POLITICO has reported that a group of alumni of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign are demanding a meeting with the senator to discuss what they called “sexual violence” on his 2016 presidential campaign.
More than two dozen women and men who worked on the 2016 campaign wrote a letter addressed to the senator and his top campaign advisers. It said in part:
“We the undersigned request a meeting with Senator Sanders and his leadership team to discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle – in the primary and potential general election campaigns.”
They said that they sent the letter to Sanders on Sunday. The independent senator from Vermont has given strong hints that he will be running for the presidency again in 2020, so it is important that he clear up any lingering issues that remain with his campaign staff from 2016.
The letter signed by the group of alumni does say specifically what instances there were of sexual violence and harassment during the 2016 campaign. But several of them spoke to POLITICO and said that they felt the issue was not the Sanders campaigns, but rather “a culture of toxic masculinity” on political campaigns.
“This letter is just a start,” one of the organizers told POLITICO. “We are addressing what happened on the Bernie campaign but as people that work in this space we see that all campaigns are extremely dangerous to women and marginalized people and we are attempting to fix that.”
The letter also refers to “ongoing conversation on social media, in texts, and in person, about the untenable and dangerous dynamic that developed during our campaign.”
This implies that there were many troubling events and incidents that occurred which were kept private among Sanders campaign workers and were not discussed publicly.
The alumni want a meeting with Sanders in which they determine the agenda, not the senator. They also are asking that Sanders’ top advisers create a follow-up plan which can be implemented after the meeting. This plan out specify what steps would be taken, what changes would be made, and what new sexual harassment and violence policies would be adopted and followed.
Friends of Bernie Sanders, issued a statement emphasizing the privacy of the signers of the letter. The campaign committee also called the discussion “incredibly important.”
“We thank the signers of the letter for their willingness to engage in this incredibly important discussion,” the committee said in the statement. “We always welcome hearing the experiences and views of our former staff. We also value their right to come to us in a private way so their confidences and privacy are respected. And we will honor this principle with respect to this private letter.”
“Speaking generally, during 2016 there were a number of HR actions taken, and while it is not appropriate to discuss them individually, they ranged from employee counseling to immediate termination from the campaign,” the statement adds. “We share in the urgency for all of us to do better.”
If Bernie Sanders runs for president again in 2020 he will have to make sure that there are not sexual harassment issues among his campaign staff. Hopefully he will do as requested in the letter from his 2016 campaign alumni and take steps to address what appears to be a serious problem.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.