When asked about his post-primary plans, if Hillary Clinton clinches the Democratic nomination for president, Bernie Sanders was quick to tell ABC News in Rome last week that he would go back to his day job as a U.S. senator from Vermont.
But several of the advocacy groups backing his campaign have begun strategizing about the next phase of what many of them view as Sanders’ “political revolution.”
“Many are wondering, ‘What’s next?’ We want to get together and talk about it,” said Charles Lenchner, co-founder of People for Bernie, a grassroots organization that has been unofficially working alongside the senator’s presidential campaign from the beginning.
Lenchner’s group and National Nurses United, one of Sanders’ earliest and most visible union endorsers, have been working in tandem to plan a conference bringing Sanders’ supporters and progressive groups together after the final votes in the Democratic Party primary.
The event, titled “The People’s Summit,” has been scheduled for late-June in Chicago, just days after the final primary contest.
So far, the event’s website lists speakers such as author and social activist Cornel West, one of Sanders’ surrogates, and the United States Student Association and Progressive Democrats of America as some of his sponsoring partners. The explicit goal is to bring together people and organizations who have supported the senator's campaign and “have a conversation” about what comes after the primaries, Lenchner told ABC News.
“I think it will be an opportunity for people to meet each other outside of the specific groups and areas where they have been active for the first time,” Lenchner said in a phone interview.
Sanders’ campaign and volunteers have arguably built one of the largest and most effective grassroots progressive organizations in recent history. How exactly to capitalize on the energy surrounding the campaign and mobilize the social media community remains the million-dollar question for groups hoping to push Sanders’ policy platforms during the next administration. How the formal “Bernie 2016” campaign chooses to mobilize its golden email list is another question all together.
Some people, such as those from National Nurses United, will likely come to the summit ready to push specific policy platforms, while others have a background in more general grassroots organization building.
Prior to the formation of People for Bernie, Lenchner, for instance, was with the “Ready for Warren” campaign, and before that worked with the Occupy Wall Street effort.
One of the nation’s largest progressive grassroots groups, MoveOn, has been organizing on behalf of Sanders’ presidential bid since endorsing his candidacy and is also in touch with those planning the summit.
“As Bernie Sanders has said from the beginning, the political revolution is bigger than one candidate or one campaign,” MoveOn’s Washington director Ben Wikler said.
“While fighting to win primaries and caucuses, MoveOn members are also thinking about how to help make the incredible success of the Sanders' campaign a permanent force in our politics for positive change.”
He added: "MoveOn is talking with many progressive allies, including some of those behind the People's Summit, about the way forward for this movement, whether Bernie is the nominee, a senator, or the president of the United States.”
National Nurses United spokesman Chuck Idelson agreed Monday afternoon: “[Sanders] has always said, it’s not about him, but about a movement.”
Still, summit planning participants also insist that that they are not conceding the Democratic nomination.
“Honestly, almost everyone involved is so busy in trying to earn even more delegates for Bernie,” People for Bernie co-founder Lenchner said. “He still has a shot.”