Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont Senator who finished as the runner-up to Hillary Clinton in last year's Democratic presidential primaries, has made a seemingly endless series of public appearances since the November election put Donald Trump in the White House, including a book tour in November and the recently completed "Come Together and Fight Back" tour with Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez.
With Clinton maintaining a relatively low profile and only one official public appearance by President Barack Obama since he left office on January 20, the Sanders publicity tour has thrust the 75-year-old, 26-year Washington veteran, to the forefront of Democratic Party politics. According to one recent, well-publicized poll, Sanders was even named "the most popular politician in the country."
While Sanders may be, according to a recent Harvard/Harris poll, highly popular, he also clearly remains highly controversial among Democrats. What's your view of Bernie Sanders? Is he a figure who can unify the Democratic Party? Alternatively, with his incessant criticism of the Party, is the former mayor of Burlington, Vermont, a divisive force who could actually weaken the party as it attempts to defeat Donald Trump and the Republicans in the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election.
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Sanders has achieved his newfound level of prominence among Democrats without actually becoming a member of the Democratic Party. In fact, even after running for president as a Democrat in 2016, Sanders quickly fled the party to declare himself an independent once again.
Even on the Perez-Sanders "unity" tour, which saw Sanders and the DNC leader traveling to cities across the country in what was ostensibly an effort to heal wounds remaining from the bitter Democratic primary battle, Sanders repeatedly attacked the Democrats, at one point even blasting the party as "feeble, unable to fight back."
But perhaps no Sanders statement or position has divided Democrats as much as Sanders' endorsement of Omaha, Nebraska, mayoral candidate Heath Mello — an opponent of women's reproductive rights who once, as a state senator, supported a bill which would have doctors administer invasive ultrasound procedures to women seeking to terminate pregnancies.
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Though Sanders' own voting record shows that he has been consistently supportive of abortion rights, the Vermont senator has called for Democrats to show "flexibility" when it comes to including candidates with anti-abortion positions.
Among Sanders' other statements considered divisive by some Democrats, his insistence on blaming Democrats for allowing Trump to win the 2016 election — even though Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots, ignoring such factors as the letter from FBI director James Comey to Congress with about a week left in the campaign regarding the supposed Clinton email scandal, and the interference in the election by Russian hackers and propaganda outlets who backed Trump.
"Donald Trump did not win the election — the Democrats lost the election!" Sanders said during a rally last week, repeating theme he has repeatedly sounded since the election. "That means rebuilding the Democratic Party, making it a grassroots party, a party from the bottom on up!"
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]