Can Bernie Sanders Win the Love of a Party He Scorns? – Politico


He has called Democrats ideologically bankrupt, greedy and vulgar. But now he needs them to win the presidency. Can they forgive him?

You don’t change the system from within the Democratic Party.”

“My own feeling is that the Democratic Party is ideologically bankrupt.”

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘Why should we work within the Democratic Party if we don’t agree with anything the Democratic Party says?’”

Bernie Sanders, everybody—the same Bernie Sanders who is running to become the Democratic Party’s candidate for president of the United States.

The most surprising thing about the independent Vermont senator’s surprisingly successful campaign so far is not that he’s doing it as a self-described democratic socialist. It’s that he’s seeking the nomination of a party he caucuses with in the Senate but is not a part of, isn’t a registered member of and has never been a registered member of—a party he’s spent his 40-year career beating at the polls and battering in the press.

He started as a politician in the 1970s as a perennial protest candidate with the anti-Vietnam War Liberty Union Party, offering voters an alternative to the two major parties, which he considered ineffective and equally beholden to corporate lords.

To become mayor of Burlington in 1981, he ousted a veteran centrist Democrat. To build power, his progressive allies in subsequent elections wrested away city council seats, relegating local Democrats to diminished, third-party status. In a series of statewide races in the late ’80s and into the early ’90s, he outdid even that—getting Democrats to all but wave a white flag when he ran.

He has never before chosen to run in a Democratic primary, but here he is, challenging Hillary Clinton—and doing it as an independent, technically permissible but highly unusual. How he’s trying to do this is how he always has—a calculated alchemy of outsider edge and insider smarts, provocation plus pragmatism, all learned and honed over what’s become a unique career in modern American politics.

“He plays it both ways,” said former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin, a Democrat who once successfully fended off Sanders from the left in a reelection bid. “He wants to be different, and yet he wants to belong—for political purposes.”

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