Bernie Sanders: An Independent In Name Only?
I voted for Bernie Sanders.
Not because I’m a liberal. Not for any particular ideological reason, actually.
I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary because, to me, he represented the only real challenge to the Democratic AND Republican Party establishment that continues to put their own partisan interests and rhetoric ahead of actually governing.
In Bernie Sanders, we had the first presidential candidate who talked about things that mattered to non-partisan voters. Money in politics is important, for sure. But what really got me was the conversation he started about primary elections.When he called out the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party for claiming to be the great protectors of voting rights while simultaneously using
superdelegates to trump the will of the people in their own nomination process -- he spoke to me.
When he pointed out that states like New York and New Jersey, where you can find numerous Democratic politicians who claim out of one side of their mouth that Voter ID will be the death of democracy, while in the other side of their mouth support taxpayer-funded closed primaries -- he understood my disenchantment with partisan politics.
And when I voted in California, I was glad that I didn’t have to register as a Democrat (and wasn't one of the half million American Independent voters that THOUGHT they could), thereby associating myself with a party that is “democratic” in name only. I thought we had an opportunity to talk about issues that would help bring the nearly 50% of American voters that self-identify as independent back into the election process.
But he hasn’t.
Instead, he’s focused on ideologically-based issues like his failed effort to put price controls on prescription drugs in California. And now, he is a national cheerleader for the anti-Trump hysteria, providing the Democratic Party with a perpetual populist opponent to the new administration -- with no time to celebrate the fall of the TPP. Mind you, ending TPP is still the #1 issue listed on his “Our Revolution” website.
As for the other issues of “Our Revolution”? Take a look.
From income inequality to climate change to college tuition, there is not much there that you wouldn’t find on the issues page of any good liberal Democrat.
No mention of continuing the fight to make sure primaries, the most important stage of the election process, is open to independent voters.
No solutions -- like ranked choice voting, nonpartisan primaries, ending gerrymandering, or improving third-party ballot access -- that would help create more electoral competition.
Sure, Bernie talks about limiting the ability of corporations to participate directly in politics. But, he doesn’t make a single mention of the billions of dollars that are funneled (read: laundered) from corporations through the PACs, national committees, senatorial committees, congressional committees, state committees, local committees, and all the other party-controlled committees that allow big donors to navigate around direct donation limits.
During the primary, Bernie Sanders courted independent voters and encouraged them to get involved in politics. Since that time, active Bernie supporters have joined and involved themselves in Democratic Party politics in impressive numbers. And they are successfully taking over important party positions.
But ironically, the first thing Bernie Sanders himself did when he lost the nomination was to drop his Democratic Party registration.
So what kind of signal does this send voters? That you have to join a party unless you are a United States Senator? Or, if you support the Independent Senator from Vermont, join your local Democratic Party?
Either way, Bernie Sanders is sending signals that he is an Independent -- in name only.