Bern Af­ter Read­ing

Is Bernie San­ders re­build­ing the Demo­cratic Party? Or is he set­ting it on fire?

Newsweek - - News - BY ALEXAN­DER NAZARYAN

Is the Bernie San­ders rev­o­lu­tion torch­ing the Demo­cratic Party or putting out the blaze?

Please do not think th­ese are some­how rad­i­cal, or un­pop­u­lar, or ex­treme or fringe ideas,” Bernie San­ders tells me.

It’s early May, and the once-and-per­haps-fu­ture pres­i­den­tial con­tender is tick­ing off pro­gres­sive pol­icy pro­pos­als—his pol­icy pro­pos­als—that, in the two years since his loss to Hil­lary Clin­ton in the 2016 pri­mary, have rapidly re­made the Demo­cratic Party: uni­ver­sal health care, tu­ition-free pub­lic col­lege, a $15-an-hour min­i­mum wage. When he’s told that some be­lieve his ideas may be bet­ter suited to Fin­land than Ne­braska, San­ders bris­tles. “Look at the polling,” he snaps in his thick Brook­lyn ac­cent, which decades in Ver­mont have not di­min­ished. “You don’t have to be­lieve what I tell you.”

By many mea­sures, he’s right. In the two years since his in­sur­gent cam­paign for the White House suc­cumbed to the Clin­ton juggernaut, San­ders has gone from cult hero to main­stream dy­namo. Larry David can mock him on Satur­day Night Live as a cranky, quixotic sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian, but when San­ders en­dorses an idea, many of his peers in the Se­nate lis­ten with­out laugh­ing. The Amer­i­can pub­lic has be­come in­creas­ingly re­cep­tive to his brand of demo­cratic so­cial­ism; once-skep­ti­cal cen­trists have seen the polls and have fol­lowed ac­cord­ingly.

This has re­sulted in a high-stakes ide­o­log­i­cal war to out-bernie Bernie. In March, for ex­am­ple, Se­na­tor Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York en­dorsed a pro­posal that would en­sure the gov­ern­ment guar­an­tees a job to ev­ery Amer­i­can. Se­na­tor Cory Booker of New Jer­sey fol­lowed with mod­est leg­is­la­tion, be­fore San­ders bested both law­mak­ers with a na­tional plan (pay rate: $15 an hour, of course).

This is all new for Gil­li­brand and Booker, North­east­ern­ers closely af­fil­i­ated with the cen­trist donor class that funds the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment. For the San­dernistas, how­ever, the fo­cus hasn’t changed since Bernie an­nounced his can­di­dacy for pres­i­dent in 2015. Their lib­er­al­ism is not trans­ac­tional, pegged

to the lat­est fo­cus-group find­ings. It is fe­ro­cious and un­com­pro­mis­ing: Scan­di­na­vian to sup­port­ers, Soviet to de­trac­tors. San­ders and his back­ers be­lieve the old di­vides be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats are be­ing re­placed by the far more real rift be­tween those who can’t com­pre­hend how any­one could live on as lit­tle as $15 an hour and those who spend their work­ing lives mak­ing half that much.

Out­side Wash­ing­ton, how­ever, this vi­sion is get­ting a mixed re­cep­tion. On May 8, in a se­ries of Demo­cratic pri­maries, es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures romped to vic­tory over lib­eral in­sur­gents. In In­di­ana, a health care ex­ec­u­tive who had do­nated to Repub­li­cans won the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for a House seat, best­ing chal­lengers who backed uni­ver­sal health care. And in Ohio’s race for gov­er­nor, Richard Cor­dray, the staid for­mer head of the Con­sumer Fi­nan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau, de­feated for­mer Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­nis Kucinich, the lib­eral fire­brand en­dorsed by the San­ders-aligned Our Rev­o­lu­tion, the po­lit­i­cal group started by his cam­paign’s alumni.

Within a week, the Berniecrats had re­bounded. On May 15, the more lib­eral can­di­dates beat main­stream hope­fuls in Penn­syl­va­nia, Ne­braska and Idaho. Most striking was the vic­tory of Kara East­man, a pro­gres­sive com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer from Omaha who cam­paigned for a House seat on a plat­form of sin­gle-payer health care, gun con­trol and mar­i­juana de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion. The na­tional Demo­cratic ap­pa­ra­tus made no se­cret of its pref­er­ence for for­mer Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Brad Ash­ford, a cen­trist who promised com­pro­mise. Repub­li­cans cheered the re­sult, con­vinced that East­man will be the weaker op­po­nent in the con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing dis­trict.

This elec­toral whiplash has some party lead­ers afraid the midterms will be more of a ref­er­en­dum

The busi­ness model of the Demo­cratic Party has clearly FAILED

on Bernie San­ders than Don­ald Trump, sap­ping party re­sources and po­ten­tially cost­ing Democrats their best chance to re­take the House in years.

San­ders, how­ever, sees a nec­es­sary reck­on­ing. On the day that we spoke, he was headed to Penn­syl­va­nia, where he would cam­paign for John Fet­ter­man, the hulk­ing, tat­tooed Demo­cratic can­di­date for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor who would go on to oust in­cum­bent Mike Stack. “My role,” San­ders says, “is to do ev­ery­thing I can to sup­port pro­gres­sive can­di­dates.”

Ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post’s cal­cu­la­tions, San­ders is bat­ting just be­low .500 in his en­dorse­ments, with 10 of the 21 can­di­dates he has sup­ported hav­ing emerged vic­to­ri­ous. This is a bet­ter record than Our Rev­o­lu­tion’s: Only one-third of its 134 can­di­dates, 46 in all, have won. But los­ing doesn’t bother San­ders as much as it does the or­di­nary politi­cian. He wants to win, no doubt, but the vic­to­ries he is look­ing for are vic­to­ries of per­ma­nence, the kind that are en­shrined in his­tory books, not tweets. In fact, San­ders would likely find this en­tire dis­cus­sion frivolous. He wants eco­nomic jus­tice, and you want to show him some tri­fling poll?

Win­ning by los­ing is a time-hon­ored po­lit­i­cal strat­egy—but it does in­volve a lot of los­ing. San­ders, the prin­ci­pled war­rior tilt­ing at wind­mills, can make his point by never win­ning. In fact, los­ing only bol­sters his as­ser­tion that pol­i­tics is a pup­pet the­ater, and he is a man who has cut all his strings. And, yes, it is easy to ex­ag­ger­ate the mean­ing of en­dorse­ments for the one mak­ing them (Barack Obama en­dorsed Hil­lary Clin­ton, af­ter all, and cam­paigned for her, but her loss didn’t tar­nish his rep­u­ta­tion). But if Bernie wants to play king­maker—to have the legacy of Bill Clin­ton, not Ge­orge Mc­gov­ern—shouldn’t he be mint­ing a few more re­gents? And if his ideas rep­re­sent the fu­ture of the Demo­cratic Party, as his sup­port­ers claim they do, why have so many can­di­dates es­pous­ing those ideas failed to win?

Crack­ing the Clin­ton Ma­chine

jeff weaver has the near-cer­tain dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the only per­son in Amer­i­can his­tory to have run both a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and a comic book store. The shop is called Vic­tory Comics, and Weaver has been its owner and op­er­a­tor since 2009, when he left Capitol Hill, where he’d been San­ders’s chief of staff, to spend his days with Won­der Woman and Spi­der-man in­stead of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

In 2015, San­ders asked Weaver to run his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Months later, the Green Moun­tain State so­cial­ist was of­fer­ing an un­ex­pect­edly cred­i­ble chal­lenge to the re­lent­less Clin­ton ma­chine and all its sup­posed af­fil­i­ates: the coastal donors, the per­ma­nent po­lit­i­cal class, the Belt­way pun­dits. San­ders didn’t come all that close, with Clin­ton earning 3.7 mil­lion more votes (as her sur­ro­gates will ea­gerly re­mind you). Still, there were the ador­ing crowds, drawn to rev­o­lu­tion­ary calls to undo in­equal­ity ev­ery­where, from pock­et­books to pris­ons. Af­ter Trump’s elec­tion, “Bernie would have won” be­came a wist­ful meme, a sign of things that should have been.

You can’t blame Weaver for think­ing San­ders was vic­to­ri­ous—or for be­liev­ing that San­ders will win in the 2018 midterms and per­haps in 2020, when he is ex­pected to run for pres­i­dent again. Weaver is not shy on this point. The ti­tle of his new book is How Bernie Won. Its last sen­tence: “Run, Bernie, run.”

Weaver’s cen­tral ar­gu­ment is that San­ders was the first can­di­date to clearly and hon­estly de­scribe the de­struc­tive eco­nom­ics that have been at work for at least the last half-cen­tury, and which have steadily widened the in­come gap be­tween rich and poor. He

San­ders's LIB­ER­AL­ISM is fe­ro­cious, un­com­pro­mis­ing Scan­di­na­vian to sup­port­ers, Soviet to de­trac­tors

was also the first to of­fer so­lu­tions, pri­mar­ily by re­turn­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to the kind of role it played dur­ing the height of the New Deal—that is, more reg­u­la­tion of cor­po­ra­tions but also more sup­port for the in­di­gent. Nearly four decades af­ter Ron­ald Rea­gan de­clared that “gov­ern­ment is the prob­lem,” gov­ern­ment would be­come the so­lu­tion.

San­ders’s dis­ci­plined in­sis­tence on th­ese points has made peo­ple who nor­mally do not care about pol­i­tics fer­vent sup­port­ers of the 76-year-old Ver­mon­ter. They feel he speaks their truths in­stead of re­sort­ing to tested plat­i­tudes. Don­ald Trump’s sup­port­ers feel much the same way about their guy. (And there is some de­gree of crossover ap­peal; one study found that more than one in 10 San­ders vot­ers in 2016 ul­ti­mately cast bal­lots for Trump in the gen­eral elec­tion.) “That is how we’re go­ing to win in the long term,” Weaver says of the ap­proach to dis­en­chanted vot­ers. He ar­gues that most in­de­pen­dents are not cen­trists un­sure of the choice be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats but are more broadly dis­mayed by both par­ties’ in­abil­ity to of­fer so­lu­tions to real-life prob­lems. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple, writ large, want to em­brace a pro­gres­sive eco­nomic agenda,” Weaver says. That agenda has ex­panded, most re­cently, to guar­an­tee a job to ev­ery sin­gle Amer­i­can, along with health care cov­er­age and a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion.

Pro­gres­sive can be a dirty word in many parts of the coun­try, nearly as bad as lib­eral. But when I asked Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cheri Bus­tos, an Illi­nois Demo­crat whose dis­trict Trump nar­rowly car­ried in 2016, whether San­ders’s mes­sage flops in blue-col­lar Mid­west­ern ter­ri­tory like her own, she scoffed at the sug­ges­tion. “No­body’s sit­ting around their kitchen ta­ble with their teenagers say­ing, ‘Well, th­ese are so­cial­ist is­sues,’” Bus­tos tells me, cit­ing col­lege af­ford­abil­ity and the cost of health care.

There is some truth to that: Re­cent polling finds that 51 per­cent of Amer­i­cans sup­port a sin­gle-payer sys­tem, while 63 per­cent sup­port mak­ing state col­lege tu­ition-free. As for San­ders, he has not re­ceded into sen­a­to­rial senes­cence since re­turn­ing to Wash­ing­ton. More than two years since his de­feat in the Demo­cratic pri­mary, he’s one of the most pop­u­lar politi­cians in Amer­ica; one poll placed his ap­proval rat­ing at 57 per­cent, 17 points higher than Trump’s.

But that ap­proval has not al­ways trans­lated into po­lit­i­cal cur­rency. Last year, San­ders en­dorsed House can­di­dates in Mon­tana and Kansas. Th­ese were dif­fi­cult races; both men lost. Later, in a Vir­ginia gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary that was seen as a ma­jor test of Demo­cratic prospects in the age of Trump, he en­dorsed lib­eral Tom Per­riello, who lost to cen­trist Ralph Northam. So did all three San­der­sendorsed can­di­dates for the New Jer­sey Leg­is­la­ture. In both Missouri and Penn­syl­va­nia, he tried to

boost state-level leg­is­la­tors. There, too, he failed to make the dif­fer­ence. Wins in some May pri­maries are en­cour­ag­ing for the San­dernistas, but just as the Democrats need a wave to gain con­trol of the House, lib­er­als need a wave of their own to as­sert dom­i­nance over a party that re­mains skep­ti­cal about their stay­ing power.

So why haven’t more San­ders-en­dorsed can­di­dates won? Peo­ple in Bernie’s camp think the ques­tion is fun­da­men­tally un­fair, evinc­ing the same es­tab­lish­ment skep­ti­cism that didn’t give him a chance in 2015. But they are clearly pre­pared for the ques­tion. When I asked a se­nior San­ders aide about the se­na­tor’s mixed record, he promptly pro­duced two spread­sheets. One chron­i­cled the 43 state vis­its San­ders has taken in 2017 and 2018. The other listed the can­di­dates San­ders has en­dorsed in 2018. Many of them, like Emily Sirota, run­ning for the Colorado Leg­is­la­ture from the Den­ver sub­urbs, are likely to ben­e­fit from the at­ten­tion. The point the San­ders aide sought to make was clear: Bernie is hus­tling and tak­ing chances to build the pro­gres­sive ranks, even if some of his picks are long shots.

As for Our Rev­o­lu­tion, it has “a pretty damn good win record,” says Jane Kleeb, a Ne­braskan who sits on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board and is un­fazed by the 66 per­cent of can­di­dates who have lost. “Our coun­try is mov­ing in a more pro­gres­sive di­rec­tion,” she says.

Not every­one agrees. The Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee has proved a frus­trat­ingly pesky fren­emy. In the Hous­ton sub­urbs, for ex­am­ple, Our Rev­o­lu­tion sup­ported Laura Moser, a po­lit­i­cal new­comer who ran a pro­gres­sive cam­paign in the crowded Demo­cratic pri­mary. Fear­ing she could never win a Texas gen­eral elec­tion with her un­apolo­get­i­cally left­ist views, the com­mit­tee launched an at­tack that branded Moser a “Wash­ing­ton in­sider” who had only “be­grudg­ingly” left the na­tion’s cap­i­tal for Texas. It was the kind of in­ternecine fight every­one has dreaded since the San­ders-clin­ton con­test. De­spite the es­tab­lish­ment at­tacks, Moser fin­ished sec­ond out of seven in the pri­mary. (The runoff was set for May 22, be­fore this ar­ti­cle’s pub­li­ca­tion.)

For San­ders, can­di­dates like Moser are far more rel­e­vant to the Demo­cratic Party’s prospects than donors from Southamp­ton and Bev­erly Hills. “The busi­ness model of the Demo­cratic Party,” he tells me, “has clearly failed” in its ne­glect of the so-called fly­over coun­try that Trump won. The Democrats, he be­lieves, can­not be “the party of the East Coast and the West Coast”—even though the big­gest re­serves of blue dis­tricts re­main there. They must field pro­gres­sive can­di­dates in be­tween. The Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee (DNC) “is mov­ing in that di­rec­tion,” he says.

The party’s left­ward shift makes Weaver think that San­ders has not lost. De­spite Clin­ton’s vic­tory, Weaver ar­gues the San­ders cam­paign was proof that cen­trism was dead, lib­er­al­ism was alive and the rev­o­lu­tion was go­ing to wash over the heart­land.

The Tea Party of the Left?

“je­sus.” that was the sin­gle word a top demo­cratic op­er­a­tive sent me when I texted her the sec­tion of Weaver’s book in which he urges San­ders to run for pres­i­dent again.

“You can’t say your ide­ol­ogy wins if you lose,” notes the Demo­cratic op­er­a­tive, who spoke only on con­di­tion of anonymity, for fear that “Bernie Bros”— earnest young men who have taken some­what too en­thu­si­as­ti­cally to the prospects of a San­ders rev­o­lu­tion—would sub­ject her to a pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion, 280 char­ac­ters of Twit­ter buck­shot at a time. She ar­gues that San­ders has had lit­tle in­flu­ence on the di­rec­tion of the Demo­cratic Party: His voice is loud, but in her es­ti­ma­tion, many have tuned it out. “They don’t win pri­maries,” she says of can­di­dates Bernie sup­ports (we spoke be­fore the May re­sults, in which two San­ders-en­dorsed hope­fuls won in Penn­syl­va­nia).

Of course, no politi­cian has a per­fect record.

Win­ning by los­ing is a time-hon­ored po­lit­i­cal strat­egy - but it does in­volve a lot of LOS­ING

What’s more in­trigu­ing is the man­ner in which some San­ders-en­dorsed can­di­dates lose. Take, for ex­am­ple, the Demo­cratic pri­mary for the 3rd Con­gres­sional Dis­trict of Illi­nois, in the Chicago sub­urbs. There, San­ders en­dorsed Marie New­man, the founder of an anti-bul­ly­ing not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion who had never run for elected of­fice be­fore. New­man was chal­leng­ing in­cum­bent Dan Lip­in­ski, who’d held the seat since 2005. Be­fore that, it be­longed to his fa­ther. Though a Demo­crat, Lip­in­ski was a strong op­po­nent of abor­tion who de­clined to en­dorse Obama in 2012.

De­spite those rene­gade ten­den­cies, in 2018 he earned the back­ing of Pelosi, the for­mer house speaker and the clos­est thing the Demo­cratic Party has to a king­maker. San­ders’s en­dorse­ment of New­man came a week af­ter that, a de­fi­ant jab at the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment. Lip­in­ski was ready for the as­sault. Aware of New­man’s grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity, he cast her as a pup­pet of the “Tea Party of the left,” ref­er­enc­ing the po­tent but dis­or­ga­nized rightwing move­ment that pre­saged Trump. The warn­ing worked, and Lip­in­ski won.

The GOP has taken no­tice and has clearly de­cided that San­ders is as po­tent a specter for the right as Trump is for the left. In late April, the Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee pub­lished a blog post sim­ply ti­tled “#Berni­fied.” The premise: San­ders was turn­ing the Demo­cratic Party into the kind of po­lit­i­cal or­gan that would have done well in Moscow circa 1936. “By the time we get to 2020, will there be any Bernie pol­icy that the rest of the field hasn’t adopted?” the post won­dered. “Or will the de­bate stage be filled with self-avowed so­cial­ists?”

The open se­cret of Demo­cratic pol­i­tics is that many share this fear, even if they de­scribe them­selves as lib­er­als. This is true not only of Bernie’s can­di­dates but also of Bernie’s ideas. Af­ter he in­tro­duced his “Medi­care-for-all” plan last year, the lib­eral blog­ger Ezra Klein wrote that, for all its pop­u­lar­ity, the San­ders plan “solves pre­cisely none of the prob­lems that have foiled ev­ery other sin­gle-payer plan in Amer­i­can his­tory.” Num­bers aside, the pol­i­tics of sell­ing Congress on such a plan are in­con­ceiv­able. Even Cal­i­for­nia—the wealth­i­est and most lib­eral state in the na­tion—couldn’t be per­suaded to im­ple­ment uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age, de­spite a push by the state’s pow­er­ful nurses union, a group closely aligned with San­ders. Sacramento, where the Democrats have a su­per­ma­jor­ity, killed the bill be­cause no­body knew where the fund­ing was go­ing to come from. “This was es­sen­tially a $400 bil­lion pro­posal with­out a fund­ing source. That’s ab­so­lutely un­prece­dented,” As­sem­bly Speaker An­thony Ren­don told the Los An­ge­les Times. “This was not a bill; this was a state­ment of prin­ci­ples.”

Other sig­na­ture ideas face sim­i­lar prob­lems. Free col­lege would cost some $75 bil­lion a year, which San­ders pro­poses to cover with a Wall Street tax. It is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine Repub­li­cans, or even cen­trist Democrats, en­dors­ing such a plan. Uni­ver­sal ba­sic in­come, which San­ders also sup­ports, would cost $900 bil­lion, more than what is al­lot­ted an­nu­ally to the Pen­tagon. Mean­while, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has mused about cut­ting Meals-on-wheels ($517 mil­lion from Wash­ing­ton). San­ders is not a de­tails guy, how­ever. He’s win­ning the ideas war, which is the one he thinks he needs to win. “Vir­tu­ally all of the ideas I have been fight­ing for now have sig­nif­i­cant sup­port among the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he says. Pre­sum­ably, he’ll crunch the num­bers later.

Ei­ther way, there is some sup­port for this vi­sion among high-rank­ing lead­ers. “The elec­torate is more pro­gres­sive than the peo­ple who rep­re­sent them,” says Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Keith El­li­son, Demo­crat of Min­nesota and deputy chair of the DNC. A close ally of San­ders, El­li­son be­lieves that Wash­ing­ton’s po­lit­i­cal class does not un­der­stand the plight of the com­mon man, which is why San­ders’s ideas sound more out­landish in­side the Belt­way than

If we FUNDRAISE at the coun­try clubb... the con­ver­sa­tion is not go­ing to re­volve around lay­offs at the lo­cal Toys R Us.

out­side it. “The av­er­age per­son in the Congress is a mil­lion­aire,” El­li­son cor­rectly as­serts. “If we fundraise at the coun­try club, if you’re munch­ing on hors d’oeu­vres, the con­ver­sa­tion is not go­ing to re­volve around lay­offs at the lo­cal Toys R Us.”

But if San­ders has an abil­ity to in­spire, he also has the abil­ity to ex­as­per­ate, in par­tic­u­lar when it comes to Demo­cratic in­sid­ers who don’t think he un­der­stands how pol­i­tics works. “If hubris and the suc­cess­ful pur­suit of head­lines were gen­uine in­di­ca­tors of po­lit­i­cal ap­ti­tude, per­haps Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-VT.) would ac­tu­ally be the Sven­gali he’s presently be­ing sold as,” opened a with­er­ing 2017 col­umn by Michael Arce­neaux on The Root. Its ti­tle: “Shut Up, Bernie San­ders.”

Philippe Reines, a for­mer top Hil­lary Clin­ton aide, be­lieves that San­ders suf­fers from “ide­o­log­i­cal naïveté,” as he put it in a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion. Bernie, he ar­gues, mis­read the elec­torate. Whereas San­ders saw the sup­port he en­joyed dur­ing the Demo­cratic pri­mary as an up­swell of lib­eral sen­ti­ment, Reines saw some­thing much less trans­for­ma­tive: hunger for some­thing, any­thing not named Clin­ton. Ever since, Reines says, Bernie has been over­es­ti­mat­ing the sup­port for his poli­cies. That would help ex­plain why the can­di­dates he backs haven’t been win­ning in big num­bers in ’17 and ’18. Reines doesn’t think ’20 will be any dif­fer­ent, should it come to that. “The Bernie that we saw in 2015,” he says, “I don’t think that’s gonna trans­late to 2020 in some mag­i­cal way.”

Run, Bernie, Run

in mid-april, the new hamp­shire demo­cratic Party held its an­nual Mcin­tyre-sha­heen 100 Club Din­ner in Nashua, a town near the bor­der with Mas­sachusetts. On the 31st page of the pro­gram, there was an ad that caught at­ten­dees’ at­ten­tion, solely be­cause of who’d pur­chased it: “Friends of Bernie San­ders.” The ad vowed to work with the state’s Demo­cratic Party “in 2018 and be­yond!”

Be­yond the midterm elec­tions lies the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, in which many ex­pect San­ders to chal­lenge Trump—as well as per­haps a dozen can­di­dates from his own party. When I asked him about it, San­ders dis­missed the ques­tion, the way ev­ery even­tual can­di­date does. Of course he isn’t run­ning. The only peo­ple who de­clare this early are kooks.

At the same time, Bernie is act­ing like a can­di­date. He will pub­lish his own book, Where We Go From Here, around the time of the fall midterms, when at­ten­tion turns to the pres­i­den­tial pri­maries. He has been to Iowa at least twice. And though he stayed away from Alabama dur­ing last year’s high-pro­file Se­nate cam­paign, he re­cently ven­tured South in an ef­fort to ap­peal to black vot­ers.

“The one thing that San­ders has is that peo­ple like him per­son­ally,” says Mark Penn, a vet­eran poll­ster who used to work for Bill Clin­ton, prais­ing San­ders for his “spunk.” He com­pares San­ders to Obama, be­cause, he says, both men were liked bet­ter than the poli­cies they pro­posed. And he con­trasts San­ders with Trump, who is loathed by many, even as some of his poli­cies en­joy sup­port.

Penn’s polling has ar­rived at a con­clu­sion that would sur­prise no one who has ever shopped at a Wal­mart or Tar­get: The elec­torate re­mains “quite strongly cap­i­tal­ist in na­ture,” while re­ject­ing so­cial­ism as a “threat.” The one pol­icy pro­posal of San­ders that peo­ple have warmed to, Penn finds, is uni­ver­sal health care cov­er­age.

Like most every­one else I spoke to, he thinks that San­ders will run in 2020. Not every­one thinks this is a good idea. For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den also knows how to ap­peal to the work­ing class, but un­like San­ders, “he’s more at­tuned to the win­ning Demo­cratic mes­sage” of lib­eral grad­u­al­ism, as Penn puts it, less likely to go rogue. Eliz­a­beth War­ren is just as pro­gres­sive but less anath­ema to the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment. “He’s go­ing to do what he’s go­ing to do,” says Reines, the for­mer Clin­ton aide, with some­thing rather like res­ig­na­tion. “It’s not nec­es­sar­ily what’s best for the Demo­cratic Party.” San­ders would dis­agree with that as­ser­tion. If he didn’t think he knew best, he would have gone quiet long ago. And his case for a shake-up is com­pelling.

Dur­ing the eight years of the Obama pres­i­dency, the party lost hun­dreds of leg­isla­tive seats around the na­tion. It lost both cham­bers of Congress. Then it lost the pres­i­dency. For San­ders, th­ese were signs of a pro­found dis­ease within the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment, one that’s grown fat on donor dol­lars and voter data, but also in­creas­ingly di­vorced from or­di­nary peo­ple. Though he may bris­tle at the no­tion, what he is pre­scrib­ing will amount, for most Amer­i­cans, to an ex­per­i­men­tal treat­ment. The ques­tion is how many of them ac­tu­ally want it.

THE BIG SICK The open se­cret of Demo­cratic pol­i­tics is that many share a fear that San­ders’s pro­pos­als are too lib­eral, even as some gain pop­u­lar­ity. Above: San­ders speaks about his “Medi­care­for-all” plan at a health care rally in Cal­i­for­nia.

I’M WITH HIM Seek­ing to steer Democrats fur­ther left, San­ders has en­dorsed 21 can­di­dates, some­times to chal­lenge in­cum­bents. Clock­wise from above: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dan Lip­in­ski of Illi­nois, Demo­cratic chal­lenger Marie New­man, and Obama cam­paign­ing with...

NEW WAVE Two years af­ter his failed pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, San­ders’s pro­gres­sive agenda has rapidly re­made the Demo­cratic Party. Above, Bernie on the 2016 cam­paign trail; op­po­site left, Larry David with San­ders on Satur­day Night Live; op­po­site right,...

San­ders is act­ing like a fu­ture White House con­tender. From top to bot­tom, House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Bernie greets stu­dents dur­ing a rally, and a San­ders sup­porter holds a sign.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.