The Democratic Party is in serious trouble. This week, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and recently elected DNC Chairman Tom Perez have embarked on a Democratic Party unity tour in an effort to begin the process of moving forward with a solid agenda for the country that will unite both mainstream Democrats and the more anti-establishment Democrats and Independents who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Party primaries. By most measures, it’s not going very well.
According to CNN, the nine-state unity tour kicked off in Maine on Monday night and the event saw Perez being booed by rally attendees while Sanders was greeted with rousing applause. This is not entirely surprising. According to the Hill, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the United States, citing an April Harvard-Harris survey where 57 percent of respondents viewed the Vermont Senator favorably, with only 32 percent of respondents viewing him unfavorably. Tom Perez was not included in the survey, but he is widely viewed as an “establishment” Democrat by Bernie Sanders supporters, and establishment Democrats, in general, did not fare well in the survey. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, for example, is viewed favorably by only 38 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 32 percent of respondents. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer fared even worse in the survey, both drawing higher unfavorability ratings than favorability ratings.
The purpose, then, of the unity tour is to bridge this great divide between how the public views Bernie Sanders and how it views the more deeply entrenched members of the Democratic Party establishment. One could assume, given the clear preference the public has for Sanders, that the Democrats would be open to adopting some of Bernie Sanders’s populist positions, such as expanding Medicare to cover all Americans and challenging the corporate greed of Wall Street, but Perez has been reluctant to echo Bernie’s views thus far, perhaps indicating that the Democratic Party itself is in no hurry to adopt the populist Sanders platform.
For example, in a recent MSNBC joint interview with Perez and Sanders, Sanders pulled no punches and expressed his call for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare plan. When MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes asked Perez if the Democratic Party supported a Medicare-for-all expansion, Perez evaded the question and promoted the virtues of the Affordable Care Act. Later in the interview, Sanders said that it’s time to take on the billionaire ruling class and let them know that their greed is destroying the country. Chris Hayes then turned to Tom Perez to see if he agrees with such rhetoric, and again Perez was unwilling to echo Sanders. He instead made some comments about “putting hope on the ballot” rather than agree with Sanders that the ruling class of billionaires is the problem.
People support Bernie Sanders because he is willing to express what many Americans see as deep, obvious truths. Americans who support Bernie Sanders are tired of vague rhetoric about “hope and change.” They want specific plans that will make their lives better and they want politicians who are going to be willing to fight for the best interests of the average American rather than the ultra-rich and the corporate interests. Tom Perez’s carefully worded rhetoric that seeks to avoid rocking the boat will not be enough to impress people who feel like the Democratic Party needs to radically move in the direction of a progressive Sanders-influenced platform.
Bernie Sanders supporters are well-informed and motivated and they are not going to settle for corporate Democrats in the coming elections. Many of them are simply unwilling to just vote for candidates who offer nothing but vague “resistance” to Donald Trump. They’re looking for resistance to and an overhaul of the entire political system. The Democratic Party would be wise to pay attention to those popularity numbers and what they mean. The party’s future likely depends on it.
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