Sanders Supporters Are Taking Over The Democratic Party

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may have lost the 2016 Democratic nomination, but the fiery politician and his large contingent of supporters don't appear to have given up the fight in 2017 and beyond. The progressive, self-described "Democratic socialist" still has many loyalists who they are fighting along different battle lines: by running for local city and county government offices in an attempt to thwart President Donald Trump's conservative policies.

"It is absolutely imperative that we see a major transformation of the Democratic Party," Sanders recently told the Wall Street Journal. In order to survive, Sanders said his party must "do what has to be done in this country, to bring new energy, new blood."

A tough challenge awaits Sanders’ supporters in the short term after his failed bid for the White House. Trump starkly opposes several of the former Democratic candidate’s key policies, including climate change reform, supporting immigration nationwide and regulating local and national economies.

But a new wave of liberal activism nationwide in the Democratic party’s base has helped numerous Sanders supporters win low-level posts in blue areas like California, signaling a long-term fundamental shift that could shift the party further to the left.


People demonstrated for the Affordable Care Act and against Trump during the First Stand Rally in Newark, N.J., U.S. Jan. 15, 2017. Photo: Reuters

Meanwhile, the Democratic party is undergoing somewhat of an identity crisis in the wake of Trump’s upset victory in November, as the Democratic National Committee is grappling with whether to follow the more mainstream liberal policies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton or the more progressive stances of Sanders.

The two leading candidates to become next Chair of the DNC embody the current divide within the DNC. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who became the first Muslim elected to Congress, has received widespread support from Sanders and his supporters, and reportedly has a slim lead over former secretary of Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who has received backing from Democrats wary of moving the party too far to the left.

"We must also do everything we can to elect Democrats in Congress in 2018, and to take back the White House in 2020," Sanders said in his endorsement of Ellison for DNC chair. "We need a Democratic National Committee led by a progressive who understands the dire need to listen to working families, not the political establishment or the billionaire class."

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