Speaking at The People’s Summit in Chicago recently, Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders laid down the gauntlet for the extreme left. His remarks may open a new front in the shifting political struggle for the soul of America. As the progressive movement fights to bring order to the chaotic revolt of the radical left, Sanders sees an opportunity to complete a political coup already underway.
From the moment that former President Barack Obama captured the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, the progressives began a takeover of the party. During the eight years Obama occupied the White House, they made huge strides; steering the party further left than ever before. One unintended consequence of this progressive revolution, however, was the loss of any coherent platform. Progressives seek power through social issues, rather than solid, economic policies. The ‘social justice’ movement has become their favorite – and only – weapon. Its goal is the breakdown of the traditional family unit, the sweeping away of previous social norms and values and the growth of the welfare state. This last factor is promoted as a way of paying reparations to every group deemed underprivileged or oppressed; almost everyone, except white heterosexual males, falls into one of those groups. This focus on social justice has failed to impassion the Democratic base and was, undoubtedly, a main factor in a series of electoral disasters.
Senator Sanders was set up perfectly for his rebellion by the Democratic Nation Committee (DNC) itself. Colluding with the campaign of Hillary Clinton to ensure that Sanders would not receive the party’s nomination, the DNC unwittingly declared war on the radical left faction of its base. Sanders understood this and, whilst the majority of Democratic politicians focus upon nothing else but obstructing – and bringing down President Donald Trump, the 76-year-old socialist is working on bringing down the party. In Chicago, he told an enthusiastic audience that the party’s strategy was an “absolute failure” and that “fundamental change” was needed.
One could certainly argue that Sanders’ economic ideas are delusional and unsustainable. When it comes to spreading a message that appeals to the discontented, however, he knows exactly what he is doing. He also understands that it is far easier to co-opt the Democratic Party into the radical progressive fold than attempt to create an entirely new party. Many of his supporters do not agree. As NBC News reported, a campaign to start a new ‘People’s Party,’ under the Senator’s leadership, has begun. Sanders has all but dismissed the idea, however. Speaking on Meet the Press Sunday, he focused on efforts to move the Democratic Party into the progressive camp, saying “Right now I am working to bring fundamental reform to the Democratic Party, to open the door to the Democratic Party.”
Not all establishment Democrats have taken their eye off the ball, however. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) also appeared on Meet the Press, arguing that the party had moved too far left. Speaking of his party, Webb seemed to agree with Sanders on one point: “they don’t have a message.” Expressing concern about the party’s focus on opposing the president, Webb said ““There is a campaign going on on [sic] the Hill and in academia to personally discredit not only Donald Trump but the people who are around him. There will not be a record of accomplishment in that.”
Trump’s populism and unconventional style – coupled with his unwillingness to conform to ‘presidential’ behavior – has further fractured an already divided Republican Party. The Democrats are, if anything, in an even worse state; whilst a large part of their voting base must, surely, be wondering who, if anyone, is driving policy initiatives that will actually change people’s lives, the progressives continue to push out the more moderate, liberal wing. Senator Webb claims that he did not even vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Clinton, herself, was too far left for moderates and not far enough left for the progressives. Sanders may have bitten off more than he can chew if he thinks he has enough organized support to capture the soul of the party. Inertia is a huge factor in American politics. As Donald Trump is finding out, things have a way of drifting back to established practices when grandiose ideas – be they good or bad– come knocking.