Bernie Sanders took a lot of grief from rank-and-file Democrats throughout the presidential primary because many of them felt he was “not a real Democrat.”
Salon alone ran multiple articles examining the question of whether or not the Vermont senator, who usually runs as an independent and often portrays himself as a political outsider and democratic socialist, was truly a Democrat — whatever that may entail.
Even his Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton jumped into the fray on the matter.
During MSNBC’s Democratic presidential forum in Nevada on February 18th, just two days before the state held its caucuses, Clinton faced a question about Sanders criticizing many of the policies enacted during the tenure of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
— JustOffKilter (@EricShapiro3) November 28, 2016
“I know that Senator Sanders has also attacked President Obama. He called him weak, called him disappointing, tried to get someone to run against him [in a primary in 2012],” Clinton said, according to a partial transcript from The Hill. “Maybe it’s that Senator Sanders wasn’t really a Democrat until he decided to run for president, so he doesn’t really know what the past two Democratic presidents did.”
Several boos came from the audience, some undoubtedly in defense of Sanders and others perhaps mocking the assumption that you would have to be a Democrat in order to “know what the past two Democratic presidents did.” Do only Republicans know what Republican presidents do?
The Clinton camp didn’t let up there. Communications director Jennifer Palmieri released a statement “just minutes after the forum ended” that “doubled down” on questioning Sanders’ party loyalty, The Hill notes.
“If Senator Sanders wants to be the standard bearer of the Democratic Party, he should spend less time attempting to tear down the very real accomplishments of two of the most successful presidencies in modern times,” Palmieri’s statement read in part. “Their records of accomplishing tangible, life changing results for the American people speak for themselves.”
Casting aspersions on Sanders’ Democratic credentials became a mantra of Clinton supporters throughout the primary campaign.
Then something changed after Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton. All of a sudden he started talking about how the Democratic Party needed to be changed from within, how the party needed to transform its message and move in a new direction. He started using the word “we” a lot when talking about the Democratic Party.
As Jeff Stein at Vox points out, Sanders used his leverage with the Democratic platform committee as one means to push for this change from within. The Washington Post and others called the platform crafted by the committee “the most progressive Democratic platform ever,” for what it’s worth.
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) November 27, 2016
Since losing the primary, Sanders has also taken on a “leadership post” within the party as its outreach director, Mother Jones’ Natalie Schreyer recently reported. Schreyer highlights that the new role has had some awkward moments.
On Sunday’s installment of ABC’s This Week, Sanders certainly sounded a whole lot like a Democrat.
“What we need to do, and what I’m trying to do, is revitalize the Democratic Party,” Sanders said. “There is no reason why we cannot win in states all over this country because we have a message that says ‘At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when the rich get richer and most other people are getting poorer, we’re going to stand with working families.’ That is a message that will win if we take it to 50 states.”
Many of those lines are drawn straight from Sanders’ standard stump speech, and he even threw in familiar bits about getting big money out of the party and opening it up to small donors and grassroots activists, but he was speaking for the Democratic Party this time.
Sanders still hasn’t officially switched his party affiliation, but he definitely seems to be much cozier with Democrats now than before. That could be good news for the party, but it’s sure to rub some hardcore Bernie Sanders supporters the wrong way considering that many of them were never fans of the Democratic Party to begin with.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 27, 2016
[Featured Image by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images]