News and Commentary

‘Bern-Chella’ Brings Celebrities To The Stump For Sanders’ Final Iowa Push
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) makes a point during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is bringing out the big guns in his final push to secure a win in the Iowa caucuses, hosting a veritable “Bern-Chella” festival featuring everyone from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to alternative rock band Vampire Weekend.

Sanders is looking at a possible first-place finish in Iowa after a slight surge put him neck-and-neck with former Vice President Joe Biden in the most recent polls, giving him a leg up on the other first-in-the-nation primaries, particularly those in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina (and, as the Daily Wire reported early Tuesday, making Democrats nervous). But solidifying that win will take a massive, sustained effort over the next several days going into the February 2nd contest.

“Bern-chella” will begin in earnest on Friday, with a joint appearance from Ocasio-Cortez and filmmaker Michael Moore.

“The luminaries cut across the culture, from politics to music to movies and more,” Politico reports. “Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, filmmaker and liberal stalwart Michael Moore, actor Kendrick Sampson, and recording artists Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend — who inspired the Coachella-derived nickname — are among those who have or will be stumping for him.”

“The roster of celebrity surrogates is designed to bring out young and unlikely voters to events: A Friday rally featuring Ocasio-Cortez and Moore, which Sanders couldn’t attend because he was in Washington for the impeachment trial, drew an estimated 800-plus people. Overall, nearly 6,000 attended events in Iowa held by Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and Moore over the last few days, according to the campaign,” the outlet continues.

There’s definite concern, within the Sanders campaign, that their base of support, which won them a near-victory in Iowa in 2016, may not be enough to put them over the top. Sanders’ supporters are consistent, but new voters, including those Millennial voters who moved to Iowa from urban centers over the last four years, are being courted by other upstart candidates, including former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, and tech executive, Andrew Yang.

And, as Politico points, out, there are risks with bringing out celebrities, too. Sanders is struggling with older voters who don’t see the Democratic socialist as the “future” of the party and worry that Sanders isn’t paying close enough attention to their needs. Medicare for All, for example, would affect seniors who are reliant on the program.

Ocasio-Cortez, the outlet points out, is also seen as particularly divisive.

The campaign’s theory, though, is that Sanders rallies should look more like Donald Trump rallies — “fun” events with “energy” and “excitement” — and the septugenarian candidate is relying on star power to help electrify the crowds. Their goal, they say “is to build a multi-racial, multi-generational movement that is large enough to defeat Donald Trump” and “sharing a big tent requires including those who do not share every one of our beliefs, while always making clear that we will never compromise our values.”

That comes with its own problems; embracing cultural figures can sometimes mean embracing their faults, and Sanders is already in trouble for touting a semi-endorsement from comedian Joe Rogan, whom his supporters labeled homophobic and transphobic. The Sanders campaign was urged to distance itself from Rogan. It refused.