Bernie Sanders, born in 1941, ate bread and politics since the 1960s, before the social movements of that decade, and put himself into play many times as a candidate to institutional positions, the first time in 1972. His career as a politician is long; as a proud socialist, he has achieved important results in an America allergic to the term “socialist” itself, and he was elected senator in Vermont. All the way, he preserved an ethical integrity and an independent spirit acknowledged on all sides (until 2015, he was not even a member of the Democratic Party) that’s quite unique in American politics.
All the while, he maintained a constant relationship with his leftist electoral base and displaying a tireless attention to the working class. Sanders has always been able to hold together and relate to others’ ideals, passion and realism. In short, he’s a progressive movement within a solid government culture.
For those following his long political career, his attitude Monday at the Democratic National Convention was hardly surprising as he supported the candidacy of Hillary Clinton without reservation, and not as a simple resignation to the lesser of two evils. He quoted Clinton 15 times, declaring that “Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.”
An old-fashioned politician, Sanders has a keen sense of balance of power, he has a clear vision of the playing field where the game is played at the moment, and he has a considerable ability to influence unfolding events in their dynamics. He knows how to combine tactics and strategy. How else could he get as far as he has come, having lived an entire political life in the minority?
Precisely because of his action, Sanders now seems doomed to lose his gains. Already in the last few days, a group of his followers and sympathizers, who have seen in him only an extremist radical, forgetting that Sanders is a socialist, marched in the streets against him and booed his speech.
But Sanders is in politics to get results, not for the speeches.
These are the purist, hardcore Sanders supporters, who don’t intend to bend to the logic of compromise and accept Clinton as their candidate. This Sanderista group, which protested inside and outside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, is drifting away. This group imagines that there may be a separate path other than within the Democratic Party, including a convergence with the Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who, of course, is working hard to bring them into her camp.
The route Sanders double down on Monday goes within the Democratic Party, aimed at making the most of an outcome he didn’t want, but that still represents a remarkable political achievement, indeed exceptional. He knows he can invest that success not only at the convention itself, but in a political heritage that can significantly affect the platform and the future of the Democratic Party.
Of course, the email scandal that has exposed the scam within the party leadership to hinder Sanders’ ticket, even spreading poisoned innuendo and fallacies against him, strengthened the idea that there is no room in the Democratic Party for the change Sanders preached.
Actually, Sanders praised the immediate resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as a sign of the weight of his followers within the party. Just as important was the role of Sanderista representatives in the drafting of the party platform. As the weight of the left may be relevant in the composition of a Clinton government, with important assignments entrusted to people like Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker or Sanders himself.
In a passage of his speech, Sanders stressed that “election days come and go, but the struggle of the people to create a government that represents us all and not just 1 percent, that struggle continues.” The name Bernie Sanders resounded countless times in the Wells Fargo Center this week, a sign of a party that has a dramatic need for maximum unity to defeat Trump, a unity within which the Sanders group has a crucial role, and this has been acknowledged. For the first time, the left, thanks to Sanders, holds a substantial voting package inside the Democratic Party. Sanders isn’t simply giving it to Clinton. Instead of a minority observed with the benevolent sympathy reserved for harmless idealists, Sanders’ group today has become a significant piece within the party; this had never happened before.
In a sense, Sanders today has the role Clinton had after being defeated by Obama in 2008. The Clinton crew took important positions in the Obama administration — primarily in the State Department — and, above all, they managed to keep the Democratic Party firmly in control; Obama and his supporters should have picked it up, but they didn’t. The Clintons had a long term vision, evidenced by the importance of the Democratic leadership, steadfast Democratic faith, in favor of Clinton and against Sanders.
Today, the Sanderistas can play a good game under the Big Democratic Tent, even aiming to win dominance. That is, if they decide to stay in.