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Alum Creates Podcast on Bernie Sander’s Grassroots Campaign

By Emilie Munson

Bernie Sanders, well known for his “democratic socialist” platform and veteran affairs activism, has found another way to distinguish himself from the other presidential candidates.  He’s the leader of an all-star Kazoo band.

“It sounds like a swarm of patriotic bumblebees,” describes Josh Swartz ’14 in Bandwagon.
Bandwagon is a new podcast about “being a part of something bigger than yourself.” Each season explores a fan block of passionate everyday people, featuring music groupies, sports team fanatics and political advocates. The first season is devoted to Bernie Sanders supporters.

Swartz, a former Film and Media Studies and Sociology double major currently working in public radio, is the founder of Bandwagon. After the announcement of Bernie’s presidential bid in May, Swartz decided that following Bernie’s campaign would be the perfect entrance into the podcasting world when he noticed the parallel between the nature of the Bernie’s campaign and the goals of podcasting.

“Bernie’s whole message is starting a political revolution in the form of a grassroots movement where people in communities across the country kind of band together and basically fight the establishment,” said Swartz.

In the same way, podcasting is about reaching out to the general public and telling these significant everyday stories, explained Swartz.  Both are focused on bringing the average American to the forefront of mainstream consciousness.

“What I’m really trying to do is personal storytelling and telling people’s stories that normally wouldn’t be told … to frame them against the backdrop of this really exciting political campaign,” said Swartz.

As Bandwagon’s only reporter, researcher, scriptwriter and mixer, Swartz has spent most of the past few months knee deep in the Bernie campaign.

Outside of work, Swartz spends hours reading every article he can find about the campaign. When he comes across an interesting quote from a Bernie fan, he contacts them for their “Bernie story.”

Increasingly, Swartz has been able to travel to Bernie rallies and fundraising events thanks to a Kickstarter month-long campaign that raised a total of $8,637.

For his first episode, Swartz traveled to Bristol, VT for a July 4th parade featuring Bernie’s All-Star Kazoo Band.
Contrary to the impressive image that the name evokes, Bernie’s All-Star Kazoo Band had never practiced before their march on Independence Day. Composed mostly of Vermont politicians and local Bernie fans, many participants had never picked up a kazoo before.

Motivated by their belief in the longest-serving Independent in US congressional history, the band members proudly tooted their kazoos, pulling behind them a six-foot high rolling Bernie 2016 sign.
“This land is Bernie’s land!” they chanted in their meeting before the march. “Can we get big money out of politics? Yes! How? Bernie Sanders!”

While the Bernie Sanders campaign is noteworthy for engaging the young voters — much like the Obama campaign in 2008 — it is criticized for attracting almost exclusively white liberals, mostly from the Northeast.

For future episodes, Swartz is working on collecting stories of Bernie supporters who break this stereotype. His next episode, coming out this weekend, will focus on an Illinois ex-Marine who changed his party allegiance from Republican to Independent as a result of Sanders’s Veteran Affairs work.

Swartz estimates that Bandwagon, which is available on iTunes, has a few thousand listeners so far. The podcast was selected by iTunes as “New & Noteworthy” a few weeks after launching and was featured on the iTunes homepage.
Scholar in Residence Sue Halpern, who worked with Swartz during his Narrative Journalism Fellowship at the College, has served as a sounding board for Bandwagon throughout its development.

“Despite the fact that there are something like 300,000 podcasts, there are no podcasts that cover the same territory as Bandwagon,” said Halpern. “It introduces us to people who are deeply passionate about something, whether it’s a political candidate or a place or a soccer team and so on, and brings us into their world, which will undoubtedly reveal [their world] to be more complex and nuanced than we might have imagined.”

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