Whatever Democratic voters think — and most of them like Bernie Sanders and his platform — the dominant bulk of Democratic officials oppose them both with an organized vigor they seldom bring to combat with Republicans.
This strikes me as a detailed and balanced assessment. Long, but essential.
If you cared not for Bernie Sanders as a Democrat, you should read the essay anyway; there’s plenty there for you. If you were a Sanders backer, as I was, it’s very important to absorb this.
Bernie Sanders’s Five-Year War, by Matt Karp (Jacobin)
How he lost and where we go from here.
… First, (Bernie Sanders’ campaigns) demonstrated that bold social-democratic ideas, well beyond the regulatory ambitions of Obama-era progressives, can win a mass base in today’s United States. An uncompromising demand for the federal government to provide essential social goods for all Americans — from health care and college tuition to childcare and family leave — stood at the heart of the Sanders project from beginning to end. Starting at 3 percent in the polls and conducting two presidential campaigns almost entirely on the strength of this platform, Sanders built the most influential left-wing challenge in modern history.
Yes, candidates from Jesse Jackson to Dennis Kucinich also supported single-payer health insurance, but their campaigns did not end with polls showing a newfound majority of Americans backing Medicare for All, let alone massive supermajorities among Democrats and voters under sixty-five. Yes, leftists from Michael Harrington to Ralph Nader had long declared that a bipartisan corporate class rules America, but they did not turn that insight into a political movement capable of winning primaries in New Hampshire, Michigan, or California.
Nor is the partial success of the Sanders campaigns merely a hollow “discourse victory.” It has presented concrete evidence for a proposition that mainstream political observers scoffed at five years ago, and that the American left itself had grandly announced rather than demonstrated: that “democratic socialism,” driven by opposition to billionaire-class rule and dedicated to universal public goods, can win the support of millions, not just thousands. Across the last half century, any activist with a bullhorn could proclaim this to be true, but Bernie Sanders actually fucking proved it.
Of course, as Bernie’s defeat makes clear, there is a vast gulf between winning exit polls and winning power. If the Sanders campaigns illuminated American social democracy’s unknown political resources, they also revealed, in a dramatic fashion, the determination of their opponents. This is the second practical lesson of Bernie’s five-year war: the unanimity and ferocity of elite Democratic resistance, not only to Sanders himself, but to the essence of his platform.