Liberals may feel that the compromise negotiated by President Barack Obama is a kick in the teeth, but the debate over Bush-era tax cuts has offered progressives a needed rallying point the month after devastating election losses, re-energizing a depressed Democratic base and allowing liberal groups to boost membership and raise tens of thousands of dollars in recent days.
They have also discovered a new hero: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the outspoken socialist who temporarily held the Senate’s tax debate hostage last week by refusing to stop talking or sit down for 8 hours and 36 minutes.
“You can call what I’m doing today whatever you want. You can call it a filibuster. You can call it a very long speech,” he said as he began Friday at 10:24 a.m. “I’m not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle.”
But that’s exactly what he did.
His office reported receiving more than 10,000 phone calls and 9,000 e-mails — the vast majority were supportive — in the three days after his one-man filibuster, dubbed “Filibernie” on the Internet. Sanders’ Twitter followers jumped 160 percent in the past five days, from 9,600 to almost 25,000. And his Facebook “likes” ballooned by more than 17,000.
The money started flowing as well.
Various websites such as IsBernieSandersStillTalking.com were quickly established to help Sanders, who is up for re-election in 2012 and reported a meager $111,000 in his campaign account at the end of September. Roll Call Politics rates this race Safe Independent.
The Democratic fundraising site ActBlue is hosting at least three separate fundraising portals that used Sanders’ newfound fame or the tax debate to generate money for the Senator and like-minded liberal groups.
One of them was Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, which created a fundraising page Tuesday titled “Back-up Bernie Sanders.” The group raised more than $75,000 from 3,769 individuals in less than 48 hours.
“Support a progressive hero — Please contribute $5 right now,” reads the website, which produced money for both the Senator and Democracy for America. “Bernie Sanders didn’t back down against long odds — he had the backbone to stand up and fight for what’s right. ... Let’s make sure that every Democrat in Washington gets the message: when you stand up and fight, we’ll have your back.”
Sanders was hardly the only beneficiary of bucking the president.
Other Democrats tied their opposition to the tax cut package to fundraising appeals this week as well. The campaign of Sen. Mark Udall, one of just 10 Democratic Senators to oppose ending debate on the issue earlier in the week, sent a message to supporters Tuesday with the subject line, “I voted No.”
“I stand ready to work through the holidays if that’s what it takes to get middle-class Coloradans the tax relief that they deserve,” Udall wrote in the accompanying message that included a “contribute” button that linked to a donation page. His staff could not immediately say how much the message produced. He’s not up for reelection until 2014.