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write in bernie sanders

Bernie Sanders and his California write in VP Tulsi Gabbard"

As I sit here three days before the worst election of my lifetime, and I first voted in 1980 for independent candidate John Anderson, I bemoan the loss of the best candidate of my lifetime, Senator Bernard Sanders.

I urged Bernie to challenge Obama in the 2011 primary back in April of 2011, asked him to consider running as an independent in October of 2014—the same month I organized a "Not Ready for Hillary" protest—founded Los Angeles for Bernie in June of 2015 and led it for one year, and was a delegate for him at the Democratic National Convention, because I believed that people like Bernie are a rarity in politics.

For over 40 years, he has been consistent, authentic and, most importantly, for the people not the corporations. When Barbara Walters asked him the one word he'd want his presidency to be known for, he replied "compassion," because that is the main value that motivates him. His opponent seems to be motivated by greed, power and entitlement.

Today, the major parties have given us the two most disliked, untrustworthy candidates in the history of American politics. We have what some call a fascist, but I call a demogogue, narcissist neck and neck with a neoliberal corporatist and a neoconservative warmonger. Yet the entire Democratic establishment, including the vast majority of NGOs and unions—as well as the corporate media—have been pushing us to vote for her out of fear of him.

Although the media have finally turned against Trump, after giving him $2 billion worth of free advertising, they still cannot sell what the American public both on the right and the extreme left won't buy. Sunday, the headlines read: "Nate Silver: Clinton One State From Losing the Electoral College" and "Dems Getting Nervous Over Michigan." You remember Michigan, the state that shocked the punditry when Bernie upset Hillary in the primary.

Jason Smart, one of 55 electors

Jason Small, one of 55 electors

Maybe that's because the Democrats turned their back on the non-professional working class in this country and allowed rigged trade agreements to turn states like Michigan into hollowed out shadows of their former selves. This is why Bernie did so well there and why Trump may win, no matter how hard Michael Moore campaigns for Clinton.

Fortunately in California, which Silver predicts Clinton has a 99.9% chance of winning, we do have a choice. We can vote our conscience for someone we do want. We don't have to vote our fears. If you want a candidate who has a platform as good as Bernie's and is, in fact, better in some key ways, you can vote for Jill Stein. She won't win. But if she gets 5% of the popular vote nationwide, the Green Party will get automatic ballot access in the next election and federal matching funds. This, according to Stein supporters, many of them former Bernie supporters, will be a significant step in breaking the corporate duopoly.

If you don't like Jill or the Green Party, or if you don't think third parties have a chance in our rigged system, or if you simply want to vote for the man who you supported all year in the primaries and stick it to the DNC, you can write in Bernie, and your vote will be counted. On October 25, 55 electors, who had filed to be delegates for Bernie and the VP they chose for him, Tulsi Gabbard, were certified by the Secretary of State. He posted the five official write-in candidates on his website on October 28, when it was announced in the Los Angeles Times.

If you don't like Jill or the Green Party, or if you don't think third parties have a chance in our rigged system, or if you simply want to vote for the man who you supported all year in the primaries and stick it to the DNC, you can write in Bernie, and your vote will be counted.

Since then, a small but dedicated group of Bernie supporters has been trying to get the word out by having conference calls, posting on social media, handing out flyers and doing banner drops over local bridges. And the media have been taking notice. Here is broadcast news coverage in Los Angeles and  in San Diego.

This effort is part of a more organized effort that began after Bernie's endorsement of Hillary called How to Write in Bernie or #OpDeny270. The idea was that if neither Hillary nor Trump got the required 270 electoral college votes, the race would be thrown to the House of Representatives who would then have to decide among the top three vote getters. Bernie Sanders can be written in in 12 states, and the votes will be counted.

The effort has been focused on the tiny state of Vermont with its three electoral votes. The calculus was that it would be easiest to reach the most voters in that small state. And since Bernie has a favoribility rating there of 86%, the highest of any Senator, and won the primary in a landslide, it is not unreasonable to think he could win the state as a write in candidate. Most of these states, like California, are winner take all states, meaning Bernie would have to win the popular vote in order to get all the electors.

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The volunteers in that state have already called over 24,000 of the 400,000 registered voters in Vermont. And once the strategy is explained, they have gotten a commitment from 46% of them to vote for Bernie. 11.7% say they will vote for Hillary, 15.4% Trump, 3% Johnson, 3.4% Stein and 20% Other, which just may mean they don't want to say how they will vote. In any case, their hope was if they could make more calls and keep the same conversion rate, that they could just pull this off.

There is also a similar effort in the other states. And in Washington state, there are now two regular Democratic Party electors who have already stated they will not or may not vote for Clinton when the electoral college meets on December 19 no matter who wins the popular vote there. If so, they would be what is called "faithless" electors. So if neither candidate does not reach 270 electors, there could be a really mess in December.

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Now since this write in effort started, there has been a small but vocal segment of Jill Stein supporters who have been trying to squash this effort. They too have been holding conference calls and making memes and getting the word out. However, much of what they have been saying is false. They are saying to people in California that their votes for Bernie will not be counted, and that this whole write in strategy is concocted by Correct the Record, the David Brock group who was accused of paying people to post pro-Hillary messages on Facebook. (By the way, in California to have your vote counted, you need to write his full name, Bernard Sanders, and under that Tulsi Gabbard.)

Both sides are invoking Bernie and what they think he would want. A Bernie elector in California posted that when he saw Bernie at a recent Prop 61 rally, Bernie smiled when this elector told him what he was doing. And he even referenced Bernie's comment on Bill Maher that he would much rather be campaigning for himself now, as evidence that Bernie still wants to be President.

For their part, Jill supporters are posting about a conversation a write in organizer had with Jane Sanders at her doorstep in Vermont, in which Jane said Bernie would not want people to write him in. In rebuttal, write in supporters are posting a screenshot of Jane's tweet where she says this conversation never happened and that Bernie would never tell someone not to support him. When people bring up the fact that Bernie is campaigning for Hillary and asking people to vote for her, the common reply is a video where Bernie says he would never tell people how to vote, if he did, they shouldn't listen to him.

Unfortunately, the shaming, bullying and intimidation of people like me who merely posted that the write-in campaign was a thing, represents the exact behavior that Bernie supporters were criticized for, what was supposedly perpetrated by the proverbial Bernie Bros, which actually was a fabrication by female Clinton-supporting journalists who in 2008 called them Obama Boys. And it is also reminiscent of the treatment Bernie delegates got by Hillary delegates in Philadelphia.

Here's a comment from a former Bernie supporter and current Green Party candidate in a local race: "YOU spreading this fake hope is as bad as voting for $hill yourself. And the fact that you would even entertain a wasted ballot of votes is pathetic. Call the f**king number I gave you on Monday and ask PV yourself. (PV being an employee of the LA County Registrar.) It is the only way to make it clear in your own mind. It is pretty damn privileged behavior to advocate throwing a whole ballot into the trashcan. You do this, you are not a real activist, Lauren. You are a Hillbot."

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And here is one from the person who tried and failed to organize the Enough is Enough Rally for Bernie in DC last year. "Then all your (sic) doing is supporting #CorporateClinton. Fool." When I replied that this was bullying, he replied. "There is no bullying. Consider yourself warned." Wow!

No matter how many times I repeated that I was supporting Jill and that I was merely sharing information, my motives were questioned. And this makes me very sad, because it shows how the people divided will always be defeated. I only hope we can come together after election day to work to oppose the horrible policies of whichever major party candidate is elected. And at this point, I trust it will be Clinton, as James Comey just announced that despite the 650,000 new emails on the Anthony Weiner laptop, there is nothing to see there, and his recommendation not to indict Clinton still stands.

Unfortunately we are dealing with an FBI, a Justice Department and a President who have been politicized and are not working for the American people. One can only hope that the career FBI agents revolt and share what they've found with us. The only thing I am sure of now is that impeachment proceedings will likely be initiated right after the inauguration, or coronation, and there will be gridlock once again in Washington.

Let's hope that the various movements on the left can unite. Maybe the first step would be to attend Occupy Inauguration, where organizers want to "build a united movement and political party for the 99%, to put people and the planet over profits." To find out more about this event and the demands that this movement will make on the President in the first 100 days, go to this Facebook event page.

Me, I'm heading out to what may be the last Bernie rally in Los Angeles of this campaign season. As usual, Bernie is fighting for an issue that he has long supported, lower drug prices, and is campaigning for Prop. 61, an initiative Big Pharma is spending heavily against. Once again, he's championing human needs over corporate greed. I hope I can get one more picture with Bernie to add to my collection, this time wearing my latest Bernie T-shirt which says: "Don't blame me. I voted for Bernie."

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Lauren Steiner