Bernie Sanders After Democratic Unity Tour: The Party Is Failing

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Apr 25, 2017 4:00 PM
Bernie Sanders After Democratic Unity Tour: The Party Is Failing

The Democratic Unity tour is over and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who headlined the event, had the report card: the party is failing.

“I think what is clear to anyone who looks at where the Democratic Party today is that the model of the Democratic Party is failing,” he told CBS’s John Dickerson on Face The Nation. The tour was more of a showcase of disunion, with Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez being booed multiple times by attendees. This pro-Bernie Sanders wing of the party wants to go further to the left, and they’re tired of the more liberal establishment not jumping on the issues that Sanders has pushed on the stump, specifically the issue of health care. Another weird aspect: Sanders isn’t even a Democrat (via CNN):

"Do you consider yourself a Democrat?" host Chris Hayes asked the Vermont senator.

"No, I am an independent," Sanders replied, before launching into a lengthy explanation of what ailed the party -- whose nomination he sought in 2016 -- and what it needs to do in order to reclaim power.

Hayes then turned to Perez with a question on single payer health care, or "Medicare-for-all." Did the new DNC chair, now twisting in his seat inches from one of the policy's most high-profile proponents, support it?

"Well, you know, we want to make sure that health care is a right," Perez began, never quite offering a coherent answer.

[…]

To the establishment liberal wing, Sanders' screeds come off as something between grating and condescending. Why, they ask, is someone who refuses to identify as a Democrat, being given so much say in the party's future? The nerve!

On the flip side, many progressive Democrats regard Sanders, along with a few others, like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as the left's answer to the corporate influence -- and political incompetence -- it believes poisoned Clinton's candidacy. They view Sanders as a uniquely powerful bulwark against the party's embrace of policies (free trade, austerity, privatization, etc.) they despise.

Sanders has not been shy in making the argument.

"Donald Trump did not win the election -- the Democrats lost the election!" he said (again) during an event in Miami on Wednesday night. "That means rebuilding the Democratic Party, making it a grassroots party, a party from the bottom on up!"

First of all, I hate this crap. If you didn’t win, you lost. And winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Sanders lost the primary, Clinton lost the general, and Democrats lost everywhere. When you suck, admitting that you suck is the first step in recovery. Sanders's people may have the right idea about rebuilding the party, with the 50-state strategy stemming from Howard Dean who placed the party in good position across the board by 2008. Those gains have been lost, but the Bernie wing of the Left is frothing at the mouth—and seemingly angrier with Clintonites for blowing the 2016 election. Oh, and those DNC emails showing the then-senior staff discussing ways to undercut the Sanders campaign also didn’t help build trust within the party.

Sanders did buck his progressive roots (and caught some heat for it) by supporting Heath Mello, a Democrat running for the mayoralty of Omaha, Nebraska, who supported an ultrasound bill while serving in the state legislature. Alas, another issue that has brought Democrats to the crossroads: abortion. Perez says that the DNC wouldn’t support any pro-life Democrat, which undercuts an effective 50-state strategy. Sorry folks, not everything from Washington, or the party’s urban bastions, sells in rural America, where the party desperately needs to retake ground that was lost to Republicans over the past decade. It’s a fact that Democrats need pro-lifers, who make up between 25-30 percent of the party, to seal the deal, especially in state legislature elections. With Democrats, specifically the ones who are currently calling the shots, living in progressive bubbles of America’s cities, this will surely fall on deaf ears.

Now, there are liberals, like The Nation’s Joan Walsh, who felt that the Unity Tour was a mess, but that the airing of the dirty laundry on both sides is healthy for the movement. We’ll see how things work out. Republicans should keep in mind that while the Democrats are frothing at the mouth, they will coalesce, they will unite, and they will be a force to be reckoned with in due time.