Texarkana, TX 73° View Live Radar Fri H 92° L 69° Sat H 92° L 71° Sun H 94° L 71° Weather Sponsored By:

Bernie Sanders moves into left's leadership vacuum

Bernie Sanders moves into left's leadership vacuum

April 21st, 2017 by Carl Leubsdorf in Opinion Columns

The 2016 presidential nominating race was barely over, and already Bernie Sanders was looking ahead.

Days before the Democratic National Convention formally nominated Hillary Clinton, the Vermont senator transformed his 2016 campaign organization into Our Revolution to promote his progressive proposals, back like-minded candidates and, in essence, take over the Democratic Party.

"We have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution, our revolution, continues," Sanders told the convention, endorsing Clinton but making clear his quest to remake the Democratic Party would continue, regardless of the outcome.

Nine months later, he is well on his way to succeeding. Though his choice for party chairman narrowly lost, Sanders has moved into the leadership vacuum after Clinton's defeat to emerge as a leading national voice against President Donald Trump.

This week, the party chair he opposed, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, is joining with the Vermont senator on a second "come together and fight back" tour of "red" and "purple" states. It includes a stop Thursday in Grand Prairie, where Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the deputy chairman and a Sanders ally, will represent Perez.

The goal, Sanders said Sunday on CNN, is to "see that the Democratic party becomes a 50-state party, a bottom up grass roots party that is prepared to stand up to the big money interests."

The tour, similar to one last month, illustrates the degree to which the party's national leadership is latching onto his economic message. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, among others, have joined Sanders in rallies on issues from health care to immigration.

Meanwhile, in state after state, the Sanders forces are moving either to take over the existing party machinery or to set up their own state or even county organizations, Details are a bit hazy since Our Revolution was created as a non profit social welfare organization, exempt from federal disclosure rules for political action committees.

It's also been playing an active role in the post-2016 electoral landscape. The Democrat who ran an unexpectedly close race in last week's Kansas special congressional election was a Sanders backer, as is Rob Quist, seeking Montana's lone House seat May 25.

In perhaps the biggest test for Sanders' continuing clout, he is supporting Tom Perriello, the former congressman who is challenging Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia. A Perriello victory in the June 13 primary—and November's general election—would be a major boost for the Sanders wing and a setback for outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe, one of the leaders of the party establishment that backed Clinton last year.

All of this means the political machine being created by the Independent Vermont senator (still not a registered Democrat) could become a strong underpinning if he decides, at age 78, to undertake a second presidential bid in 2020.

Sanders himself says it's too early to speculate about that. But an announcement this week disclosed he'll appear in July at the Citizens for Community Improvement's "action convention" in Iowa, the first caucus state.

He is not the only Democrat getting into position to challenge an expected Trump re-election bid. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has made repeated visits to Iowa, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has reportedly been lining up Clinton money people, and former Vice President Joe Biden will address a New Hampshire Democratic dinner next week.

And even if Sanders doesn't run, his organization could be an enormous asset to whomever he backed, especially if Trump's unpopularity continues and inspires a large Democratic field.

The senator's growing influence extends beyond the structural aspects of politics to support for his ideas.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently won approval of a higher education plan similar to the proposal Sanders proposed and Clinton endorsed. It provides free tuition at community and public colleges for fulltime students with family annual incomes up to $125,000, provided they agree to stay and work in the state afterwards.

And even some conservative columnists have suggested Trump's inability to win approval of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will lead inevitably to a single payer plan similar to Sanders' proposal to expand Medicare for all Americans, regardless of age.

"A broad national consensus is developing that health care is indeed a right," Charles Krauthammer wrote last month in The Washington Post, adding that, "As Obamacare continues to unravel, it won't take much for Democrats to abandon that Rube Goldberg wreckage and go for the simplicity and the universality of Medicare-for-all."

Bernie Sanders may have lost in 2016, but he's more of a factor for the Democratic Party now than the winner has been.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com