Bernie Sanders is changing the game

How the senator is making democrats more progressive


Written By Matt Petras, Co-Features Editor

I went to a Bernie Sanders rally right before the April Pennsylvania primaries on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus. At that point, Sanders had already lost the New York primary to Hillary Clinton and was almost certainly going to lose the Pennsylvania primary. He asked the crowd if Pennsylvania has same-day registration for voting (he seemed to think it did), and when we told him no, he looked discouraged. My friend told me he thought Sanders looked defeated that day, though I’m not sure I’d go that far. It wasn’t a big crowd either way.

Even in that atmosphere, with trace amounts of dread, the rally had a certain hopeful whimsy to it. Before Sanders gave his speech, a man with an acoustic guitar played some songs for us, including a rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” When I remember that joyful moment, when all of us strangers found ourselves singing this goofy, blissful song together, I feel like I might cry. 

Donald Trump is president now.

It’s become a common refrain for Sanders supporters to shout “Bernie would have won” from the rooftops, and while I believe that’s true, the meme has become tiresome. I prefer to think that the democratic socialist who rose from obscurity to becoming the most popular politician in the country did, in fact, win.

Sanders has been an essential voice in politics since the immediate aftermath of Trump’s victory – in a viscerally satisfying tweet at the time, he said: “If Donald Trump takes people’s anger and turns it against Muslims, Hispanics, African-Americans and women, we will be his worst nightmare.”

Beyond offering no-nonsense rhetoric on every relevant political discussion in America, such as the repeal and replace fiasco, the proposed military ban on transgender people and the Charlottesville terrorism attack, Sanders is maneuvering the Democratic Party to the left on policy in very critical ways. While just a few years, ago the notion of mainstream Democrats backing single-payer healthcare was completely farcical, it’s become an expectation thanks to Sanders.

Some on the left argue that pursuing single-payer is a bad idea merely because there’s no way it will ever pass. In an Aug. 31 interview on CNN from Chris Cuomo, Sanders said the following:

“It is certainly not going to happen when you have a president like Donald Trump and Republican leadership that wanted to throw up to 32 million people off of health insurance, I understand that, but you gotta start this fight somewhere.”

This gets to the heart of why Sanders is so appealing to people like me who would like to see the country move in a boldly progressive direction. While politicians like former president Barack Obama insist upon starting negotiations with a compromise, Sanders starts the fight with what we actually want. And if Democrats look to their voters for support, they’ll receive it: 52 percent of Democrats support a single-payer system, according to a June Pew Research Center poll.

Republicans will surely fight tooth and nail against a single-payer system, but Republicans will fight tooth and nail against any effort to move healthcare policy to the left, evidenced by the continuous, failed fight against Obamacare. We as progressives might as well push something we fully support.

Kamala Harris, a United States Senator from California and a rising star (potential 2020 favorite) in the Democratic Party, just recently backed his Medicare-For-All proposal. Sanders may not be the Democrats’ nominee in 2020, but at this point, it appears more likely than not that whoever that candidate is will be one who supports socialized healthcare.

That’s amazing.

While conventional wisdom told us Sanders’ progressive views were too radically left-wing for America, today he is the only politician people actually like. A poll from Harvard-Harris shows 54 percent like Sanders – the next most popular politician is Mike Pence, with just 44 percent.

Sanders lost the primary to Clinton, but it’s hard to look at that polling and the amount of influence he has on politics and not also see victory.