Bernie Sanders is arguably the one candidate in the 2016 presidential race who has managed to truly engage Millennials in the democratic process. Following the announcement of his candidacy, millennials across the United States began organizing to help Sanders win the democratic ticket for the United States presidency. My first encounter with the Utah’s local chapter, Utah Millenials For Bernie Sanders, was when I DJ’ed their benefit concert at the Woodshed on November 27, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since then, Utah Millennials for Bernie Sanders has been actively campaigning to support the national effort for the Vermont senator’s presidential run. To find out more about this group I sat down with organizer Samuel Greeny , and asked him about the groups origins and plans to ensure a Bernie Sanders presidency in 2017.
NixBeat: How did Utah Millennials For Bernie Sanders form?
Grenny: I started the general group “Utah Millennials for Bernie” because I saw Bernie’s campaign as an opportunity to get my generation to engage in politics in a real way. But the individual college groups exist thanks to students at each college that have taken the initiative themselves.
NixBeat: How big is the organizations membership and where does Utah Millenials for Bernie Sanders draw most its support from?
Grenny: We have had groups at five different colleges, which vary in size and activity level. We draw support for our student groups primarily from those who are enrolled in each college, but our general SLC events are supported by the large body of progressive Millennials in the Salt Lake area.
NixBeat: What kind of support does Utah Millennials For Bernie Sanders offer to the national campaign?
Grenny: Our groups that currently meet regularly do so almost exclusively to phone bank into early primary states. We are tasked with voter identification – finding those who are likely to vote for Sanders or still undecided so that Sanders’ staffers on the ground can go and make contact.
NixBeat: My first experience with Utah Millennials for Bernie Sanders was the benefit show at the Woodshed on November 27, 2015. The performances included a wide variety of artists including Talia Keys, Lost, The Artist, Hectic Hobo, and Baby Gurl. How did that show turn out for Millennials For Bernie Sanders? What did the money raised contribute to?
Grenny: The show was incredibly successful – we split proceeds 50/50 between donations to the national campaign and paying for local expenses like supplies, promoting, and supporting events.
NixBeat: Do you find that benefit shows are an effective way to mobilize support for the Bernie Sanders campaign? And if so, how?
Grenny: We incorporate things like shows into our repertoire of events because it appeals to a larger group of people, and we can then use those events to try and get people out to actual organizing events like phone banking. That is their real value, and that is the reason we put most of our focus into things like phone banking.
NixBeat: On December 23rd, 2015 there was an event called Bar Crawl For Bernie Sanders that intended to 1st. register people to vote and 2nd promote the Bernie Sanders Campaign? What sparked the idea for this event?
Grenny: The Bar Crawl was not a Utah Millennials sponsored event and we did not help to plan or execute it in anyway. I did participate, but I had absolutely no hand in planning it and it did not incorporate the goals of Utah Millennials.
NixBeat: An appealing thing about Bernie Sanders is that he advocates for participation in the democratic process by citizens. How has Utah Millennials for Bernie Sanders mobilized it’s supporters to stay engaged in the democratic process?
Grenny: The central purpose of our organization, as stated in each of our club constitutions, is “to engage millennials in the political process in a real way, in order to affect progressive change socially and economically.” It is only the first objective of our group to get Bernie Sanders elected President of the United States. Our underlying purpose for existing is to get Millennials to engage in politics, and we try everything we can to make that happen. We register voters at every event we sponsor, we hold a variety events to try to appeal to all and get new people to begin participating, and we table and flyer on campuses regularly to find new people
NixBeat: Does Millennials for Bernie Sanders endorse other active groups fighting for similar if not the same causes that Sanders advocates? If so, what groups does Millennials For Bernie Sanders support?
Grenny: We not only endorse, but also actively organize with groups like Students for a Democratic Society and Socialist Alternative. We are eager to find other like-minded groups and build an even broader coalition. We were a part of the Million Student March actions on the University of Utah Campus and we continue to participate in the Education is a Right movement going on there.
NixBeat: Bernie Sanders has been gaining momentum in the polls, but, hypothetically speaking, if he does not win the Democratic Nomination, does Utah Millennials For Bernie Sanders plan to continue advocating his work of addressing wealth inequality, raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, reducing student debt and taking on global warming?
Grenny: Our organization plans to become an action-based club after the election, no matter what the result is. What that will look like will be up to each individual club as they each vote democratically, but I will be encouraging a close relationship with SDS and other well established student groups. Our central goal is a unified student movement – I imagine whatever we do after the election will be to build this. And all of those issues would be important to such a movement.
NixBeat: If Bernie Sanders wins the national election, who would you hope to see in his cabinet?
Grenny: I would hope to see a progressive cabinet of non-establishment candidates. Elizabeth Warren would be at the top of the list for me, along with people like Robert Reich Bill McKibben.
NixBeat: What are Utah Millennials For Bernie Sanders plans to support Sanders’ candidacy in 2016?
Grenny: Phone bank, phone bank, phone bank. And then go canvas in Nevada.
NixBeat: Does Millennials for Bernie Sanders have plans to support other Democratic or alternative candidates seeking election in the State of Utah? If so, which ones and why these particular candidates?
Grenny: Our UVU group has discussed supporting Doug Owens, something I would encourage. But again, that will be up to each group individually, as they operate democratically and have their own elected officers.