think that this is a petition: sign it and forget it. It’s not. The pledge has two parts, and most people are not fulfilling the second half even though it would take very little time and effort for them to do so.
VT: Have you done any paid advertising for the pledge strategy?
CH: Yes; we spent $112 with Outbrain and got just over 70 pledges as a result. One of our volunteers can do much better than that in an afternoon promoting the Bernie or bust pledge on Facebook, by far the largest source of traffic to our website.
VT: How many volunteers do you have promoting the pledge?
CH: Over two dozen people have volunteered to promote the pledge, but it’s difficult to determine how much effort they are making. We can see some of them posting in Facebook groups, and we can tell many of them do not seem to be making much of an effort. We have two Facebook community pages, and other people have set up Bernie or bust Facebook pages and Bernie or bust groups. This innovative primary campaign strategy is catching on; and we believe that, with the excellent work the Sanders campaign is doing — building their ground game and making their case for Bernie — RAP’s strategy will have a synergistic effect next year. It has to; we cannot continue having neo-liberals in the White House pushing these un-American trade regimes on us. That is what Hillary Clinton will do, and we doubt many of her supporters are informed about her deceitfulness over NAFTA and the TPP.
Our approach is a revolutionary primary strategy that gives Democrats the basic simple choice: support Bernie Sanders for President or lose the general election next year. ~Charlie Hobbs
VT: What are the other sources of traffic to your website?
CH: Our URL, citizensagainstplutocracy.org is the second largest source followed by search engines, Twitter, Examiner (your stories about us), the Washington Post, Disqus, reddit and Change.org where we have our petition to Senator Warren and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
VT: Your treasurer resigned not long ago. What was that about, and do you have a replacement?
CH: It’s not really clear to us why she resigned. None of the reasons she gave made any sense to us. We suspect that either a Clinton operative got to her or some side effect of the multiple open heart surgeries she recently went through affected her thinking. One of our committee members has stepped up to replace her. We’re not announcing who it is, but we’re certain that the person, like Bernie, can’t be bought.
VT: Tell us about the ads you’ve posted on your website. Who crafted the script, and who produced it?
CH: We crafted the script after writing a creative brief. We had help from supporters of our Facebook page. It was produced, gratis, by a friend of Miles Disney, Adrian Atwood.
VT: It’s expensive to run ads in the media. How will RAP pay for these ads?
CH: We have a grassroots “super” PAC. We limit donations to $1,000.00 maximum. While Senator Sanders is against super PACs funded by millionaires and billionaires, he recently expressed approval of PAC support for his candidacy if the PAC is a public interest PAC. Our agenda, political equality for all citizens, is in the public interest. None of us are benefiting personally from this; we’re all volunteers. Obviously, we’re going to need our supporters, people who have taken the Bernie or bust pledge, to step up and donate to CAP PAC. If we don’t convey to Democrats that they either unite behind Bernie or else lose the election, then our whole strategy will only serve to elect a Republican to the White House. I cannot stress strongly enough: that is not our intention. This is a political revolution. Our approach is a revolutionary primary strategy that gives Democrats the basic simple choice: support Bernie Sanders for President or lose the general election next year.
VT: Do you have any other updates for us?
CH: Yes, co-founder Patrick Walker has returned to RAP. He departed temporarily during a move from Georgia to New York. He’s an extraordinary writer and a great asset for our team. He’s currently writing a three-part series on Hillary Clinton about how she would make climate change worse. He’s also working on getting collaboration from climate change organizations, unions and other groups to embrace the Bernie or bust pledge strategy.