I was among those not overly pleased that Sen. Sanders ran for president under the Democratic Party banner while really an Independent, and continues to call himself one after the election.
He obviously did well against Mrs. Clinton, and his message still resonate, but parties matter and if he wants be a leader in the party he bloody well ought to join it outright.
But opinions vary.
Amie Parnes at The Hill writes today that “Democrats previously reticent to welcoming Sen. Bernie Sanders into their fold are coming around.” Beginning April 17th, he will be travelling the country on a multi-state tour with DNC Chair Tom Perez. He is clearly a key voice for those trying to figure out how to be an effective opposition to Trump and the GOP. All of that is welcome news for growing numbers of Democrats who know they will need all the help they can get.
And yet, for some, it’s complicated.
“It continues to drive me a bit nuts that he continues to register as an Independent, but the bottom line is that he is a good Democrat,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist who supported Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary and openly worried then about Sanders’s allegiances to the party.
As Hillary Clinton recedes further into the background it likely matters not much that Sanders may have damaged her chances of beating Donald Trump. That’s politics. And if his left-leaning frame of reference makes some centrist Democrats uneasy, too bad. Times are changing and the party will have to change with them.
It’s certainly not what he stands for, which is all good in my books. It’s just difficult to trust an individual who wants a central role in a club he adamantly refuses to join.
I know he caucuses with the Democrats and perhaps for many that’s enough. But parties matter. The resources parties put into elections matter. The people who sweat blood to make the party stronger matter. And Sanders unwillingness to embrace the party label doesn’t sit well with me.
I recognize that Sanders has leverage, that Democrats are more than willing to play along if it helps to harness the energy that Sanders clearly brought to his campaign.
Still, he should get on board.
An official quoted in the Parnes piece expresses how I feel about it, saying “If he wants to make changes to our party, he should join it.”
Why is that so hard?