The Democratic party is in dire straits. After 8 years of control of the country’s executive branch, they lost control of the presidency and both houses of Congress. After such an immense loss, one would think that the proper course would be to regroup and plot a course forward. However, it seems like the party is having a lot of trouble unifying, and it’s all because of one man: Bernie Sanders.
Sanders burst on to the mainstream political scene in the 2016 presidential race. He was everything that Hillary Clinton wasn’t. He was anti-establishment, at least as far as the traditional Democratic Party goes. His campaign and presidential bid had a clear mission, to reduce income inequality and tax the rich. Despite his age, he appealed to younger voters in the party. He was cool, where Clinton wasn’t even close. (“Pokémon Go to the polls” anyone?) He was everything that the establishment democrats were missing, and for some reason, they tried to cut him out like a tumor.
This was never more evident than at the Democratic National Convention of 2016. Just a few days prior to the event, WikiLeaks released more than 20,000 emails from DNC staff. The secrets inside were nothing short of damning. The DNC showed complete disdain for Sanders, discussing how they could push the narrative that his campaign was a mess and Bernie himself never had his act together. The DNC was also in damage control after allegations that they had laundered money to the Clinton campaign. It’s clear from reading the emails that the DNC had Hillary Clinton picked as their candidate from the start, and Bernie’s rising popularity was a threat, not a cause for celebration.
The Democratic Party is lost, and if they don’t find themselves quickly, they’re looking at another tough run in 2020. Despite the DNC conspiring against him, Sanders could well be poised to be the Democratic frontrunner in the next presidential election. His supporters are young, and his campaign last year left a wake of change. Out of that wake sprang a political organization called Our Revolution. The organization’s president, Nina Turner, has said that Sanders’ supporters, so-called “Berniecrats,” are sick of how they’re being treated by the DNC. “The Berniecrats are being labeled as always wrong — ‘they don’t get it, they’re too emotional, they don’t want to win elections,” said Turner in an interview with CNN. “This is a hurtful environment, and people are human and do have feelings. And so both sides are just duking it out.”
It’s clear that the identity crisis in the party is far from over. Sanders’ supporters are beginning to take on leadership roles at the local and state levels. They have more of a presence in the DNC, which could allow Sanders an easier run in 2020, but also could increase the gridlock within the party. Despite the fact that Bernie’s supporters are stronger than ever, it remains to be seen how long Sanders himself is around. He would be 79 on election day in 2020. If he decides to run, he might not be able to keep up with the stress of running the campaign. President Trump and the media would surely question his ability to take on the rigors of being President for the first time at his age. It’s not a promising prospect for the party.
Maybe the only thing worse than Sanders running in 2020, is if he decides not to run. The divisions within the Democratic party are wider than ever with the role of Sanders’ supporters increasing constantly. If the party loses its most promising candidate, there’s a strong chance that the party would be more fractured than ever. Both sides would likely have to struggle to find a new candidate, and good luck getting them to agree on one. Which ever candidate does emerge is going to have to face the challenge of uniting the party, all while facing down the incumbent, Donald Trump. It’s not a pretty picture, but one that Democrats could be faced with in the very near future.