Nina Turner is a lifelong Democrat. But she believes the party needs to take a good, hard look in the mirror before it can secure its future.
Turner — a passionate supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the president of Our Revolution, the political organization initially founded by the senator to push his agenda — said the Democratic Party needs to own up to its mistakes to win back voters to the party.
“Over the last eight years, we’ve lost 1,100 seats,” she said in an interview with Playbook at her Washington, D.C., office. “That doesn’t happen overnight, that doesn’t happen by accident. The Democratic Party is going to have to do some real soul searching.”
Turner — who is a member of the DNC’s Unity Reform Commission, which was set up in the wake of a messy 2016 presidential primary — rattled off areas the party needs to reform: namely superdelegates, the caucus system and transparency. But perhaps the largest way she will change the party is through Our Revolution.
Our Revolution views itself as the keeper of the Sanders’ flame, advocating for the progressive policies he championed, including Medicare for all and free college tuition.
The former Ohio state senator says Our Revolution wants to boost the progressive populist movement that Sanders spearheaded and wrest control of the political system from “the elites” and “restore the power to the grass roots.”
The group operates as a network of local affiliates, with about 500 chapters spread out across the country. Turner said they hope to double that in 2018, and she personally wants to travel to all 50 states spreading the group’s message.
The D.C. office provides support to local activists on the ground, helping them organize the grass roots and rally behind candidates and initiatives that the local groups support. Turner stresses that the national organization wouldn’t endorse a candidate without the blessing of the local Our Revolution group the candidate wants to represent, if one exists.
“Those candidates have to go talk to the people they want to serve and … have a conversation with them,” she said. “It is my hope that the establishment part of the Democratic Party will heed what the grass roots is saying.”
Turner and Our Revolution are also emboldened after a strong showing in the 2017 elections. About a third of the candidates they endorsed for local and state offices won their elections, including several Democrats in the shock wave that swept the Virginia House of Delegates.
“If [the 2017 elections] showed anything, it shows that people can run on their values and they don’t have to sacrifice their values depending on what area they’re in,” she said. — Zach Montellaro
Photos by John Shinkle/POLITICO.