More on the Movement for a People’s Party: Authoritarian, Inept Leadership Plus Bird-Brained Political PR Stunts Leading to Disaster

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Several weeks ago, I compared Nick Brana’s fledgling Movement for a People’s Party to Ja Rule and Billy McFarland’s fraudulent Fyre Festival. This comparison was inaccurate. In recent days it has become abundantly clear that the would-be third party is such a disaster that as far as musical festivals go, Woodstock ’99 serves as a far better metaphor. If MPP persists for much longer, Limp Bizkit will perform “Break Stuff” amid a cholera outbreak. 

A series of bird-brained political PR stunts over the past few weeks betray an organization desperately trying to regain relevance after the initial hype faded. These actions serve only to provoke, stir up controversy and aggrandize Chairman Brana who continues to rule the decrepit non-profit with an iron fist. Distractions aside, the MPP’s most recent IRS filing from last Friday paints a worrying picture and provides hints as to how a group promising to take on the two-party duopoly has frittered its money away.

MPP is poorly served by its unaccountable, autocratic leadership; its paranoid “circular firing squad” culture; and by many of its own members, who are gullible, emotional and susceptible to ludicrous conspiracy theories. How did we get here? Those in MPP precursor Draft Bernie for a People’s Party could see the trouble coming from a mile away.

As mentioned in my previous article, the MPP requires prospective members to sign a comically onerous Non-Disclosure Agreement. While this NDA obviously would not stand up to a legal challenge, and, as will soon become clear, MPP has neither the resources nor ability to wage war in court, my experiences speaking with former members showed me how a threateningly worded legal document can serve as a powerful tool to silence people. Indeed, many of the ex-members I spoke to chose to remain anonymous for fear of having their lives ruined by MPP’s crack team of ruthless, S.O.B. attorneys. Nevertheless, some outspoken former members had no issue with going on the record.   

Jonathan Martin, a professor of sociology at Framingham State University who studies third party and progressive politics, briefly acted as an advisor in 2017 during the Draft Bernie days. Martin advocated a modest, achievable party-building strategy focused on gaining political power at the local level.

In his view, a party or coalition of small progressive parties following this strategy would have several victories under its belt and thus gain the credibility needed to contest elections at the state and federal level, rather than to put the cart before the horse by running failed campaigns for higher office ending in defeat and discouragement. Martin worked closely with Brana from January to July of 2017, but his proposals fell on deaf ears. He soon left Draft Bernie because “a bunch of us got frustrated by our lack of voice and lack of power.” Martin added that Brana made “ludicrous claims,” such as stating that MPP would become the nation’s largest party within a few short years.

Such experiences were typical for those privy to the decision-making process. “He has no intellectual curiosity,” one former member of MPP’s leadership told me. He “micromanages everything,” the source added, stating that Brana isn’t receptive to input even when the people offering it have expertise in a given area. “Nick is intimidated by anyone who knows more than him,” this person said.

Voicing mild criticism regarding the organization and how it is run can also make you persona non grata, this source further related. Nick’s father, Rodrigo, this person continued, “thinks his son walks on water” and if he hears of any criticism, dissenters find themselves on Nick’s hit list and are later purged.

Shortly after its August 2020 virtual convention, thousands of eager volunteers surged into the ranks of MPP, but the shambolic organization had no coherent plan to direct their energies. As volunteers and even members of the Coordinators’ Circle tried to suggest a course correction, Brana obstinately rejected their proposals. “The coordinators’ meeting is technically democratic, but there are no rules and Nick is the chair,” the source said. “If Nick likes a proposal, we vote on it. If Nick doesn’t like an idea, he talks for 2 hours and then the meeting is over.” By last winter volunteers had left in droves. “They pissed away a lot of really talented people,” the source told me.

But member attrition is the least of MPP’s worries. In my last article, I suggested that it had about $80,000 cash on hand, a paltry sum for a group pledging to run multiple congressional campaigns by the next electoral cycle. According to their latest filing, updated just in the nick of time on July 30 at 11:51PM (9 minutes before the deadline), it had only added about $25,000 to its coffers.

In a national call on May 27, Brana had confidently asserted that MPP would raise 50 percent more than the Green Party. It’s clear, however, that he was either lying or that the MPP had a disastrous second quarter. To this day, MPP has refused to be transparent about its finances, but from the expenditures listed in its filing, there are clues as to how it squandered its largesse.

According to the document, a graphic design firm known as Upstatement was contracted for the sum of $10,000 in order to give the party a little of that old razzle dazzle. What followed is referred to in the annals of MPP history as “the logo fiasco.”

Many members objected to such extravagant spending for a third party just getting off the ground, especially considering that MPP already had a group of artists and skilled professionals in graphic design. In fact, there was a contest underway where members could submit their own designs for a logo and this drive generated a lot of enthusiasm. Brana’s proposal to hire an outside firm was voted down. Fortunately, these philistines were defeated when Brana, patron of the arts, overruled this decision and decided to hire the company anyway, sparing no expense so that he could realize his gesamtkunstwerk. Several members resigned over this debacle or were forced out by Brana, in his characteristicly petty and vindictive fashion.

All flash, no substance. But superficial PR stunts are par for the course with MPP. From the very beginning, Brana misled members of Draft Bernie for a People’s Party and exploited their hopes that Sanders would lead a third party — even though the Vermont senator himself explicitly rejected that idea in a February 12, 2017 appearance on Meet the Press. Nevertheless, Brana continued to seize upon more ambiguous statements from Sanders in order to play up expectations.

Much of MPP’s strategy seems to have been focused on courting various left celeb influencers, almost all of whom rebuffed it. That, at least, was my impression after I accessed the organization’s super-duper, top-secret political outreach data.

To this day, MPP remains focused on loud, very often bone-headed actions intended to generate controversy and buzz. “Force the Vote,” a fleeting tactic of dubious merit at the time to pressure progressive congressional representatives to force a floor vote on Medicare for All was relevant for all of two weeks, but quickly became a branding exercise for media(ocrities) like Jimmy Dore and Briahna Joy Gray. Like Napoleon on St. Helena pouring over his old Waterloo battle plans, Gray just won’t let Farce the Vote go and endlessly harps on it when she’s not busy looking for a new co-host. Such acrimonious debates accomplish little for the left beyond dividing it and, fortunately for the likes of Dore and Gray, driving up engagement for themselves.

Where we would be in August, 2021 if they forced the vote.

One of the most recent of Brana’s maneuvers was a protest outside of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s defunct Bronx office, which has closed since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted. It’s still unclear to me how haranguing The Squad will bring Medicare for All to the masses and it also remains unclear how Brana captivated the imaginations of so many. One volunteer described him as a “boy genius” and said that “people much older than him deferred to him.”

“It’s cult like,” Martin told me. Former volunteers frequently described Brana as a great salesman. Whatever the case, he certainly had enough mojo to woo big speakers like Nina Turner to his August 2020 virtual convention.  

Speaking of Turner, the former Sanders surrogate has been embroiled in a closely-watched congressional race of her own. In a recent national call, Brana intimated that she intended to switch her party affiliation to People’s Party should she be elected.

That was an absurd notion made even more absurd by the fact that the “KHive,” an online coven of demented Kamala Harris cultists and center-right pro-Hillary zealots, some of whom have run bot networks in the past, seized on my previous article for their own purposes and went on to promote the idea that Turner “isn’t even a real Democrat” and intends to switch parties. It’s a ridiculous conspiracy theory from the Clinton camp, but not at all dissimilar from the nutty things MPP people believe. (The issue of Turner switching her party affiliation if elected is no longer relevant as she lost her Ohio race last night to establishment Democrat Shontel Brown.)

Tweet from Sally Albright, Democratic Party communications consultant and KHive troll.

“What the hell is the G Hive?” was a question I frequently asked myself as I learned more about MPP. “G Hive is a bizarre conspiracy theory that I control thousands of people,” Geoff Campbell told me.

A Florida man and former Sanders supporter, Campbell got on the bad side of MPP first for stating that, as a swing state resident, he would vote for Joe Biden. He further angered it by criticizing #ForceTheVote (FTV), but what sent the party over the edge was when he pointed out that far-right speakers had infiltrated the March for Medicare for All, an action heavily promoted by MPP. As a result, MPP cranks have seized on the notion that Campbell is a DNC/CIA stooge and secretly pulling the strings of anyone critical of the organization.

One of the most prolific purveyors of this conspiracy theory is a Twitter account, @bronxbolshevik1, and what appears to be a related Facebook group known as “Bronx Bolshevik Bulletin.” Campbell, who is Jewish, told me that @bronxbolshevik1 has tweeted about him thousands of times, posted overtly anti-Semitic memes and called him a Zionist, even though he has never made any statements supporting the state of Israel.

Internet sleuths have alleged that Bronx Bolshevik Bulletin is actually controlled by Ruth Papazian, a politician in the Republican Party, that well known vanguard of far-left professional revolutionaries. Papazian tried to run against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2020, but was forced to withdraw from the Republican primary. If she does control Bronx Bolshevik, it would appear Papazian was engaged in a campaign to discredit AOC from the left. “I believe FTV and the marches were all a PR stunt run by MPP to divide the left and gain members at the expense of actually building power on the left,” Campbell told me.

While it would be inappropriate to allege a conspiracy, it appears MPP shares goals with at least some on the right. I don’t know where the outsized animus toward Campbell comes from. As far as I can tell, Campbell backed Andrew Gillum against Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial election, backed Joe Biden against Donald Trump in 2020 because he lives in a swing state, attacked Jimmy Dore and criticized MPP, FTV and M4M4A. (All abject failures, especially Dore.)

These were totally reasonable positions. But as a result, these nut jobs made Campbell the locus of their vitriol, claimed he is a member of a cabal and is being paid to stab the left in the back. Sometimes the anti-Semitism is overt, other times it is more shaded. Regardless, they turned Campbell into a scapegoat for their failures. It’s absolutely despicable and shameful behavior.     

West Virginia Berniecrat and 2020 US Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin recently announced that she was joining MPP and ever since has been speaking her mind about the real issues, like the dearth of ketchup packets in rural areas.

Now that she’s fully on board the MPP clown car she has retweeted the crank G Hive conspiracy and potentially doomed her career.

Many thought that MPP had a lot of potential. Organizers felt inspired by Brana and poured their energies into the group. By now though, it’s clear that the party is basically moribund. “I think it’s important to warn people not to waste their time with this organization,” one former volunteer told me.

What will become of the MPP when it fails to obtain ballot access and performs dismally at the polls? Maybe I’m just a pessimist. Maybe Swearengin can turn it around and lead the MPP to victory promising Ketchup Packets for All. 

Yep, like I said, maybe I’m just a pessimist.

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Tony Belletier is a teacher, occasional writer and satirist. Follow him on Twitter @tonybelletier.