2017 Will Be a Rude Awakening for the Democratic Establishment

Bernie Sanders is the only Democrat who knows how to handle Trump

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Bernie Sanders listen to questions after addressing a press conference on Medicare benefits on Capitol Hill December 7, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Bernie Sanders listen to questions after addressing a press conference on Medicare benefits on Capitol Hill December 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

With staggering certainty, mainstream media political pundits asserted that Donald Trump was “The End of a Republican Party.”

Trump signaled “the Great Republican Revolt,” Atlantic’s David Frum declared. Esquire asked readers in August, “Are you ready for the end of the Republican Party?” Vanity Fair claimed the GOP was grappling with “end-of-life” decisions in October. “What will happen to the GOP after Trump?” NBC News wanted to know, presuming Trump would lose. Hillary Clinton’s presidency was a sure thing—until it blew up in the faces of the Democrats, who are now tasked with how best to manage their party’s own demise.

In 2017, Democrats face the presidency of Trump. Republicans have majorities in both houses of Congress, whose power was amplified by the retiring Sen. Harry Reid’s lowering of the threshold to overcome a filibuster from 60 votes to 51 votes. And state and local elected offices aren’t looking any better.

With Clinton defeated by one of the most unpopular presidential candidates in recent history, Democrats are depending on Bernie Sanders to help the Party recover. But their embrace of Sanders has only gone so far as placing him in charge of outreach, exploiting his ability to connect with disenfranchised voters. The Democratic establishment, meanwhile, continues to obsess over wealthy donors.

Next year, the Democratic Party will come to terms with being the minority against the Republican Party in every level of government. Their antidote to this bleak reality was electing Wall Street ally Charles Schumer as Senate Minority Leader and re-electing multi-millionaire Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader—both outdated, establishment faces who are only popular with elite, corporate donors.

The only way for the Democratic Party to get through Trump’s presidency and begin to recoup its losses is to fully embrace Sanders‘ progressive grassroots brand of politics. It’s not a coincidence that the Democratic Party’s responses to Trump in the media have mirrored Sanders’ almost daily anecdotes. For example, his retort to Trump’s recent tweets on nuclear weapons were later the premise of several articles criticizing the president-elect’s proposed nuclear policy. Sanders is the only Democrat who truly understands how to meaningfully handle Trump.

Sanders is also one of the few political figures to offer introspection and constructive advice on how to move forward. The rest of the party continues to ignore important issues until they become politically expedient to address—like the Standing Rock protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump proved how disastrous partnering with wealthy and corporate donors is in elections, yet the Democratic Party has taken no action to cut ties with the powerful influences that have been corrupting it.

Just as Democrats were so sure that Trump would lose, they remain certain that they will win by sitting back and waiting for the president-elect’s unpopularity to result in support for the other side. This strategy is self-destructive. If voters continue to face two horrible options in elections, forced to choose between a Republican and a corporate-owned Democrat, the apathy and disenfranchisement that Clinton’s candidacy bred will lead to continued losses for everyone.

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.