There could be a new political party in the mix next year. The People’s Party was birthed out of Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns and focuses on many of Bernie’s standout policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
While the group isn’t officially a political party yet, it’s already acting like one. As the Democratic National Convention wrapped up this summer, the People’s Party hosted its own convention with guest speakers including former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson and political activist Cornel West. According to a press release featured on commondreams.org, the convention finished with 99 percent of its 400,000 viewers voting to create the People’s Party in 2021. The party hopes to start running candidates in the 2022 election.
YR Media spoke with Carol Ehrle, media coordinator and political director for the Movement for a People’s Party, and Amaya Wangeshi, a youth spokesperson for the movement, to talk about how it started, and their plans for the future.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Lucas Roque: So why a new party? Why not work towards changing the Democratic Party?
Carol Ehrle: We were founded by Nick Brana. He was the national outreach coordinator for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign. He saw the belly of the beast during the Bernie campaign. It was his job to try to convince the superdelegates to vote for Bernie and he saw the absolute futility of that.
He walked away feeling wholly disgusted with the party and had realized that it was just such a top-down organization: controlled by money, controlled by lobbyists, controlled by Wall Street, and incapable of being changed structurally. So that's why he left the party and launched the Movement for a People's Party.
LR: A lot of people might be a little skeptical because they see this as being another third party taking away votes from one of the two dominant parties. How would you negate those arguments?
CE: Well, I think that the movement has built up trust among many people, not just on the left, but the center and even the center right. We don't see our politics as right versus left. We have one corporate party controlled by the same lobbyists, by Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry and by fossil fuel interests and none of that is going to change.
We are not that. We are outside the corporate milieu. We will always be powered by the people. We aim to address the needs of the vast majority of Americans. Major polls show that most Americans across the board are progressive on issues. They want Medicare for all. They want a Green New Deal. They want housing. They want racial justice. Those are the issues that we're focusing on and we think we will be able to break through in the next couple of years electorally.
LR: So what is the movement's stance on the current 2020 election?
CE: We are not running candidates in 2020 and we are not endorsing any candidates at all for any office. We believe that even with all of the voting irregularities that are occurring, we still have an obligation to vote and that you vote your conscience. But give your time, resources and money toward building the electoral part of our party, helping us identify candidates in your locality and helping us seek ballot access by getting the requisite signature requirements.
LR: So Amaya, you're the youth spokesperson for the Movement for a People's Party, what’s your strategy for getting a lot more younger voters out to vote?
Amaya Wangeshia: I think that student organizing is so untouched. I think that a lot of campaigns or organizations try to have successful student movements, but a lot of them fail because they're not student-run and student-based. I think that in a movement, your target audience should consistently be involved and have a voice, not just be present.
I think from an outsider view, young people just want to understand. I think that there's not a lot of political education out there. And we could help people understand politics and understand how it relates to them on their own level. Like how different bills would affect them or what part of the government can pass or can execute the change that you want to see.
So I think that if we can break through that lack of proper political education and then also give people a way to be involved. I think giving advocacy and giving time and attention to an issue doesn't do much good if you don't give people an immediate way to help out. So if we can make organizing clear, both in terms of education and actual mobilization, I think we're bound to be successful.
LR: What is the goal for the People's Party and how do you want this party and movement to be remembered?
CE: Well, I got into this mainly because of our climate emergency, which hasn't been getting much attention lately. I know that with the hurricanes and fires that are burning more and more widely, more vociferously on the West Coast. I want us to be remembered as a movement and party that helped solve our climate crisis and that helped save our planet.
AW: I think that the legacy of the party, at least in my opinion, would be to be that force that when looking straight into the eyes of oppression, of injustice, inequality and greed, that just said no. You know, sometimes it's easy to go with what is normal, what is known, what we're used to.
As a collective, mankind is fighting for the very remnant of our humanity. I see the opposite in terms of our leaders and who is really holding all the cards. But I refuse to lose hope. And I think that this party is a representation of that.