The Democratic Party has spent the majority of the primary season doing its best to depict Bernie Sanders as someone who has never supported it. Hillary Clinton herself has attempted to smear him as someone who was absent during the fight for progressive agendas, namely healthcare in the 1990s.
Truth be told, the Democratic Party leadership should be thanking Bernie Sanders for all of the support and help he has provided in the past. Instead, he’s been cast as a pariah, a party crasher to Hillary Clinton’s coronation.
Before Sanders joined the primary race for the Democratic nomination, he first had to officially become a Democrat. He’d spent he entire career eschewing the labels and identified as politically independent. Long-time members of the party took issue with his sudden change and accused him of using the party for his own benefit. The truth, however, is very, very different.
Why should Democrats be thankful for Sanders, though?
He has been a major force in both the House and the Senate since he first came to Washington DC in 1990. Clinton supporters who claim he was ineffective in Congress, they are either grossly misinformed or not being honest.
When he was first elected to Congress in 1990, Sanders was looked upon with a dubious eye by both Republicans and Democrats. At the time, it was difficult for someone who was not affiliated with a party to be effective in Congress. Bernie proved them wrong. During his time as a Representative, Sanders became known as the Amendment King. No one else passed as many roll-call amendments to legislation than he did. Many of those amendments directly benefited the American people. As Zaid Jilani of Alternet writes, the amendments Sanders got passed as a Representative were very progressive in nature.
“Sanders did something particularly original, which was that he passed amendments that were exclusively progressive, advancing goals such as reducing poverty and helping the environment.”
Sanders was also effective in bringing coalitions of Republicans and Democrats together in bipartisan efforts to ultimately “get things done,” as Hillary Clinton likes to say.
As a Congressman, he managed to garner support from Democratic — whom he sided with most of the time — and conservative lawmakers.
Take the bill from 2001, H.R. 3338, which addressed recovery appropriations in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Sanders’ amendment succeeded in getting $100 million in additional funding for federally qualified community health centers to help those without medical coverage get the care they needed.
Remember the uproar about the government trying to use the USA Patriot Act to spy on American citizens’ library records or book store customer lists? Bernie Sanders had an amendment for that, which prohibited funds from the bill from being used to spy on Americans.
The People’s War blog lists the accomplishments Sanders has achieved in Congress, which are impressive considering he was not a member of the Democratic Party.
During his ten years in the Senate Sanders has introduced 362 bills and had three of those become law. And yes, one of those bills concerned renaming post offices. The second one to become law, however, was the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013, which gave veterans a cost-of-living increase in benefits.
The veterans’ cost-of-living bill had bipartisan support, with nine Democrats and eight Republicans — a nearly even split.
But while Clinton supporters criticize Sanders for “only” getting a post office renamed, Hillary Clinton’s record in the Senate was no better. Out of 417 bills she introduced in her eight years in office, only three of those became law, one of which renamed a post office while another renamed a highway in New York.
Since joining the Senate in 2006, Sanders has caucused with Democrats by and large. He attended and spoke at fundraisers hosted by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. He paid dues to the DSCC, and for all intents and purposes, was a Democrat. The only difference was, he wasn’t a card-carrying member.
Even CNN, which has shown bias against him this primary season, wrote just how beneficial Sanders has been for the Democratic party. In attendance at fundraisers were often members of the financial sectors. Although he was never critical of the financial sector in any of his speeches, CNN notes that some industry players were surprised at his presence at these retreats.
“Nobody was more surprised that Bernie was there than the donors were.”
The donors being members of Wall Street.
And although Sanders is critical of big money fundraising efforts he is pragmatic enough to understand it is a necessary element in running a successful campaign. In return, Sanders did benefit from from Democratic Party assistance during his campaigns.
But perhaps the biggest reason that the Democratic Party should be thankful for Sanders is how much awareness he has generated in elections and politics. For more than 25 years, Sanders was a lone voice in Congress, warning of bad trade deals, foreign wars, and a shrinking middle class. He has energized the young and old alike with his populist message. He has forced Americans to take take a good, long look at the country objectively, warts and all, and that is ultimately a good thing.
“I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
Bernie Sanders has energized Democrats, Independents, and even Republicans to his message. Sanders’ rallies draw thousands of people to them at a time. He has the most favorable reputation of any presidential candidate during this election cycle. He won the online poll for Time’s Person of the Year for 2015, and more recently, he was voted one Time’s 100 Most Influential People for bringing political awareness to a new generation of voters.
The Democratic National Committee missed a golden opportunity to take advantage of Bernie Sanders’ popularity to begin a national dialogue about bringing the party into the 21st Century. Instead, the Democratic Party stubbornly toes the establishment line, resisting the progressive change that Bernie Sanders could usher in.
[Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP Images]