Operación Cayetana

Se le encargó que fuera más popular que aquellos que le precedían, pero el electorado no la siguió.
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He doesn’t really even have a faction within his own party. All he does have is a reputation as a hard worker and an effective operator who gets stuff done. “The impression of him is that he’s Dick Cheney,” a prickly and shadowy behind-the-scenes mastermind, said Joshua Walker, president and CEO of the New York-based Japan Society, though he noted Suga is actually more personable, folksy, and charming than the public’s perception of him. Suga “is the Japanese common guy who realized his dream,” Walker said. Since he became prime minister last month, the 71-year-old Suga has worked to ensure his dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare. Parliamentary elections must be held by next October, which gives Suga no more than a year to make his case to stay in charge. That’s a daunting task, as he must curb his country’s Covid-19 outbreak while boosting a sputtering economy — and all in time for Tokyo to host the 2021 Summer Olympics. If Suga doesn’t succeed, a younger cohort of party leaders who covet the premiership — some of whom are in his Cabinet — might move to unseat him. Their hope, experts told me, was for Suga to take the blows in the hard year ahead so they could take over in calmer times, untainted and unharmed. But such a play is risky as it rests on betting a popular bureaucratic infighter will fail. Issei Kato/Pool via Getty Images Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (who is in the center of the front row) walks with his cabinet on September 16, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. “The prime ministership is a good place from which to advocate staying prime minister, so long as you have successes under your belt and are leading and moving the country in the right direction,” said Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has met Suga. “He’s going to have to make his mark now.” The question of whether he can do that will dominate the next year of Japanese politics. Clearly not everyone is convinced Suga can stand out and survive, but perhaps the likeliest unlikely prime minister in the nation’s modern history knows how to take his shot. “Everyone has always underestimated him, and he’s always blown people away,” said Walker. “Underestimating him is a mistake.” From farm boy to national leader Most origin stories about a new Japanese prime minister begin with their upbringing in a powerful political family or their time at a great university. This is not that story. Suga grew up the son of strawberry farmers in Akita prefecture, a mountainous rural region of northern Japan. Instead of taking over the family business, he moved to Tokyo after high school. To pay for his part-time education at Hosei University — which he chose because it was the cheapest option available — he worked at a cardboard factory and a famed fish market. It was in school that Suga realized he wanted to be in politics. But with no support system in a country where political fortunes depend on them, he had to start from the very bottom. In 1975, two years after graduation, he became the secretary for a representative in the government of Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city. It was an unglamorous job, as his daily tasks included fetching cigarettes and parking cars. Twelve years later he sought office for himself, wearing down six pairs of shoes while running for Yokohama City Council. According to the LDP, he knocked on 300 doors a day, visiting 30,000 homes. He won his race, and quickly earned a reputation as Yokohama’s “shadow” mayor after pushing through some key initiatives, such as making it easier to get to the city’s port and reducing waitlists for day care centers. But what distinguished him most in that time, and what continues to define him today, is his dogged work ethic. “He’s known for sleeping in his office,” Walker, the Japan Society chief, told me. That workaholism is part of what initially attracted Suga to Abe, experts said. After serving 10 years in Japan’s lower house of Parliament, Suga was picked by Abe during his first stint as prime minister in 2006 to serve in his Cabinet, overseeing internal affairs and telecommunications. Corporal Jessica Collins for U.S. Marine Corps Then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga listens to proposals for the government of Japan’s plan for Camp Foster on August 12, 2020. The former farm boy stuck by him ever after, even when a scandal led Abe to resign as prime minister the following year. When Abe returned to power in 2012, Suga’s loyalty was rewarded with the plum post of chief cabinet secretary. That job is arguably Japan’s second-highest government position. Whoever assumes it must hold two press conferences a day and run the bureaucracy from the behind the scenes, basically combining the portfolios of the American press secretary and chief of staff. It’s both an incredibly visible job and a thankless one. It takes someone with an innate sense of power and an insatiable drive to get the work done. The right-hand man Ask experts and people who worked with Suga about his time as chief cabinet secretary, and the first thing they note, unsurprisingly, is his assiduousness. In his more than 2,300 days in the job, he woke up each morning at 5 am, read the newspaper, did 200 situps, and took a 40-minute walk — but always in a suit in case he had to run into the office for an emergency. Michael Green, the Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC, said Suga had breakfast every morning at a hotel near his office with someone who could teach him something. Sometimes that someone was Green. “He liked to ask me about Obama or Trump and the state of American politics,” Green told me. Suga’s curiosity stemmed from a firm belief in the US-Japan alliance and that Japan must be a leading world power. “He’s a patriot,” Green said. Once at work, Suga would visit Abe’s office multiple times a day to coordinate messaging, advise on economic policy, provide intelligence, and much more. With his staff, he was known for asking sharp questions about why the government should take certain positions. He could be prickly, sometimes even mean, with those who didn’t have a good answer. “He’s a no-nonsense guy,” a Japanese official who worked with Suga told me, speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak freely. “Everyone was always on their toes around him and alert whenever they had to brief him.” Sometimes he preferred to read documents by himself, the official added, but he was always willing to take advice from senior aides. His dedication to his job, many noted, was evidenced by his preference to live in a Parliament-provided apartment in Tokyo instead of his home in Yokohama, and how he only ate soba noodles for lunch so he could finish within five minutes. But he wasn’t just the guy behind the curtain. He found ways to step onto the stage. Innately understanding the needs of rural communities, Suga launched a “hometown tax” system in 2008 by which a Japanese citizen can donate money to any local government or prefecture (it doesn’t actually have to be the person’s hometown). In exchange, that person receives a tax deduction nearly equaling the size of the donation, as well as locally made gifts from the recipient to incentivize further donations. Carl Court/Pool/AFP via Getty Images Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during his press conference in Tokyo on September 16, 2020. More recently, he pushed Japan’s three major wireless carriers in 2018 to slash their prices by 40 percent. He argued they basically had a monopoly in the country and that competition between them wasn’t lowering bills for everyday citizens. That same year, he took charge of an effort to bring more foreign workers into Japan as a solution for the nation’s aging workforce — batting back years of resistance to such a reform. Japan is “aiming to be a country where foreigners will want to work and live,” Suga said in a statement advocating for the change. In 2019, he also became the first chief cabinet secretary in three decades to visit Washington, DC, where he discussed national security issues at the White House. It’s unclear what the discussion was specifically about, but experts say it likely touched on North Korea and how much Japan should pay to keep 50,000 US troops stationed in the country. That Suga made the trip, and not a high-level diplomat, underscored just how much Abe trusted him with major foreign policy matters, experts told me. After all, Suga also had oversight of the country’s national security team and could veto the firing of any government staffer, requiring him to have deep visibility into all bureaucracies, including foreign policy-related ones. Speculation immediately swirled during the trip that the chief cabinet secretary might be angling to replace Abe once he stepped down. By all accounts, Suga proved himself a capable operator over eight years. “He has an incredibly good reputation for being able to manage the levers of the bureaucracy,” said CFR’s Smith. “He’s astoundingly good at it.” Whether he’ll be as effective as prime minister is what everyone is watching for now. Suga’s make-or-break year When Abe abruptly resigned in August, Suga pretty quickly consolidated support within his party to become the next prime minister. He faced challengers, but the consensus in the party was that Japan should have continuity at the top of its government during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Suga, Abe’s “Mr. Fix It,” fit the bill. He vowed to stay on the course Abe set, pushing for a strong Japanese foreign policy and some economic reforms at home. Eugene Hoshiko/Pool via Getty Images Then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (right) presents flowers to now former Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after Suga was elected as new head of Japan’s ruling party at the Liberal Democratic Partyon September 14, 2020. The foreign policy part may not be a new challenge for Suga, analysts noted. China continues to be antagonistic to Japan, relations with South Korea are tanking, and North Korea is advancing its nuclear arsenal, but all that was true when he was the chief cabinet secretary. His greatest immediate global challenge might actually be dealing with the US. “If he has a bad relationship with Trump or Biden, whoever is president, he’s toast,” said CSIS’s Green. Indeed, the US-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of Tokyo’s global relations. Without a good working relationship with the American president, it’ll be harder for Japan to push back on adversaries or reach any reconciliation with South Korea. But what will most occupy Suga and define his year in charge will be the coronavirus and the economic havoc it’s wreaking. As of October 21, Japan — a country of around 127 million people — had more than 90,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,600 deaths. That’s not bad compared to much of the world, but the pandemic caused the nation’s economy to shrink by around 28 percent between April and June, the largest contraction since the country started keeping records in 1980. That’s bad news on its own, but Japan was already dealing with a years-long economic slump due in part to an aging workforce. It’s a trend Suga’s keenly aware he must reverse, and doing so starts with minimizing the virus’s spread. “Reviving the economy remains the top priority of the administration,” Suga told reporters just after becoming prime minister on September 16. Japan’s living standards are falling behind rich countries with growing populations— Bloomberg Opinion (@bopinion) October 21, 2020 But Suga has other ideas to help his country in the meantime. He’s ordered his government to create a new digital agency that, among other things, would help citizens file all necessary paperwork online instead of with old technology. Experts say this is a needed change, especially since the coronavirus required millions of Japanese people to file paperwork to get their benefits. The problem is the government’s response to most requests was very slow, as officials still prefer hard copies and fax machines to online forms and email because the hanko — a stamp with a family’s or individual’s seal — is still the main way Japanese people sign documents. Only about 12 percent of all of Japan’s administrative work is currently done online. Suga and his administration minister Taro Kono — whom many believe wants the premiership — say it’s high time to change that practice. “The creation of a digital agency is a reform that will lead to a major transformation of the Japanese economy and society,” Suga said in September. “I’d like all ministers to cooperate in this major reform with all their might.” CFR’s Smith said digitizing the government and the nation’s private sector will be hard, and Suga’s initial push was met with raised eyebrows. But now Smith is inundated with requests for Zoom meetings from Japanese colleagues, something that didn’t really happen until the new prime minister encouraged his nation to adopt more digital tools. “Once you begin that process of shifting gears, it can move very quickly in Japan,” she told me. If Suga can maintain close ties with the US, improve the economy, and quash the coronavirus — making it possible to host the (spectator-less) Olympics in the summer — then he may have a chance of ensuring his party wins parliamentary elections whenever he calls them before next October. “There’s a lot on the line here for the LDP,” Smith said. Analysts say the LDP is expected to prevail, though a victory doesn’t necessarily mean Suga remains prime minister. Party elders could decide it’s time for new blood, or Abe could come out and say he didn’t like the way his former top staffer ran things. In that case, the race would be on for yet another prime minister in Japan. Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images Then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga leaves after a press conference at the Prime Minister’s office in Tokyo, Japan on August 31, 2020. Suga could also make mistakes that lead him to lose his current mandate. For example, he surprisingly refused to accept the appointments of six professors to a state-funded science panel of over 100 academics because of their past criticisms of Abe. Some say he’s aiming to stifle dissent, and while his decision isn’t expected to become a major controversy, it calls into question his judgment. But Suga, experts say, is keenly aware the job is his to lose. The best chance for him to enact his reforms and Abe-like foreign policy is if he stays in control. Few believe he’ll do anything to jeopardize that possibility in the months to come. “He understands power very well. 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Bernie Sanders at a rally in Queens, New York, on October 19, 2019, during his presidential campaign. | Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images “It was never Bernie’s army. It was the army that got behind Bernie.” Sen. Bernie Sanders is all but certain to never run for president again. So what happens to the massive army that formed around him across two presidential campaigns to render him the most formidable force in online campaigning and fundraising on the left? Sanders’s mantra was “not me, us,” and now, the “us” is taking up his mantle. Sanders has served as the North Star for progressives in recent years, but his exit from the presidential race does not mean the energy behind him disappeared. Now, his supporters, volunteers, and even staff are branching off to focus on advancing an array of progressive issues, many of which Sanders helped bring to the forefront of the political conversation in America, such as Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal. “It was never Bernie’s army,” said Tyson Brody, former research director for the Sanders campaign. “It was the army that got behind Bernie.” And post-Bernie, you can see that army appearing in a lot of places. Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-MA) embrace of the Green New Deal drew him support from internet-savvy organizers and volunteers, demonstrating it’s not just Sanders who can capture meme magic on the left. The climate-focused Sunrise Movement, which officially launched in 2017 with a plan to back candidates focused on combating climate change, is emerging as an increasingly powerful force on the left, making hundreds of thousands of calls for progressive congressional challengers, such as Jamaal Bowman and Charles Booker. Sunrise and other youth activist groups, many of which credit Sanders as an inspiration, have launched a collective effort to organize young people before and after the election to push for progressive change. And the Working Families Party, which backed Elizabeth Warren in 2020 and Sanders in 2016, has launched a “people’s charter” policy framework for rebuilding the country after November, and key progressive leaders and groups have signed it. Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images Members of the Sunrise Movement gather outside of the DNC headquarters in New York City on August 13, 2019, to pressure members to vote for a climate change debate. After suspending his presidential bid in April, Sanders has also leveraged his platform to get Joe Biden elected president and to draw attention to down-ballot races and causes Sanders cares about. And he is already positioning himself to continue to push his priorities forward once the election is over. “It was never Bernie’s army. It was the army that got behind Bernie.” In recent weeks, I spoke with 20 organizers, leaders, and strategists on the left about what’s happening in the online progressive movements that formed to support Sanders’s presidential bids and where they believe things are headed. What emerged is a picture of a policy-driven, tech-savvy cohort with enormous energy that doesn’t begin or end with Sanders. It may lack some cohesion, but that’s not necessarily a significant weakness. “For a lot of [progressive activists], we haven’t had a chance to conceptualize an organizing ethos that is not structured around a presidential candidate,” said Mattias Lehman, digital director of Sunrise. After all, before there was Sanders, there was Barack Obama. “It feels very freeing. It allows us to move into a lot of political organizing that is outside the realm of presidential politics.” When Bernie said, “Not me, us,” he meant it Sanders’s campaign committee, dubbed Friends of Bernie Sanders, has gotten smaller, but it continues to operate. Its goal is to keep his base and volunteers engaged and put his platform to use — and it’s an important one, given not only Sanders’s stature but also the fact that the pandemic has pushed politics even more online. No one else on the left — not even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is still building out her operation — really rivals his reach. Much of AOC’s online influence is less formal and is still based on her ability to fire off a viral tweet or shoot an Instagram Live video from home. According to data from social media content tracker NewsWhip, Sanders’s posts on Facebook have generated tens of millions more interactions on Facebook than Ocasio-Cortez over the past month, and he posts much more often than she does. And as a prominent presidential candidate before his exit from the race, Sanders and his campaign committee has still vastly outraised Ocasio-Cortez. Sanders has reactivated his campaign’s volunteer Slack, which has tens of thousands of people in it and was an important place for it to engage volunteers during the primary, and he’s invited representatives from different campaigns and groups to the channel to recruit volunteers for their own causes. His volunteers are also texting voters on behalf of local candidates. Check out this wholesome text exchange with a @BernieSanders volunteer. #NotMeUs— Sara InnamoVOTEo (@Innamo) October 15, 2020 “We don’t want to lose all that great energy that went into electing Bernie,” said Georgia Parke, digital communications director and press secretary for the campaign committee. Sanders has endorsed many candidates and groups, including Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, Ilhan Omar, AOC, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, and tapped into his grassroots fundraising network to help many of them raise money. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez field questions from audience members at a climate crisis summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on November 9, 2019. “The reality is he still has a huge audience; he still has a huge amount of followers on social media. So there’s no reason not to use that audience and continue to engage them with content that goes along with the senator’s message,” said Armand Aviram, a senior media producer for Sanders. Those who work with Sanders say he is still closely involved in his digital operation. In late September, Sanders hosted a live stream event focused on races in Texas. It featured former presidential candidates and Texas politicians Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro as well as four local candidates — three for Congress, one for district attorney. His team continues to push out videos about President Trump, health care, and a variety of other controversial issues that engage people. “For the same reason that Trump does well on social media, Bernie can do things that lend themselves well to a viral video,” Aviram said. “It’s never one cycle, it’s never one campaign, and the fact that we didn’t win does not mean that we’re not going to stop trying to help people and to use the tools and the stuff that we have available to us online to keep pushing these policies and make a better future and a better life for people,” Parke said. “Every campaign we ran, there were thousands more people who were waking up to politics for the first time, getting active for the first time, donating for the first time — and there’s so much value in that.” “For the same reason that Trump does well on social media, Bernie can do things that lend themselves well to a viral video.” For some outside groups dedicated to Sanders’s White House run, like a grassroots Slack channel called Connect With Bernie and an online group called the People for Bernie Sanders, the road ahead is less clear. Both have lost active members and some steam since Sanders lost the primary this spring. “We keep on saying to ourselves that we need to talk about what’s going to happen after the election. It’s weird to have such a successful page named after a candidate who’s never running for president again. Do we want to be a successful publishing page on social media? Or do we want to be a political operation that has goals that we can point to?” said Charles Lenchner, one of the co-founders of People for Bernie. Other campaigns have been able to pick up where Sanders left off Presidential campaigns and primaries in particular tend to suck all of the air out of the room when it comes to political attention. But once the 2020 Democratic presidential primary ended, there were still a lot of engaged, energized people backing Sanders who were looking for a place to direct their attention. “I don’t think that you have an online following that is engaged that just disappears overnight,” said Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy at progressive pollster Data for Progress. “The question would be who can come around and pick them up — either encourage them to start doing more coalition work or just direct their frustration at the party in productive ways.” Waleed Shahid, communications director at Justice Democrats, a group that backs progressive primary candidates in an effort to pull the Democratic Party further left, said he believes that candidates such as Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush ousted incumbents in their primaries in part because of momentum from Sanders’s campaign. (Sanders also endorsed both candidates.) That is likely true for candidates who had primaries in the spring and summer, including Mondaire Jones, who won his congressional primary in New York. “A lot of people felt heartbroken when [Bernie] dropped out and sort of looked to other candidates that shared his values, and I think a lot of those folks were excited to use that energy and passion to support someone who they saw as having a similar message,” said Hannah Nayowith, Jones’s campaign manager. In Ed Markey, young progressives found another old white guy to love The figure who has best been able to tap into the progressive energy once directed at Sanders’s campaign is Sen. Ed Markey. The 74-year-old Massachusetts Democrat faced a tough primary challenge from Joe Kennedy this election cycle, and for much of the race, he was expected to lose — until the kids stepped in to help. “For most of these young people, they knew Ed Markey and thought he was cool because he was AOC’s friend,” Joe Walsh, Markey’s campaign manager, explained. Markey introduced the Green New Deal in the Senate, and while his record isn’t perfectly progressive, he leaned into the parts of it that are and embraced progressive policies during the primary. Soon, Markey had a cohort of stans who believe it’s cool to support the milkman’s son from Massachusetts. One group, Students for Markey, focused more on field outreach. Another group — a Twitter account called @edsreplyguys — got to work on making Markey relatable through memes. “Because we were unaffiliated, we had a lot of freedom to post what we wanted, whenever we wanted,” said Emerson Toomey, one of the college students behind the account. Were these grassroots, online-organizing supporters the only reason Markey won? Of course not. But it did help resuscitate his campaign. And the efforts can also provide a blueprint for candidates going forward. These young, engaged progressives care about policy, such as climate and health care, and if politicians are willing to commit to what they care about, they’ll back them up. “The secret is there are actually a lot of Ed Markeys in Congress, and if you can get people to embrace the progressive side of themselves that they’ve been told for 30 years they shouldn’t show to people ... then the progressive movement doesn’t just have to elect the AOCs and the Jamaal Bowmans,” said Josh Miller-Lewis, the former digital communications director for Sanders. “You can actually grow much faster by electing the Ed Markeys of the world.” Markey shows that politicians don’t have to be pure in their political history to gain progressive groups’ trust. They just need to be committed — and it doesn’t hurt if they can go viral, as Markey did days before the Massachusetts primary. “Their litmus test, if you will, is a level of fearlessness that they feel. Are you willing to say the thing that other people are not?” Walsh said. Alex Wong/Getty Images Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey at a press conference unveiling their Green New Deal resolution on Capitol Hill on February 7, 2019. To be sure, political campaigns are not the only places that some of the post-Sanders attention and work are going. Democratic Socialists of America, which saw an increase in membership after the 2016 election, has added members in 2020 as well. And there are newer organizations, such as Sunrise and Justice Democrats, eager to take up the mantle. Some people I spoke with also observed that the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted over the summer absorbed progressive energy as well. The protests were a particularly important way for people of color to channel their focus, many of whom had long been organizing for racial justice. “Things felt very dismal for a little while, and having a non-electoral cause to organize around, again, after having those roots initially, I think for a lot of people was very grounding,” Lehman, from Sunrise, said. “I thought he would have won, and I still do.” Bernie Sanders wasn’t the beginning of the American left, and he won’t be the end of it. But his two presidential campaigns leveraged the power of the internet to help change the political conversation in the US. He, along with Elizabeth Warren, built an enormous platform that helped train a new generation of activists and inspired fellow politicians who will take the lead, such as Ocasio-Cortez. “The way I look at it, four years ago, there was only Bernie Sanders, and now there is a whole array of progressive leaders,” said Stevie O’Hanlon, a spokesperson for Sunrise. “When Sunrise was started, there was no AOC, there was no Rashida [Tlaib], there was no Jamaal Bowman. Ed Markey was not talking about socialism. I don’t see [Sanders’s failure] as a loss; I see it as a huge step forward for the left because now we have dozens and dozens of leaders in Congress and all over the country who are ready to carry the torch forward.” Stephanie Keith/Getty Images New York congressional candidate Jamaal Bowman greets supporters in Yonkers, New York, on June 23. Of course, this wasn’t possible without some battles — tensions between Sanders and Warren in the 2020 presidential primaries divided some progressives online. But after both candidates ended their bids, most of their supporters have set aside their conflicts. “Some of that beef is way more of a beef with the online left than the offline left. You might see more of that on Twitter than actually exists with people who are always doing organizing,” Shahid said. The “people’s charter” put forth by the Working Families Party, which backed Warren in the primary, has been signed onto by Sunrise, which backed Sanders. “We have different strategies, we have different bases, but at the end of the day, it’s going to take all of us to get anything that we want achieved on every level of office in this country,” said Nelini Stamp, national organizing director for WFP. “That means us coming together, and it also means us pushing forward.” “The way I look at it, four years ago, there was only Bernie Sanders, and now there is a whole array of progressive leaders” None of this is to say that the post-Sanders left isn’t fractious, or that there isn’t disagreement. Despite the “Bernie or bust” trope of “Bernie bros” who in 2016 supposedly wouldn’t vote for anyone but Sanders, in 2020, the vast majority of Sanders supporters are backing Biden. Admittedly, for some, it’s more of an anti-Trump sentiment than it is pro-Joe. “There’s a danger that one part of this online coalition is going to go into an even more fringe direction, but I think by and large, the mass of people ... are still there, still have the same beliefs,” said Bhaskar Sunkara, publisher of socialist magazine Jacobin. While online progressives may no longer have a specific person they’re organizing around, they do have policies, such as the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all. They are policies Sanders helped put front and center in American politics. The historic movement Sanders built came close to capturing the Democratic nomination for the White House, even though he ultimately failed. “It shows both the powers and limitations of being an extremely popular online candidate,” Brody said. “I think it carried Bernie a long way. It did for a lot of us, but it didn’t, obviously, carry us over the top.” Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images Bernie Sanders on Capitol Hill on October 20. Shahid compared the Sanders left to the Barry Goldwater right in 1964 — the Arizona senator lost his race back then, but the ideas and people who came out of his campaign shaped the Republican Party in the years to come. “Over time, these organizers and strategists and operatives will become a greater and greater influence in the party because the future of the party looks a lot more like AOC than it does Joe Biden,” Shahid said. Take, for example, Aidan King, who was working at a Vermont vineyard in 2013 when he cofounded the Sanders for President channel on Reddit. The subreddit became a powerhouse of grassroots support for Sanders and raised millions of dollars for his campaign. King, who has no formal political training, is now a professional digital strategist. He worked for Sanders’s campaign in 2016 and 2020, and he is now the digital lead of electoral campaigns for Greenpeace. “It was never just about [Sanders]. He was never going to pretend and claim that if he got elected, he could wave a magic wand and get rid of all the country’s problems,” King says. “It was more about showing disenfranchised people and cynical people — and I was one of them — … that ‘Hey, no, it can be better, things can be good, we can force progress if we fight hard enough.’” To be sure, not everyone is staying in it — David Frederick, who founded the Sanders for President subreddit with King, has basically quit social media since the primary. “I’d already been demoralized, and by the time this came around, the level of toxicity that was coming at me was coming out of me, too,” Frederick said. “I sleep much better now.” King acknowledged it might be better for his mental and physical health if he took a break from electoral politics. “I thought he would have won, and I still do. I don’t know; it is what it is,” King said at the end of our conversation. “If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll pick a winning ticket one of these days.” Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
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