Bernie Sanders Volunteer John Gnesin Talks Politics

June 8, 2016 Mel Kozakiewicz


As Hillary Clinton claims the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders’s supporters are responding with mixed emotions. JCI had an opportunity to speak with John Gnesin about the campaign, the candidate, and what comes next.

JJ.Gnesin: Sorry. My phone is supposed to stop ringing at this point. It’s over.

M. Kozakiewicz: That’s a great way to start. You’ve been busy. Can you introduce yourself?

JG: Sure. I’m John Gnesin. I was a volunteer field organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign in Hudson County. I was able and willing to dedicate a more than full-time schedule to the campaign.

What was your role?

JG: I organized the volunteers, who were basically canvassing – knocking on doors and leaving literature. We had other volunteers who were flyering, individuals who were putting on arts and music events, and phone banking to other states…which was maybe not the best use of their time, in retrospect. As a first time organizer, I learned something every week that I should have been doing six weeks ago.

Bernie was relatively unknown to many of us prior to this campaign. Was he unknown to you?

JG: No. I first heard about Bernie Sanders when he was running for Congress. My father taught me to be politically engaged.

What did you like about Bernie?

JG: I’m a big fan of Bernie’s “Not me, us” slogan. He’s true. He is who he was yesterday and who he will be tomorrow. You know who Bernie Sanders is and what he fights for. You can set your clock to his values, and that’s exceedingly rare in politics. Plus he reminds me of Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

Lots of people are calling Clinton’s win yesterday “historic.”

JG: I can certainly acknowledge the history of the moment. I don’t begrudge the argument that it’s important to have a female president – I don’t understate or underestimate that argument. There’s a tremendous value in that.

Do Bernie supporters feel that the fight is over?

JG: Well, voting is over in Hudson County. We knocked on 15 thousand doors. 20 thousand voters were contacted by canvas or literature drop. And I think people are bewildered. For many volunteers, this is their first campaign. They’re blowing off steam. Some people are talking about protesting the convention. Some people, like me, want to stay engaged and utilize this energy… Today I think emotionally exhausted is a good way to describe it.

Is there a sense that if enough energy is focused into protest that something will change?

JG: I think people are waiting for Bernie to tell them that it’s over. I’m a little older and more pragmatic. I knew I was fighting a Don Quixote type fight. I enjoyed that. But for some people, they’ve been attracted to the camaraderie, the passion – and it’s hard for people to recognize that the lights are coming up in the concert hall.

If there’s no Bernie on the ballot, who will get your support?

JG: Hillary Clinton can earn my vote. I still think Bernie is the best choice for the nomination, but running against Donald Trump is really helping Clinton at this point. I’ve voted pragmatically in the past and I will do it in the future. Politics has an impact on people’s lives. I believe that Clinton has been pressured to do things in the past and we can pressure her in the future.

Any takeaways for you?

JG: My goal is to immediately find a way to keep people together. We know how to run a campaign in Hudson County now. We know how to recruit people. There’s a lot of momentum. We can use that. The next progressive candidate, the next Bernie, is going to have a map. He paved the way for the next progressive who challenges the machine. That person will have a map and a base. That’s a victory.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for thoughts from the Clinton camp.

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