Nick Brana, Sanders’ former national political director, is leading the effort after establishing the Draft Bernie organization in February. While lobbying superdelegates for Sanders during the election, Brana saw firsthand how corporate interests were the driving factor in Democratic Party politics, and has sent staff and volunteers across the country to gather signatures for a petition to convince Sanders to head a "people’s party" outside of the Democratic machine.
Brana reasoned in a Huffington Post article he wrote after establishing the group that if Sanders started a new party, "we would begin with a least half of the Democratic base. Then we would add independents, anti-establishment voters, the white working class, young voters, third party supporters, people who’ve given up on the political process, and many conservatives who just want a decent life. Now we’ve got something far larger than the Democratic and Republican parties."
Prominent activist, professor and political analyst Cornel West endorsed the organization and joined in April 2017, saying during an interview with Democracy Now, “I was blessed to spend some time on the inside of the Democratic Party looking at the ways in which we could come up with some vision. And I was convinced that the Democratic Party was milquetoast, moribund. It lacks imagination, gusto; doesn’t have enough courage. It’s too tied to big money. The duopoly stands in the way of democracy."
The effort has also found support from Nina Turner, president of Our Revolution, a group inspired by Sanders campaign, and Roseann Demoro, director of national nurses united, a progressive labor union that supported Sanders during his campaign.
Draft Bernie plans to deliver the nearly 50,000 signatures to Sanders at his senate office on September 8 while hosting the People’s Convergence Conference in Washington DC. The petition calls on the Vermont legislator to attend a town hall centering on why a new party is needed under his leadership.
"We’ll have the signatures printed and in open top boxes. I’ve sent the senator a personal message encouraging him to be there to receive the signatures," Brana told the Observer Tuesday. "The signatories are people of all colors, genders and ages who donated countless hours and gave funds they often could not spare to Bernie’s presidential campaign. Now they are united once more in their conviction that we need a people’s party free from corporate and billionaire money. Bernie doesn’t have to make any commitments. He just has to come sit down with his hard-working supporters who would like to speak to him."