Nina Turner is a “proud homegirl” of Cleveland, Ohio, where she was a state senator from 2008 to 2014 and a candidate for secretary of state in 2014. Long viewed as a rising star inside the Democratic Party, Turner began 2015 affiliated with the Ready for Hillary Super PAC, only to throw her support behind Bernie Sanders later in the year. During the primary, Turner became one of the most prominent black voices to stump for Sanders, and she has remained an active Sanders ally, joining the board of Our Revolution. On Thursday, the organization announced that Turner would take over as president, replacing Jeff Weaver, who was Sanders’s campaign manager in 2016. The Nation spoke with Turner about her goals for the group. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Collier Meyerson: You stood out as one of the first black politicians to throw your support behind Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, and it ended up that black voters in the Midwest came out for Sanders more than in other parts of the country. But the Senator wasn’t able to pull the kind of support among black voters that he needed to win. And on top of that, the Bernie movement was criticized a lot for being largely white and also middle class. So, I’m wondering, what will you do in your leadership role to bring more POC into the fold.
Nina Turner: I want to push back on that a little bit. I think some of that narrative during the campaign was exaggerated a bit. But if you do the visuals, yes, there were lots of, not just middle-class white people but young white people who were far from middle class.
But we do know from the Harvard-Harris Poll that right now Senator Bernie Sanders is the most popular active politician in the United States of America, with broad support from African Americans, Latinos, and women. So it’s like night and day between when he was running and how those particular groups feel about him today. So I’m gonna continue the message that we have, the message that he had and continues to have. The message of Our Revolution is about the working poor and middle class in this country.
I want to point to an example of the People’s Summit, if I may, where the senator spoke. There were about 4,500 people there, and 54 percent of the people there were of color. I use that as an example because the senator was the keynote speaker on Saturday night at that event. That is a big deal. That is something that maybe people would not have picked up on in the latter part of 2015 and all through the 2016 election cycle, but when we were in the theater there in Chicago, you saw a mosaic. You saw a sea, the sea of humanity, and you saw black and brown, and you saw white, and you saw people in-between. Do we agree on everything? Absolutely not. Some people might be in the movement because they care about the environment, some people about race justice, other people about income and wealth inequality, but the fact that we’re able to pull people together in that way to say that it is possible and that we have an opportunity and an obligation to demand more for, not just ourselves, but for generations unborn.