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Fretting About Sanders


That’s due to a combination of frustration/irritation with his anti-Democratic Party campaigning (crystallized in his refusal to even join the party); his non-repudiation of, if not tacit support for, his supporters/surrogates’ Bernie-or-Bust refusal to promise to support the nominee; and a genuine concern that the he’s going to alienate voters we need in November. (He hasn’t been exposed to a genuine “anti-socialist” attack ad campaign yet, and I tend to think his campaign is underestimating the negative implications of that, particularly with older voters.)

I also think he’s hopelessly naive about his ability to move Republican votes in the Senate through popular mobilization —- Sen. McConnell isn’t going to support Medicare for All if he receives a million phone calls a day. In some ways, it’s the flip-side of the Biden’s similarly naive belief that he’ll be able to persuade Republican senators through personal relationships.

But if Sen. Sanders actually wins the nomination, that will signal that he has hopefully overcome at least some of those barriers. Then what?

A strength of the Sanders campaign is the consistency of his substantive policy message. As you and others have noted, he’s had many of the same positions for 30 years, when they were popular and when they weren’t. It isn’t realistic to expect him to moderate those positions for a general election, and I doubt it would be perceived as sincere if he tried.

But I wonder if *his* GE pivot could be to reposition himself viz-a-viz the party. He’s going to have to pick a VP nominee, and he or she will likely be a Democrat-in-good-standing. Would the campaign take that as an opportunity to point out that, whatever disagreements he has had with the party in the past, the Democratic Party has historically been a force for good, supporting workers, civil rights, a woman’s right to choose, etc.? To reach out to support down-ballot Democrats, whose support will be necessary for his agenda? As others have pointed out in the past, his stump speech is in many ways reminiscent of FDR, but for the “Democratic Socialist” label, so embracing the party — of which he would be the de facto leader for the campaign and, if he wins, the next 4-8 years — wouldn’t have to be a substantive compromise, but it could be an emotional signal.

My worry, of course, is that since he hasn’t done it yet, he won’t do it in the future. And I shudder at what someone like Nina Turner running the DNC would do to the party up-and-down ballot. But at the moment, that’s the optimistic case for me on Sanders and party unity.

(Semi-relatedly, I wonder if at some point Sen. Warren doesn’t feel compelled to try a version of that message herself as she tries to consolidate support over the long-run. E.g., “I was a Republican for much of my life. Some people have tried to make that a liability for me. But the truth is that I came to realize that it was the Democratic Party that was the home of workers. That it was the Democratic Party that believes in equality for all. It was the Democratic Party that pushed through Social Security, Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act. It is the Democratic Party that works to make government a force for all the people, not just the billionaires or corporations. That’s why I’m proud to be a Democrat…” But I’m not a political ad maker, who knows…)

Anyway, just my two cents. Take them for what they’re worth.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.