Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss to Donald Trump sparked an outcry from Bernie Sanders supporters. Sanders supporters argue that the Democratic Party’s decision to crown Clinton, no matter what, backfired and gave the country a Trump presidency. Sen. Sanders has called for reforms of the Democratic Party to reconnect it with the working and middle class voters who supported Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but abandoned Clinton. The Democratic establishment has responded to their downward trajectory by largely choosing to ignore it, presumably hoping it will go away.
Wall Street ally Sen. Charles Schumer was elected Senate minority leader, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi was re-elected as House minority leader, despite Democrats failing to recoup majorities in both Houses of Congress.
“Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Dakota Access Pipeline cowardice. Need I say more? In response to a populist earthquake, Democrats appointed and kept two symbols of the establishment while, as a party, staying silent on human rights abuses in North Dakota for fear of ruffling the feathers of their bank and big oil donors,” Young Turks reporter Jordan Chariton told Observer. “They haven’t learned their lesson in the slightest.”
Around the country, Democratic leader have refused to make any substantial changes or focus their strategy on broadening their appeal. Instead, they continue expressing animosity toward Sanders supporters, treating them as outsiders rather than equal members of the party.
In Michigan on December 3, Sanders progressives protested at a state Democratic Party meeting during which the Democratic National Committee (DNC) officials to represent Michigan were to be determined. “We were not allowed to vote. Only members of the central committee were allowed to vote or make nomination,” said Sam Pernick, head of Young Democrats of Michigan, told Observer. Pernick noted that the Michigan Democratic Party is in the process of scheduling a meeting to address the concerns of Sanders progressives who protested the meeting. “The meeting lacked transparency for several reasons: 1) They deliberately failed to inform the majority of their members about the selection of DNC delegates, despite any Michigan Democratic Party member being eligible to run; 2) nearly all DNC candidates were announced an hour before the vote; 3) there was no opportunity to ask candidates questions (they were only given one minute to speak); 4) all the candidates were on a pre-approved ‘Unity Slate’ that was done as part of a backroom deal before the meeting.”
If any State Democratic Party needs reform, it’s Florida. Though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 200,000 voters, Republicans hold strong majorities in the state House and Senate, the governorship and the majority of congressional seats in the state. Instead of broadening the party’s appeal to more voters, the state party’s establishment, led by former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, are still exercising the same cronyism that contributed to the decline of the Democratic Party throughout the country.
“The Democratic Party here has really been a disaster,” said Tim Canova, the former congressional candidate who ran a formidable primary campaign to unseat Wasserman Schultz in August. “The establishment is notorious for not helping candidates at every level. They only help those with a lot of money and it doesn’t fund insurgents, even if they are challenging an entrenched Republican,” Canova told Observer. “So now there is a big race to see who is going to replace Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant, who announced she will be stepping down in January.”
Canova noted progressive vice chair Alan Clendenin announced he was going to run for chair of the Florida party, but his County Democratic Party used a rule rarely enforced to prohibit him from running again. In 2013 when Clendenin first ran for state chair, Wasserman Schultz stepped in to rig the Florida Democratic Party chair race against him to install her ally, Allison Tant. Clendenin recently told the website Florida Politics that in regards to the 2013 election, “I was the first one to experience what Bernie felt.”
The Florida Democratic Party Chair race is now between multi-millionaire real estate developer Steve Bittel, who Debbie Wasserman Schultz hired as a DNC finance co-chair last year, and progressive alternative Dwight Bullard. Bittel also held a fundraiser at his home for Wasserman Schultz in May, which was attended by Vice President Joe Biden.
Similar issues were expressed in other states where Sanders had strong support among Democrats. “There is a mixed atmosphere,” said former Democratic Iowa senate candidate Tom Fiegen. “If Bernie supporters backed Hillary after the DNC convention, they are treated like part of the ‘team.’ However, those of us who did not get behind Clinton have been treated like pariahs and largely ignored.”
Other Sanders supporters have been repelled from participating in the Democratic Party entirely.
“Sanders had support from nearly 50 percent of the primary voters, and yet his supporters were shunned and ignored by the party bosses,” said Preston Picus, a Sanders fan who ran as an Independent against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this past election, securing more than 19 percent of the vote—the most votes against Pelosi in the general election since 1988. “Clinton lost the election exactly because she ignored and antagonized the progressives of this nation and played for the center—a foolish gambit indeed. If she had made any overtures to the progressive left, to the Sanders supporters of the party, she would have won that election against Trump, who is easily the worst, least respected, least qualified candidate for president in the history of this nation,” he said. “And after such an embarrassing loss, it’s almost amazing to watch Pelosi and the other party bosses insist that what they’re doing is right and good and that they’re going to stay the course. It’s almost shocking the level of incompetence, corruption, and stupidity that runs through the top levels of the Dem Party and the DNC.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.