Sanders launches mega volunteer program

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The Vermont senator announced several new hires to help manage the initiative.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign will unveil a slate of top hires and kickoff events Wednesday — the latest sign that he plans to harness his record-breaking grassroots army earlier and more strategically than he did during his first run for the White House.

More than 1 million people have signed up to volunteer for his campaign, aides said, and the Sanders team will ask them Wednesday to host house parties across the country on April 27, a date that will double as the official launch of Sanders’ 2020 organizing program.

“If there has ever been a time in American history when our people must stand together in the fight for economic, social, racial and environmental justice — now is that time,” Sanders is expected to write in an email to supporters calling on them to hold the events. “In other words, we need to create an unprecedented grassroots political movement.”

The campaign will provide volunteers at the gatherings with specific strategies and methods to begin helping Sanders. The Vermont senator will tape a “special broadcast” for supporters to watch at the parties.

“Our biggest strengths are Bernie and his message and policies and the size and dedication of our volunteers,” said Claire Sandberg, the 2020 campaign’s national organizing director. “So we are very prepared to put people to work, to give them the tools to organize on their own.”

Sandberg guided Sanders’ “distributed organizing” strategy in 2016, which trained his army of supporters to mount their own phone-banking and texting efforts. According to Sandberg, that initiative led to “80,000-volunteer hosted events, 85 million phone calls, 10 million peer-to-peer text messages and also 5 million doors” knocked on in conjunction with Sanders’ field operation.

But that organizing team got off to a late start in 2016, a delay the Sanders operation is intent on not repeating.

“What people don’t realize about the program is that most of that voter contact didn’t even begin until January 2016, and it didn’t actually really achieve scale until March of 2016. We only got the machine fully up and running once by the point that it was almost too late,” Sandberg said. “So we’re very excited this time around that we’re going to give volunteers the tools to do those things right from the jump.”

Another shift: Sandberg said the campaign hopes to “give volunteers more leadership and deeper training” this time around.

Sanders’ email will offer help to those who sign up to host parties: “A member of our team will reach out to make sure you have any support you need along the way.”

The top aides joining Sanders’ organizing team, led by Sandberg, are a mix of new faces and 2016 alumni.

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