The Hill has an interesting piece today, Democrats Welcome Bernie Takeover. The thrust of the piece is that Democrats who were skeptical of welcoming Sanders into the party and were critical of him last year are coming around and recognizing the value he brings as the Democrats’ chief spokesman, despite the fact that HE’S NOT. EVEN. A DEMOCRAT.
This question of Sanders’ formal party registration is interesting. It is, indeed, very unusual for someone who is not a member of a party to be in that party’s leadership; but the political situation in this country is such that it makes perfect sense for the Democrats to put a bird on it.
Since the Clinton administration, two somewhat contradictory trends have redefined American politics. On the one had, registration for the two major parties has declined while independent/unenrolled/no party registrations have increased. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this formal detachment from the parties has been matched by growing partisan polarization in voting patterns. There are far fewer swing voters than there used to be, while there are far more voters who always vote for one party, or whose decision is between voting for that party or not voting at all. What that means is that we have a large body of voters who have an policy or ideological or cultural affinity with one party’s candidates and officials, but who do not feel a strong attachment to the party itself.
In a situation like that, it is manifestly in the interest of each party to encourage unaffiliated people who generally agree with them to operate within a broad coalition of partisans and independent leaners. The elevation of Sanders to a position of party leadership, the Sanders-Tom Perez unity tour, and other efforts that display Sanders fighting on the side of the Democrats, and the Democratic Party welcoming him as a core member of the team, demonstrate some important things to those Dem-leaning independents. They show that someone they greatly respect for his independence and distance from the party establishment is all-in with working closely with Democrats to oppose Trump and promote progressive politics, and that the party itself is seeking to make amends for the bad blood generated among Sanders supporters by the corrupt DWS chairmanship.
Bernie Sanders can lead millions of people into allying with the Democratic Party as voters and activists, especially among the growing segment of independent voters, but only if they let him. So far, signs are good that cooler heads are prevailing, and angry Clintonite dead-enders, like the former DNC official quoted at the end of the Hill article, are not succeeding in their efforts to serve as gatekeepers against Bernie Sanders his political revolution.