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Embracing the Democratic Party

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Bernie Sanders’s Democratic Socialism
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Abstract

This chapter analyzes Bernie Sanders’s complex relationship with the Democratic Party, a party he once called “spiritually bankrupt” but whose nomination he would repeatedly seek to work his way through the two-party system. In 2019, Sanders filed to be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2024, but as an independent. A similar odd scenario had already been played out in 2016 when Sanders filed as a Democrat to run for the Democratic nomination and then filed as an independent for his 2018 Senate campaign. This chapter traces Bernie Sanders’s trajectory from local to state and national politics, from the shores of Lake Champlain, Vermont, to the U.S. House of Representatives, and then to the U.S. Senate. Bernie Sanders’s congressional record is evaluated, as well as his interactions with the Democratic members of the U.S. Congress.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Sanders, Presidential Candidate Written Affirmation, March 5, 2019, NBC News, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5759487-Bernie-Sanders-signs-DNC-loyalty-pledge.html.

  2. 2.

    Id., Statement of Candidacy, March 4, 2019, Federal Election Commission, https://docquery.fec.gov/pdf/416/201903049145600416/201903049145600416.pdf.

  3. 3.

    Democratic National Committee, Regulations of the Rules and Bylaws Committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, December 1, 2018, Democratic Party, https://democrats.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/07/Regulations-of-the-RBC-for-the-2020-Convention-12.17.18-FINAL.pdf.

  4. 4.

    The new procedure allowed superdelegates to vote for any candidate in the (unlikely) event a presidential candidate was not nominated on the first ballot.

  5. 5.

    Quoted in David Siders, “DNC Rule Change Angers Sanders Supporters,” August 6, 2018, Politico, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/08/dnc-rule-change-sanders-supporters-634998.

  6. 6.

    Sanders, “It Is Imperative for Radical Voices to Be Heard,” op. cit., p. 83.

  7. 7.

    Id., Outsider in the White House, p. 100.

  8. 8.

    The original “Rainbow Coalition” (Rainbow Coalition of Revolutionary Solidarity) was a multicultural political organization active in the late 1960s and early 1970s, founded in Chicago by Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party The name “Rainbow Coalition” was appropriated by Jesse Jackson in forming his own, more moderate coalition, Rainbow/PUSH.

  9. 9.

    In Vermont, at the time, the primary process was totally open, allowing anyone to identify with any party.

  10. 10.

    Sanders, Outsider in the White House, p. 101.

  11. 11.

    Ibid.

  12. 12.

    Sanders, Where We Go from Here, p. 13.

  13. 13.

    At Hamilton College, Sanders took courses on cities and democratic socialism. See Dennis Gilbert, “Adventures with Bernie Sanders in 1990,” HuffPost, January 12, 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/adventures-with-bernie-sa_b_8963690?guccounter=1.

  14. 14.

    Vermont Secretary of State, “1988 U.S. House General Election,” Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, https://vtelectionarchive.sec.state.vt.us/elections/view/75810.

  15. 15.

    Sanders, Outsider in the White House, p. 107.

  16. 16.

    Id., quoted in Jaffe, p. 110.

  17. 17.

    In addition, the National Rifle Association (NRA) turned against Peter Smith. A few months after taking office in 1988, an office to which he had been elected with the support of the NRA, Smith had announced his intention to vote in favor of background checks on firearm purchasers and of a five-day waiting period on purchases (Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Pub.L. 103–159, February 28, 1994). The NRA and Vermont’s sportsmen community were angered by his about-face and worked hard to defeat him. That context benefited Sanders although the NRA never endorsed him or financed any of his campaigns.

  18. 18.

    A budget reconciliation bill makes legislation easier to pass in the Senate. The budget cannot be stalled in the Senate by filibuster, and it does not need the president’s signature. Instead of 60 votes, a reconciliation bill only needs a simple majority in the Senate.

  19. 19.

    Sanders, Outsider in the White House, p. 107.

  20. 20.

    Vermont Secretary of State, “1990 U.S. House General Election,” Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, https://vtelectionarchive.sec.state.vt.us/elections/search/year_from:1990/year_to:1990/office_id:5/show_details:1. Peter Diamondstone of the Liberty Union Party earned 0.9% of the votes.

  21. 21.

    “Vt. Governor,” November 7, 1972, Our Campaigns, https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=144194.

  22. 22.

    Sanders, quoted in “The 1990 Elections: The Message—Vermont; Socialist Ex-Mayor Elected to House,” New York Times, November 7, 1990, p. 6, https://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/07/us/the-1990-elections-the-message-vermont-socialist-ex-mayor-elected-to-house.html.

  23. 23.

    “Vt. At Large,” November 6, 1990, Our Campaigns, op. cit., p. 32.

  24. 24.

    Sanders, Outsider in the White House, p. 115.

  25. 25.

    The Blue Dog Coalition is a caucus of U.S. Democratic representatives who identify as fiscally conservative, centrist Democrats.

  26. 26.

    Sanders, Outsider in the White House, p. 116.

  27. 27.

    Id., Where We Go from Here, p. 214.

  28. 28.

    “The text of Sen. Jim Jeffords’ announcement Thursday in Burlington, Vt,” CBS News, May 24, 2001, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/text-of-jeffords-speech.

  29. 29.

    John Nichols, “Afterword: Outsider in the Presidential Race,” in Sanders, Outsider in the White House, p. 310.

  30. 30.

    Richard Tarrant, Vermont Senate Debate, October 23, 2006, C-SPAN, https://www.c-span.org/video/?195068-1/vermont-senate-debate.

  31. 31.

    Sanders, Our Revolution, p. 44.

  32. 32.

    “Vt. U.S. Senate,” November 7, 2006, Our Campaigns, https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=6963.

  33. 33.

    Sanders, Our Revolution, p. 43.

  34. 34.

    Howard Dean, Meet the Press, May 22, 2005, NBC News,http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7924139/ns/meet_the_press/t/transcript-may/#.XiBLzy17Sis.

  35. 35.

    Sanders, Our Revolution, p. 44.

  36. 36.

    Ashley Smith, “A Socialist in the Senate?” Socialist Worker, November 17, 2006, p. 11, https://socialistworker.org/2006-2/610/610_11_BernieSanders.php.

  37. 37.

    Ibid.

  38. 38.

    Ibid.

  39. 39.

    Ibid.

  40. 40.

    The Green Party USA was founded in 1991 and dissolved in 2019. It was succeeded by the Green Party of the United States, founded in 2001 when the Association of State Green split from the Green Party USA.

  41. 41.

    Charlie Cook, “The Next Nader Effect,” New York Times, March 9, 2004, https://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/09/opinion/the-next-nader-effect.html.

  42. 42.

    Ashley Smith, “A Socialist in the Senate?” Socialist Worker, November 17, 2006, p. 11, https://socialistworker.org/2006-2/610/610_11_BernieSanders.php.

  43. 43.

    Congress.gov, https://www.congress.gov/member/bernard-sanders/S000033. Bernie Sanders also introduced 884 amendments, 550 resolutions 294 concurrent resolutions, and 274 joint resolutions (House and Senate combined).

  44. 44.

    H.R.5245—To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1 Marble Street in Fair Haven, Vermont, as the “Matthew Lyon Post Office Building,” Pub.L. 109–263, August 2, 2006; S.885 - A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 35 Park Street in Danville, Vermont, as the “Thaddeus Stevens Post Office,” Pub.L. 113–189, November 26, 2914.

  45. 45.

    Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, Pub.L. 113–152, May 8, 2013.

  46. 46.

    Congress.gov, op. cit., p. 103.

  47. 47.

    Of “all” senators, those serving less than ten years included, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) ranked “most liberal” in 2019.

  48. 48.

    Sen. Bernard “Bernie” Sanders’s 2019 Report Card, GovTrack.us, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/bernard_sanders/400357/report-card/2019. Among “all” senators the “most absent” in 2019 were presidential candidates: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

  49. 49.

    Sanders, Outsider in the White House, p. 121.

  50. 50.

    Matt Taibbi, “Inside the Horror Show That is Congress,” Rolling Stone, August 25, 2005, https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/inside-the-horror-show-that-is-congress-177955. See also: William F. Grover, “In the Belly of the Beast: Bernie Sanders, Congress and Political Change” New Political Science, vol. 28/29, Winter-Spring 1994, pp. 31-52.

  51. 51.

    Nichols, “Afterword: Outsider in the Presidential Race,” op. cit., p. 320.

  52. 52.

    Sanders, Our Revolution, pp. 44–45.

  53. 53.

    Id., Outsider in the White House, pp. 308–309.

  54. 54.

    Ibid.

  55. 55.

    Sanders, Outsider in the White House, p. 329.

  56. 56.

    Sanders, Outsider in the House, p. 200

  57. 57.

    Ibid., p. 153.

  58. 58.

    Ibid.

  59. 59.

    Paul Blest, “What will it take for the Congressional Progressive Caucus to win?”, Splinter News, March 19, 2019. Reposted by Rep. Ro Khanna, https://khanna.house.gov/media/in-the-news/what-will-it-take-congressional-progressive-caucus-win.

  60. 60.

    Ibid.

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Correspondence to Nicolas Gachon .

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Gachon, N. (2021). Embracing the Democratic Party. In: Bernie Sanders’s Democratic Socialism. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69661-0_5

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