April 30,2015, was a day that changed my life. It was the day that Bernie announced his candidacy for President. Inspired by his progressive message, I knew that I had to get one hundred percent involved and take an active role in getting Bernie the primary win in RI. We started with a small group at my house in Glocester and the a larger group in Greenville.
From there it just took off.
Our first major event was at RI Pride in Providence. Next we won an award for the “most politically incorrect float” in the Glocester Ancients and Horribles Parade. Not long after that there were the first debate parties, hosted in homes throughout the state.
The New Hampshire primaries brought a whole different feel: boots on the ground and phones in hand, we went to work. Rhode Island volunteers went to help our neighbors to the north. It was a great experience and our first connection with the national team.
We brought that energy to our ground operations in RI. There were events to collect signatures to get Bernie on the ballot, followed by efforts to get delegate signatures. We collected more signatures for Bernie, by far, than were collected for any other Presidential candidate.
It has been a whirlwind four months. Every weekend was spent phone banking, canvassing, organizing and obsessing about what role Rhode Island would play in the upcoming primary.
There were many active players throughout the state. People from South County, Newport County, East Bay, Warwick and elsewhere gave their time and effort. My focus was always northwest Rhode Island. Towards the end I tried to combine Bernie’s anti-fracking theme with our northwest Rhode Island anti-Invenergy message. Bernie, of course, laid the groundwork for this with commercials focused on keeping fossil fuels in the ground and ending fracking.
My secondary message was the anti-establishment one. At our rally at the statehouse I had the opportunity to speak my piece. I was very proud to say that Rhode Island is not Clinton Country, it’s Bernie Country. My message may have only reached a few hundred at the time but I believe thousands of others felt the same.
Throughout the state Bernie’s message of income inequality, free public college tuition and ending fossil fuel extraction resonated. Whether it was at our voter registration drives, area meetings or phone banking events people were listening and engaged. We had support from the Spanish community, unions, colleges, Democrats and Independents and hundreds of individuals who volunteered to make the campaign a success. When the national team came in for the final 3 weeks that solidified our efforts. 2 offices were opened and several staging locations were available for people to canvass out of – we did not stop until 7:00pm Tuesday, April 26th. Our Independent spirit came through and I think Bernie himself saw that when he came to RI and gave a rousing speech on April 22nd . It was not an easy battle – we were up against an entrenched establishment with all 9 delegates firmly under the spell of Clinton. But the whole time I never saw a Hillary bumper sticker, I barely ever saw a pin, I saw no energy or enthusiasm in Hillary Clinton’s campaign in this state. All I saw was the establishment assuming that it was all wrapped up for her.
What I also saw was a complete lack of appreciation for our campaign. Our Bernie Sanders campaign was not taken seriously. The super delegates, I am sure, never thought we would get any where. But boy did we show them!
In my corner of the universe Bernie won with well over 60% of the vote and in South County he did the same. Throughout the state we beat Clinton and the establishment: it was a resounding victory for our grassroots effort and a wake up call to Raimondo, Cicilline, Langevin, Whitehouse, McNamara and the rest.
We are not going away.