Washington state isn’t just feeling the Bern. We’re on fire with it. The total number of donations reflects how many people in our state were inspired enough by a candidate to send any amount of money.
Feeling the Bern yet?
They sure were in Iowa. For Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, to come that close to winning a presidential nominating contest — well it’s like they’re channeling Seattle out there in the heartland.
Prompted by Sanders’ surprise showing Monday, I decided to look around to see how the Vermont senator’s campaign may be resonating around here.
Washington state isn’t just feeling the Bern. We’re on fire with it.
Most Read Local Stories
- The mystery behind a private fireworks show that shook Seattle
- 'Potent' system to bring gusty winds and heavy rain to Seattle area
- Body recovered after woman swept into ocean off Olympic Peninsula
- A double earthquake threat? Study finds 2 Seattle-area faults ripped about the same time
- As WA's first fall rainstorm continues, here's how to drive safely
Consider: The Sanders campaign has gotten more donations from Washington state residents than all the other presidential candidates combined. That includes the one other Democrat (Hillary Clinton) plus all 10 Republicans still in the race.
I’m not talking about total dollars raised. On that score, Clinton is first among Democrats, and, if you include candidate-affiliated super PACs, Jeb Bush is tops among Republicans for total money raised here.
But the total number of donations reflects how many people in our state were inspired enough by a candidate to send any amount of money, sometimes repeatedly. It’s like a measure of people power.
Sanders is off this chart. Through the end of December, he had 14,322 itemized donations from here, according to the Federal Election Commission. But this represents only about one-quarter of his haul. The other three-fourths comes from donations too small to be registered with the FEC. Extrapolating then, Sanders has on the order of 57,000 individual donations from here (these are not donors, but donations — some people give multiple times).
Nobody else is close. Republican Ben Carson has an estimated 12,000 donations. Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Clinton are next with about 6,000. The rest have a thousand or so.
This is why Sanders goes around saying, “They have the money, but we have the people.”
The rise of these “small donors” has been much talked about since Barack Obama community-organized the nation into clicking online donate buttons at a frantic pace. The amounts were seemingly trivial ($10 here, $25 there). But Obama showed the viral quality of the Internet could morph the nation’s small bills into a couple hundred million bucks — all while generating oodles of grass-roots enthusiasm.
Yet at this date in both 2008 and 2012, Obama amazingly had fewer donations than Sanders does today.
An organizer with the local group Washington for Bernie Sanders said they’ve gotten overwhelmed by all the Bern being felt. When they hold a meetup at someone’s house, they have to sign people up in advance, then strictly cap attendance — or be overrun.
“One woman did a house party for Bernie and she forgot to put a cap on it,” says David Spring, of North Bend. “More than 200 people showed up to her living room! Nobody in politics ever turns people away from meetups, but that’s where it’s gotten with Bernie.”
Sanders could be on his way to challenging Washington state donation records (it depends how long his campaign lasts). In 2012, according to the FEC, Obama had more than 147,000 donations from this state. But that was over a two-year cycle that included the general election, when donations soar.
The record holder for a local campaign is the Referendum 74 gay-marriage measure, which drew 27,000 donations in 2012. Sanders has passed that figure.
None of this means Sanders will get the most votes. Some political scientists say the top predictor of success in presidential primaries isn’t people-powered fundraising enthusiasm but how many elite endorsements you have. On that score Clinton is clobbering Sanders.
But something definitely is in the wind regardless.
“Sure we’re the people’s republic of Seattle, but who a year ago would have predicted the socialist from Vermont would rack up more donations in this state than all the other presidential candidates combined?” Spring said.
Last year I was talking with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray about his battles with Seattle’s vocal progressive left, and he said something then that surprised me. Now it feels prescient.
“I don’t think the state or national Democrats realize the depth of dissatisfaction of the far left,” Murray said. “It’s like our own version of the tea party.”
I’m guessing they’re starting to feel it now.