The Death Of The "Draft Bernie" Movement...

By Simon, 2 March, 2022
Draft Bernie petitioners in Bernie Sanders' office on September 8, 2017.

Movement for a People's Party started out with a solid premise. Originally called "Draft Bernie" in 2017, the idea was to recruit Bernie Sanders to create a new third party, and, by tapping into the political revolution happening at the time, end the two party duopoly enjoyed by the Republican and Democrat parties.

I should know. I was there.

The Draft Bernie Town Hall, part of The People's Convergence Conference, at the Washington School of Law at American University in Washington DC, attracted big names like Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party's presidential candidate. Unfortunately, the star guest of honor, Bernie Sanders, never showed up. It was his birthday weekend, which he spent, unsurprisingly, with his family in Vermont.

Bernie Sanders cut-out with Draft Bernie check.

It turns out, after talking to Bernie's Senate staffers, that the conference organizer never bothered to check Bernie's availability, or even make an appointment for the 50+ people that descended on his office on September 8th 2017 (that's Bernie's birthday) to turn in the Draft Bernie signature petition. It's one thing to show up completely uninvited, and it's another thing entirely to obtain an appointment with at least a staff member to create an ongoing dialog. Something this big demanded the latter and it didn't happen.

A month later, Brand New Congress announced 19 candidates, from both major parties, in the exact same venue. One of the candidates, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected to congress in 2018, and the stand-out candidate for me, Cori Bush, was elected on her second try in 2020. Much of this was documented by Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick in their Netflix documentary Knock Down The House (disclaimer: I'm a credited backer of the movie).

The reason I mention Brand New Congress is because they started around the same time as Movement for a People's Party, with the exact same intention, to run candidates supporting the "Bernie Sanders political revolution" in order to get money out of politics, rebuild our economy, transform our criminal justice system, and improve our standard of living. 

Five years later, Brand New Congress have multiple elected candidates working in the US Congress for the American people (Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick FL-20, Cori Bush MO-1, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez NY-14, Rashida Tlaib MI-13, and Jamaal Bowman NY-16), while Movement for a People's Party have run exactly zero candidates and have yet to qualify for ballot access even as a minor party in the majority of states. 

A large amount of credit for Brand New Congress' success should go to the visionary early leadership of Isra Allison, who left the Executive Director position to become Cori Bush's campaign manager, winning Missouri’s 1st district in 2020. Next, Robb Ryerse, a progressive Republican (!) candidate for AK-3, became Executive Director, later becoming the Political Director of Vote Common Good. Brand New Congress is now in the capable hands of Adrienne Bell, a former candidate for TX-14. What I'm trying to say here, is that Brand New Congress is still on mission, after a succession of leadership changes.

The same can't be said for Movement for a People's Party. It remains in the iron grip of Chairman Nick Brana, who recently had accusations of sexual harassment made against him. This is the same Nick Brana that never made an appointment with Bernie Sanders staff over Draft Bernie, and, after five years of bluster and bravado, has never run a single candidate. We may never get to the truth of the sexual harassment allegations because of the way Brana controls the party and surrounds himself with sycophants.

In every organization like this, there is a process for handling sexual harassment accusations. It's usually boilerplate language in the by-laws describing a process that allows the directors and officers to receive the liability insurance needed to do their job. For most smaller organizations, allegations are handled by members of the board who meet as a committee. In larger organizations, outside investigators can be hired, depending on the circumstances (I've previously worked with companies specializing in sexual assault claims within church denominations). 

In Movement for a People's Party's case, three of the board members formed a special investigation committee (SIC) to investigate the sexual harassment allegations against Chairman Nick Brana. As the investigation progressed, a fourth member of the board was added to the committee. As the board members were ending their due diligence, they called for an emergency meeting of the entire board (minus Nick Brana and his father Rod Brana) to announce their findings. This request was signed by 5 board members. Instead of convening the emergency board meeting, the response was to fire and expel those five board members from the party. Nick Brana and his father's signatures appear on the expulsion papers, signed by the five remaining board members as well as a 6th board member who had previously resigned. On top of this, numerous party members/volunteers, who questioned these actions on the party's Slack channel had their accounts disabled. The Slack channel owner is, no surprises here, Nick Brana.

There are also two notable "resignations" as well. That's in quotes because we don't quite know if they jumped or were pushed. Paula Jean Swearengin, one of the candidates starring in the award winning documentary, Knock Down The House, was working for Movement for a People's Party as a consultant, and announced her withdrawal of support on Twitter.

The other removal was Executive Director Zaynab Day, who was viewed as a dedicated professional and had previously been Communications Director for Brand New Congress. She later talked publicly about the situation and her relationship with Nick Brana.

As serious as the sexual harassment allegations are against Chairman Nick Brana, the behaviour of the Movement for a People's Party's remaining board of directors to circle the wagons, deny transparency, in order to protect Brana at the expense of everything else is completely unconscionable. However, this isn't the first time that this has happened. There have been multiple purges before that are recalled in the reporting below.

I'll leave you with the words of Scott Gruber, the former Virginia People’s Party Chair:

"I am saddened and deeply disappointed by the actions of Nick and the remaining leadership at MPP. Regardless of the facts of the accusations against Nick, the act of dismissing longtime members of the coordinators circle in the midst of an investigation into misconduct is highly suspicious and extremely unprofessional. No serious organization would allow such a situation to occur."

Further information on the events that transpired can be found over at Status Coup:

Original report:

Statement by Nick Brana:

Response to statement from ex-board members:

The accuser later came forward in an interview. It was Zaynab Day, Movement for a People's Party's Executive Director:

Final disclaimer: I was banned from the Movement for a People's Party's Slack channel, kicked out of multiple live Zoom meetings, and blacklisted from Movement for a People's Party after simply asking questions while researching for this article.