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Bernie Sanders is out – but he changed campaigns forever

Bernie Sanders officially suspended his offer for the Democratic nomination for president. After being rolled out under steam in a series of primaries by former Vice President Joe Biden, the Vermont senator and former leader accepted the reality that the competition was indeed over. "I can't start a campaign with a clear conscience that can't win," Sanders said in a live stream in front of more than 100,000 viewers.

The digital format of the announcement – Sanders alone speaking to the camera, without the crowd of young followers who would otherwise have attended his farewell speech – was a result of the ongoing Covid 1

9 pandemic. But it was appropriate in its own way. Sanders has been making the same political arguments for half a century, but his presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020 were among the most technologically innovative in history. He may not have fully implemented the "political revolution" that he had promised so many times, but that doesn't mean he didn't revolutionize politics.

"In many ways, Bernie Sanders ran in 2016 and less in 2020, cementing the fact that insurgent candidates that pose a tough and robust challenge for institutionally validated candidates can use the Internet as a powerful tool," said Daniel Kreiss, professor of political communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (The distinction: until 2020 Sanders was less of an insurgent.) "Converting energy and enthusiasm into very real, very concrete and very powerful election resources."

Sanders was of course not the first insurgent candidate to use the digital technology creatively. Howard Dean used Meetup in 2004. Barack Obama's 2008 campaign used new tools to achieve unprecedented email reach. But that was ages ago, in technical years. Like every political personality, Sanders showed how politics can work in the age of YouTube, Instagram and the smartphone.

"They were really smart at using their most important asset, the candidate himself." [19659002] Daniel Kreiss, UNC Chapel Hill

This ability begins with social media. Starting with his run against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections, Sanders relied on a massive Facebook fan base and targeted Facebook ads to create an enormous email list. These techniques – which Donald Trump, another former outsider, also used dramatically – allowed Sanders to raise a war chest that outperformed his rivals while spurning fundraisers and wealthy donors. (In his speech today, Sanders thanked supporters for their 10 million posts with an average donation of $ 18.50.) His 2020 campaign carefully broadcast all of his appearances on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and – alluding to the appeal of the Candidate among younger voters – Twitch, who also gave his concession speech. A Sanders rally could personally attract a few thousand people, but could reach hundreds of thousands online. The campaign informed the Washington Post in March that the Sanders campaign accounted for 54 million of 57 million Facebook Live views for main democratic candidates in the previous year.

"The smartest thing The Sanders campaign was to invest in building your own media infrastructure to reach your own supporters where you expected," said Kyle Tharp, vice president of communications for Acronym, a democratic Organization for digital communication. "They expected very early on that the media wouldn't shake them fairly, and that's why they built their own." He adds: "I think live streaming campaign events will become an important best practice."

Although Sander's social media presence has received the most attention, its acceptance of the distributed organization – the use of technology to recruit and manage an army of volunteers – could prove even more influential in the long run. "I think these almost boring organizational tools are the legacy of Sanders and have become really important and fundamental to the campaigns," said Jessica Baldwin-Philippi, a Fordham professor who studies the use of digital communications in politics.

A. Digital Army

These innovations began in 2015 during Sanders' first presidential campaign. As always, they were born out of necessity.

"On the first day, 100,000 people volunteered," said Kenneth Pennington, digital director of the first Sanders campaign. Pennington fought for permission to hire an organizer: Zack Exley, a veteran of advanced politics. It didn't go smoothly in the beginning. "He asked me, OK, now I have to hire a team of organizers to help get all of these volunteers to work," says Pennington. "I said: & # 39; you don't understand – I only had a budget for you and I had to risk my ass to hire you. & # 39; and he quit on the first day. & # 39; "

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