Should Bernie Sanders become a Democrat?
via AP

Should Bernie Sanders become a Democrat?

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For better or worse, Bernie Sanders has changed the Democratic Party, but he still doesn't consider himself a Democrat. After running as a Democrat in 2016, many feel it's high time Bernie joined the party. His critiques from the outside are unproductive―if he really wants to help the party, he ought to be a part of it. But others believe Bernie's status as an Independent is what makes him so appealing, and some Democrats feel he's burned too many bridges to join the party. What do you think? 🤔

The Votes Are In!

Bernie Sanders ran as a Democrat in the 2016 because he believed it would get him "more media coverage." While he was ultimately defeated by Hillary Clinton, Sanders won 43 percent of the primary vote, and a lot of attention has been paid to the 13.2 million people who were part of Sanders' "revolution."

When he came back to the Senate, Sanders chose to leave the Democratic Party and return as an Independent.

“I was elected as an independent; I'll stay two years more as an independent,” Sanders, 74, said at the Bloomberg Politics breakfast on Tuesday... When asked if Sanders considers himself a Democrat or an independent after the event, a campaign aide stated, “He ran for president as a Democrat but was elected to a six-year term in the Senate as an independent.”

Sanders is the longest-serving Independent in congressional history, and while he caucuses with the Democrats, he still doesn't appear to have any interest in joining them. Despite this apparent disconnect, Sanders was appointed to the Senate Democratic leadership team, and recently went on a "unity tour" with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. 


Some have applauded Sanders' decision not to join the Democratic Party, even urging him to run as an Independent in 2020. Jacob Weindling argues in Paste Magazine that the Democratic Party is "hopeless" and the country needs Sanders "now more than ever."

There has never been a better opportunity to dissolve the two-party duopoly designed to eliminate our common ground—creating the hyper-partisan conditions which allowed Donald Trump to waltz into the Oval Office... There will likely never be a better opportunity for an independent candidate to win the presidency. It would be an uphill battle given the trillions of dollars invested in this hegemony, but Bernie Sanders is the only third-party politician with a large enough following to unchain us from our puppet masters. 

There is also the fact that Sanders really has nothing to gain from becoming a Democrat at this point. The party appears to have given him the keys―to the chagrin of his former opponent Hillary Clinton―without any clear expectation of reciprocation. On almost every key policy issue, Sanders has moved the party's platform to the left. Why would he become a Democrat now when so many people love him precisely because he isn't one?

But others feel Sanders has an obligation to join the Democratic Party if he is serious about his policy visions and defeating Republicans in 2018 and President Trump in 2020. Michael Starr Hopkins argues in The Hill that Sanders and his supporters need to stop focusing their energy on ripping apart Democrats, and instead join their ranks to improve the party from within. If they really care about issues like single-payer healthcare and social justice, they need to join the Democrats.

All the talk about building an economy that works for all Americans means nothing if “Bernie bros” attack every Democrat who isn’t Sanders. He isn’t even a registered Democrat. I would love to hear Sanders’s opinion on how the Democratic Party can rebound and rebuild, but it has to be preceded by him actually joining the party, not merely using it as a vessel for his run for president. Democrats are your allies, not your punching bag or your Uber.

As long as Sanders exists outside of the Democratic Party, he will never be able to fix the party's problems. As it is now, many feel Sanders and his supporters are helping Republicans more than anything, making it even more difficult for progressives to succeed. 

Attacks from Sanders and his supporters on Democrats aren’t helping to rebuild the party, nor are they helping to build a strong economic message. Attacks from Sanders and his supports are an unnecessary Kamikaze mission that will undoubtedly lead to more Republican victories.

And the obsession with purity politics, which only alienates potential allies, has got to stop. 

Now is not the time to relitigate the primary battle between Clinton and Sanders. Now is not the time to enact arbitrary litmus tests that will create even more chaos within the party. Now is the time to come together and link arms. Now is the time to take attendance and recognize who is with you and who is against you. Now is the time to rebuild our country and ensure it works for every single American. 

Many Democrats, however, don't want the Independent Vermont senator to join the party. Sanders burned a lot of bridges with Democrats after he accused the DNC of "rigging" the primaries and stayed silent when his supporters launched sexist attacks against Hillary Clinton. 

Anna March argues in Salon that Sanders shouldn't become a Democrat―nor should he lead the party―as long as he continues to obsess over the "white working class" at the expense of marginalized groups who actually make up the Democratic base.

Sanders routinely divides matters of race and gender and class — which, again, cannot be untwined — by discussing the “pain” and needs of working-class voters and perpetuating the dangerous myth that the Democrats have ignored them. Sanders has insisted that Democrats have failed to reach these voters, while dismissing the fact that 75 percent of working-class voters of color voted for Clinton, not Trump, last year.
Sen. Sanders, we are not the party of the great white male — nor should we try to be.

March also argues that Sanders is in no position to hold others to an impossible litmus test of progressivism when he himself has supported anti-choice candidates, taken money from the NRA and seems to have a blind spot on issues of racial justice.

Still, many Democrats have welcomed Sanders' apparent takeover of the party with open arms. One-third of Democratic senators have signed onto Sanders' Medicare-for-all plan, an idea that was previously thought of as a non-starter. Even though the plan has virtually zero chance of passing in a GOP-controlled Senate, it still sends a clear message to Americans that progressive policies are no longer far-fetched.

But even Democratic leadership―albeit apprehensively―has embraced Sanders' ability to mobilize activists and encouraged him to harness that energy to benefit the party.

“They basically explained to Bernie, it looks like you could be the person that could calm down and make sure their energy and all this enthusiasm is directed in all the right proper channels,” [Senator Jo Manchin] said. “Bernie has a voice, and if [protesters] want to be active, then direct them to where the problem may be or where they anticipate a problem.”
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