Exactly one year ago today, Bernie Sanders led a rally in Portland, Oregon that caught the entire nation’s eye. One year later, Bernie Sanders’ popularity continues to soar. But his supporters worry that the Democratic Party will have a downward spiral if it doesn’t take his anti-establishment, progressive message to heart.
On March 25, 2016, a small bird visited Bernie’s rally, Bernie reacted with joy, and the entire crowd went wild. There were more than 11,000 people at the event. It all happened unexpectedly. Sanders was talking about education, the crowd started laughing and pointing at something on the ground near his podium. That got his attention, so he turned to see what everyone was talking about. When he saw the bird, he broke into a big laugh and everyone cheered.
When the bird flew away, Sanders said:
I think there’s maybe some symbolism here… I know it doesn’t look like it but that bird is really a dove asking us for world peace. No more wars.”
The moment came shortly after Sanders had upset Hillary Clinton with a big win after the Michigan primary. Here’s the encounter from a different angle:
Bernie Supporters Still Believe Bernie Would Have Won
Today, on the one year anniversary of #BirdieSanders, people are gathering on social media to remember that moment and share their thoughts about what’s happened since. But the event also takes on a bittersweet feeling, as many of Sanders’ supporters still believe that he would have won the general election. They point to how much better he was polling before the general election than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. They point to the number of people who were attending his rallies as compared to Clinton and Trump. The states that flipped Republican in the general election likely would have stayed with Sanders, his supporters say, because he would have gotten the “anti-establishment” independent vote went over to Trump after Clinton won the primary. Some would-be Democrat voters also sat out of the general election, still angered over the DNC’s treatment of Bernie during the primary, which was confirmed from John Podesta emails released by WikiLeaks. Even Donna Brazile, who once claimed she hadn’t given any debate questions to Clinton, recently admitted it was true.
So would Bernie have won? In hindsight, it’s very possible. Recent polls show that Americans favor Sanders and Pence over Trump, Newsweek reported this month. In one recent Fox News poll, 61 percent of polled registered voters had a favorable view of Sanders compared to 44 percent approving Trump.
Now, Bernie Supporters Worry Establishment Democrats Will ‘Go Down with the Titanic,’ as Sanders Said
Since the election, Bernie supporters have been divided on whether they should #DemExit and leave the Democratic party, or if they should #DemEnter and try to take it over from the inside with progressive candidates. Groups like Justice Democrats and Our Revolution have promoted growing from within, while others have flocked to the Green Party for a more progressive bent. But for many Bernie supporters, their big issue is that they still feel betrayed by the DNC and don’t see it making any big attempts to change moving forward. Instead, they see the Democratic party as focusing on blaming Russia for their loss, rather than focusing on what happened internally and what they can do to change moving forward.
In an interview with FiveThirtyEight, House minority whip Stephanie Cutter worded it this way:
I think where we need to agree is that we have to find a way to be relevant to the American people … And, primarily, that’s how we can improve their daily economic life, how they make ends meet, how they send their kids to college, how they buy a house, how they pay a mortgage. Those are the things that most Americans think about on a daily basis, and we have to do a better job in being relevant in that discussion…
But not everyone is so nice about it. H.A. Goodman, who became a favorite reporter of the progressive side, has written recently about divisions already appearing in the Democratic party. He talked about divisions from rumors that Clinton might run again in 2020:
Speaking of Clinton, even the mere mention of hdr22@clintonemail dot com running again in 2020 sends waves of panic among progressives, not just conservatives. I’ve actually been accused of trying to cause division among Democrats by publicizing her eventual return to politics.”
Instead of looking in the mirror and evaluating how Obama’s policies or Democratic failures led to a Republican controlled White House and Congress, the same flawed strategies are being repeated by America’s liberal establishment.”
Bernie Sanders himself has been even harsher with his words. In a New York Times article in March, he said:
Certainly there are some people in the Democratic Party who want to maintain the status quo. They would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they have first-class seats.”
After Tom Perez was made chair of the DNC over Keith Ellison, this concern among Bernie Sanders supporters grew stronger, ABC News noted. Winnie Wong, founder of People for Bernie, told ABC News that she thought people would have less optimism and faith, and voter turnout would be depressed, if Perez won. She predicted a “Dem stagnation” rather than a Dem exit. And some believe it’s happening. In 2016, the DNC rolled back restrictions on federal lobbyists and PACs’ donating to the DNC. At the time, activist Fred Wertheimer said:
It is a major step in the wrong direction. And it is completely out of touch with the clear public rejection of the role of political money in Washington.”
The ban had been introduced by former President Barack Obama in 2008 as part of his promise to change how Washington works. In 2017, when the ban was brought back up again, the DNC voted against the ban again, Townhall reported. Justice Democrats responded on Twitter to the news:
A Politico article from this month spoke about establishment Democrats’ fears that the more progressive wing would hurt their chances in Southern states. Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams said:
My hope is that Our Revolution — or anyone else — will understand that purity to a progressive ideal does not [necessarily] mean purity in service of the community.”
Meanwhile, progressive activists feel that establishment Democrats see them as part of the problem, rather than the solution — a viewpoint which could hurt the party’s future chances. Mark Longabaugh, a Sanders adviser, told Politico:
The fact that, broadly speaking, candidates and operatives in the establishment wing see the Bernie wing — the activist part of the party — as a problem? That’s a problem in and of itself.”
Bernie supporters on Twitter are voicing similar concerns on the Birdie Sanders anniversary:
Bernie Hasn’t Given Up and Is Still Working with the Democratic Party
Despite concerns from his supporters, Bernie Sanders himself hasn’t given up and he hasn’t moved to a different party. He’s still standing strong and pushing hard within the Democratic party itself.
Just yesterday, the Republican’s new healthcare bill didn’t get enough support and it was pulled, allowing the Affordable Care Act to stay in place. Bernie announced that this was due to the Democrats. He’s still fighting for progressive ideals. And many of his supporters are working alongside him. He also headed a debate against Ted Cruz in February over Obamcare on CNN, with Bernie representing the Democrats’ viewpoint. You can read more about the debate here.
What do you think? Where does the Democratic Party’s future lie? Let us know in the comments below.