Person

Ben Wessel

Nationality:

American

Born:

1989 in Washington, D.C.

Occupation:

Political Activist

Deputy Political Director, NextGen Rising

Ben Wessel is a left-wing political activist who currently serves as the Millennial vote director and deputy political director for NextGen Rising, the youth mobilization arm of NextGen Climate, a left-wing advocacy group that supposedly focuses on climate change proposals that is funded by billionaire investor Tom Steyer. Wessel has previous experience working on Democratic political campaigns and frequently uses his platform to promote left-of-center causes in general. He has been involved in environmentalist activism since his time in high school.

College Activism

Ben Wessel was born in 1989 in Washington, D.C. He attended Sidwell Friends, an elite Quaker-affiliated private school. While at Sidwell, he became involved in the climate change issue, founding a campus club and producing a video related to the issue.[1] After graduating high school, he attended Middlebury College in Vermont. While at Middlebury, he remained active in environmentalist causes.[2]

In June 2008, he was selected as an “ambassador” by the World Wildlife Fund and invited to join an expedition which traveled along the coast of the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.[3]

In July 2009, he along with a classmate released the “Citizen’s Guide to Climate Policy” which was billed as a guide to encourage climate change activists to become more involved in policy. It featured a forward from environmentalist activist Bill McKibben and focused heavily on the Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” energy tax proposal.[4] The legislation failed to pass the U.S. Senate.

In 2010, he helped organize a campaign against the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The Race to Replace Vermont Yankee campaign was organized to encourage the next Vermont governor replace the nuclear plant with “clean energy.” The campaign was also strongly supportive of then-Vermont gubernatorial candidate, Peter Shumlin (D), an opponent of the power plant.[5] Shumlin was elected and tried to shut down the plant. Entergy, Vermont Yankee’s owner, later shut down the plant in 2014 citing economic concerns.

In 2011, Wessel wrote an op-ed for environmentalist online publication Grist urging the National Park Service keep the Solar Decathlon in the National Mall. He called the decathlon “an incredibly effective advocacy and public education tool” that would encourage lawmakers to write more pro-solar legislation.[6]

Political Operative

Wessel graduated from Middlebury College in 2011 and sent to work for the reelection campaign of President Barack Obama. He served as the Obama campaign’s youth and Latino vote director in New Hampshire. [7]

Then he went to work with the political arm of the McKibben-led environmentalist group 350.org as the group’s policy campaigns manager. He focused on organizing young voters in the 2013 Massachusetts U.S. Senate special election to support the candidate most opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline.[8]

In 2014, he joined U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker (D-N.J.)’s campaign as a regional field director. He was in charge of organizing volunteers to knock on doors and perform other get-out-the-vote operations in his region.[9]

 

NextGen Climate

After Booker’s election, Wessel joined NextGen Climate. His focus was to mobilize young voters to support left-wing policies and candidates.

In the 2018 midterm elections, NextGen Climate pledged to spend $7.5 million on 200 college campuses in targeted states in order to motivate left-wing voters to turn out. The campaign would not just focus on climate change but focused on other left-wing issues such as increased government control over healthcare and legalizing illegal immigrants.[10]

Part of the plan NextGen is using is to target online, text messages, and door to door campaigns. NextGen found that very few other advocacy organizations and campaigns were targeting community colleges. Wessel has said the goal is to increase young voters’ share of the electorate from the current 23% to 40%.[11]

Controversy

In 2017, Wessel wrote a blog post arguing that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party and a controversial allegedly anti-Semitic left-wing radical, could be a model for American Democrats in upcoming elections. Corbyn ran on a hard-left platform and achieved surprising success in the U.K’s snap elections held that year. He called Corbyn’s platform “Bernie Sanders fan fiction” and urged Democrats to run on a similar platform.[12]

Personal Life

Wessel lives in San Francisco, where NextGen is based. According to his Netroots Nation profile, “you can find him rooting for the Washington football team,” a reference to left-wing opposition to the name of the Washington Redskins NFL team.[13]

References

  1. “Voyage For The Future Volunteers”. 2018. Wwf.Panda.Org. http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/arctic/news/past_events/voyage_for_the_future/voyage_for_the_future_volunteers/.
  2. “Voyage For The Future Volunteers”. 2018. Wwf.Panda.Org. http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/arctic/news/past_events/voyage_for_the_future/voyage_for_the_future_volunteers/.
  3. “Voyage For The Future Volunteers”. 2018. Wwf.Panda.Org. http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/arctic/news/past_events/voyage_for_the_future/voyage_for_the_future_volunteers/.
  4. Wessel, Ben. 2009. “The Citizen’S Guide To Climate Policy”. Arctic Ben’s Blog. https://arcticben.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/the-citizens-guide-to-climate-policy/.
  5. “Re-Count Your Blessings. We’re Back!”. 2010. Racetoreplace.Blogspot.Com. http://racetoreplace.blogspot.com/2010/09/re-count-your-blessings-were-back.html.
  6. Wessel, Ben. 2011. “Keep The Solar Decathlon On The National Mall!”. Grist. https://grist.org/article/2011-02-07-keep-solar-decathlon-on-national-mall/.
  7. “Ben Wessel”. 2018. Middlebury. Accessed August 20. http://sites.middlebury.edu/pci-stories/?alumni=ben-wessel.
  8. “Ben Wessel”. 2018. Middlebury. Accessed August 20. http://sites.middlebury.edu/pci-stories/?alumni=ben-wessel.
  9.  “Ben Wessel”. 2018. Middlebury. Accessed August 20. http://sites.middlebury.edu/pci-stories/?alumni=ben-wessel.
  10. Katz, Celeste. 2017. “A New Multimillion-Dollar Drive Aims To Get Progressive Young People To The Polls In 2018”. Mic.Com. https://mic.com/articles/180717/a-new-multimillion-dollar-drive-aims-to-get-progressive-young-people-to-the-polls-in-2018#.oGLuymcr7.
  11. Phillips, Morgan. 2018. “Young Voters Don’t Like Being Called Millennials, Or Too Much Trump-Bashing”. Chicagotribune.Com. http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-tns-bc-young-voters-research-20180810-story.html#.
  12. “Corbyn’S Fountain Of Youth Could Be Secret Sauce For Democratic Wins In 2018.”. 2017. Medium. https://medium.com/@BenWessel/corbyns-fountain-of-youth-could-be-secret-sauce-for-democratic-wins-in-2018-a0220eb6f5e0.
  13. “Ben.Wessel – Netroots Nation”. 2018. Netrootsnation.Org. Accessed August 20. https://www.netrootsnation.org/profile/ben-wessel/.

Connected Organizations

  1. 1Sky (Non-profit)
    Former Policy Staffer
  2. 350.org (Non-profit)
    Former Policy Campaigns Manager
  3. Democratic National Committee (DNC) (Political Party/527)
    Former Redistricting Staffer
  4. NextGen America (Non-profit)
    Deputy Political Director (NextGen Rising)
  5. NextGen Rising (Non-profit)
    Deputy Political Director
  6. Organizing for Action (OFA) (Non-profit)
    Former New Hampshire Youth Vote Director (Obama for America)
  See an error? Let us know!