December 5, 2016

The Bernie Sanders Revolution Must Continue

Bernie Sanders Our RevolutionI like Bernie Sanders, and I really wish he had won the Democratic nomination for president. I certainly did not agree with him on every position. I found some aspects of his message and the manner in which he presented it to be unappealing, and I thought he made some poor decisions during his primary run. Still, I appreciated the fact that he had a strong populist message emphasizing income inequality and the need for sweeping change in many important areas. More than anything else, I think it was this message that resonated with his supporters.

The presence of a clear, positive message that many found inspiring was something his Democratic opponent lacked. This became increasingly evident during her general election campaign, a campaign in which the core message seemed to emphasize the evils of Trump to the exclusion of nearly everything else. I would not say that this was the primary reason she lost, but I suspect it was one of many reasons.

I don't know how Sanders would have fared in the general election, and I put little stock in the polls suggesting he would have won. Sanders was never subjected to a Republican campaign directed against him. Had he been, I suspect the polls would have shifted. Still, it sure would have been nice to find out how he would have done against Trump.

Had the outcome of the 2016 presidential election been different and Hillary Clinton been elected our next president, I am not sure that there would have been much of a role for Sanders in her administration. I suspect he would have attempted to hold her accountable for the campaign promises she made once she decided that it was in her interest to move to the left on some issues. But beyond the handful of issues in which she adopted his positions, I'm skeptical that he would have had much influence during a Clinton presidency. Had he been perceived as challenging her too much, the pro-Clinton news media and Democratic establishment would have labeled him a sore loser and discredited him even more than they did during his primary campaign. In short, he'd be effectively neutered.

It will be interesting to see what Sanders does in response to the Trump administration. So far, he is making it sound like he aims to hold Trump accountable for all his populist-sounding campaign promises. This will be interesting because there are a handful of issues on which the Trump position and the Sanders position sound awfully similar. While it is difficult to imagine that Sanders will have much success outside of these few issues, he should be much freer to adopt the role of gadfly without incurring the wrath of his own party. Then again, the Democratic primary revealed just how little support Sanders had in Congress. And it now appears that some establishment Democrats are blaming him for Clinton's loss.

I hope that Sanders can find a way to keep his revolution alive and gather some allies in Congress. I cannot see into the future, but I do believe that the vision he has articulated is much closer to what a successful Democratic Party will look like in the future than what we heard from Clinton. Thus, I hope we will see more Democrats in Congress move toward Sanders and away from business-as-usual.