Sanders alums launch progressive firm

Top Bernie Sanders campaign alums are launching a progressive firm in the Biden era to drive the conversation further leftward and elect more left-wing Democrats.

The new consultancy, Left Flank Strategies, first reported by The Hill, bills itself as an insurgent-style alternative to Democratic shops that rely on traditional tactics to usher centrist candidates into office. 

It’s also an attempt to break up the moderate firewall in Congress that finds itself publicly sparring with the newly influential progressive wing. 

“The idea is to deliver something that helps grow the movement, built by people who have come from the movement,” said Bill Neidhardt, who ran Iowa communications and operations for the Vermont senator during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.  

Neidhardt is joined by Anna Bahr, who served as Sanders’s national deputy campaign secretary last cycle, and Karthik Ganapathy, a longtime activist and senior spokesperson for Sanders in 2016. 

The trio of veteran strategists has ties to grassroots advocacy networks, which has informed the creation and mission of their group. They are pledging to offer an alternative to the standard ways of conducting party politics, in which they say consultants can enjoy lucrative campaign salaries funded in part by corporate donations and then earn wider attention through a revolving door to cable news.

The founders see an opening to help tilt the agenda to the left through more work on the ground and representation down-ballot at a time when Democrats hold both chambers of Congress and the White House.

Part of that involves recruiting, training and creating a public narrative around a new bench of progressives eager to buck conventional negotiations on top priorities, they say. 

“The progressive movement is at an inflection point: the policy agenda is clear, people are ready to mobilize and the status quo is shaky,” said Bahr.  

Equal parts strategic political and media centric, Left Flank Strategies is one of a growing roster of progressive outfits looking to scramble the decades-old Democratic campaign playbook. 

The most prominent group, Justice Democrats, which helped elect Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.), has increased its issue-based advocacy under the party’s control. 

With more manpower, the thinking among progressive operatives goes, the easier it is to band together to push left-leaning policies into fruition or blockade others when necessary.

A version of that happened last week, when liberal House members effectively stopped a stand-alone vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill in favor of a joint vote on a much larger social spending package.

But Justice Democrats no longer has the left-wing consultancy lane to itself. New Deal Strategies, named after former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s sweeping Depression-era agenda, was created to help progressive Democrats develop better messaging to convey their policy goals. And BlackBrown Partners, which was also started by former Sanders alums Chuck Rocha and Kara Turrentine, is aiming to shake up how progressives do digital ads.

Left Flank Strategies intends to help polish the image and extend the shelf life of progressive ideology by amplifying the same policies that energized voters during Sanders’s two White House bids.

To do that, the founders are prioritizing “building an economy that works for working people, saving the planet from environmental disaster, and rooting out institutional injustice,” according to their website, which was unveiled on Thursday.

“Too many working people and young people are skeptical of Democrats,” said Ganapathy.

“Some of that is Joe Manchin’s fault for sure, but we think it’s also because people can sniff out how consultants normally operate, taking money from oil companies and massive corporations while advising candidates to talk a big game on climate action, or a higher minimum wage,” Ganapathy added, referring to the Democratic senator from West Virginia.

“People feel like so-called professional politics is a gross, smelly cesspool. And it just doesn’t have to be this way,” he said.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Cori Bush Joe Manchin

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