If you look at the numbers, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America – and it’s not even close. Yet, bizarrely, the Democratic Party – out of power across the country and increasingly irrelevant – still refuses to embrace him and his message. It’s increasingly clear they do so at their own peril. A new Fox News poll shows Sanders has a +28 favorability rating overall, and is even more popular among independents.
One would think Democratic politicians would be falling all over themselves to be associated with Sanders, especially considering the party as a whole is more unpopular than the Republicans and even Donald Trump right now. Yet instead of embracing his message, the establishment wing of the party continues to resist him at almost every turn, and they seem insistent that they don’t have to change their ways to gain back the support of huge swaths of the country.
Politico ran a story featuring Democratic officials fretting over the fact that Sanders supporters may upend their effort to retake governorships in southern states by insisting those candidates adopt Sanders’ populist policies – seemingly oblivious to the fact that Sanders plays well in some of those states too.
The establishment wing of the party ran another opponent against Sanders’ choice to run the Democratic National Committee. They have steadfastly refused to take giant corporations head on. Further, they have failed to support Sanders’ positions on health care, which are much more popular than Obamacare.
Looking toward 2018, Democrats seem intent on following the same policies and strategies that have failed in the past three election cycles. Sanders said it himself. When asked by New York Magazine whether Democrats can adjust to political reality, he said, “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.”
In the long term, change may be coming for Democrats whether they like it or not. Sanders loyalists are quietly attempting to take over many local Democratic party positions around the country. While Sanders’ choice for party head, Keith Ellison, lost the race for party leadership, it was incredibly close – closer than Sanders came to beating Hillary Clinton. And Sanders’ supporters are already organizing primary challenges to incumbent Democrats who aren’t sufficiently opposing Trump.
One thing’s for sure: Democrats who refuse to change will do so at their own peril.
About the Author
Trevor Timm is a writer for The Guardian.