Many Americans who followed the primary races figured Hillary Clinton would come out as the Democratic nominee, with far more delegates than Bernie Sanders or any other challenger. But what many, including myself, may have overlooked is the tangible, lasting impact Sanders will leave on the party from which he was historically independent.
Leading a significant populist campaign, Sanders gave a democratic voice to countless progressive, left-wing voters, whose opinions were not always reflected by the Democratic Party. That’s the Democratic Party whose presumptive nominee was formerly against same sex marriage and has more corporate donors and super PACs than her Republican opponent (who ironically was a significant contributor of her former campaigns). As the Republican electorate has noticeably shifted further to the right, the Democratic electorate has similarly shifted further to the left. However, while Republican lawmakers have reflected the far-right views of their voters, many Democrats in office have been slower to do so. The Democratic leadership, though, seems to be finally catching up with its electorate’s far-left views. You might even say, they’re just now “feeling the Bern.”
There is a lot of talk around whom Clinton will pick as her running mate. Bernie is still technically in the race for the Democratic nomination, though he might also be a solid choice for Hillary’s potential VP. Historically, many candidates would take particular stances to appear as radical as possible to win their party’s nomination; then in the general election, nominees would change their opinions to reflect moderate views and gain centrist votes. However during the Democratic primary, Hillary remained her centrist self, while Bernie rallied with the far-left. Although Clinton seems to have the centrist vote, she has been slow to pick up support from the far-left voters of her party. Many of those who voted for Bernie have said they won’t vote for Hillary; some of those voters might not vote in November, and some might even vote for Trump. If Hillary indeed has a bigger need for left-wing votes and support than from the center, then Sanders would be a valuable running mate, by linking Hillary’s campaign to the radical left. Another viable candidate would be Elizabeth Warren. Like Bernie, Warren is a champion for the working class, with stances like hiking taxes on the richest Americans and raising minimum wages. She’s also become a “yuge” rival of Trump’s, earning her the offensive, Trump- given nickname, “Pocahontas.” Some argue Warren and Clinton wouldn’t work, because they’re too similar. Frankly, their only similarities are their gender and northeastern constituent bases. Beyond those apolitical traits, the two would create a diverse campaign, with ideologies spanning the American electorate from the pro-business center to the pro-Bernie left.
Many would be right to disagree with a strategy by which Clinton picks her VP candidate from the far left. After all, isn’t the general election all about winning votes from the center? Can’t Hillary assume she has her party’s vote, and just focus on winning independent voters? Well there is also the need for support, passion, and voices. While Trump has risen to the top of the Republican Party, with an overwhelming mass of support from those who want to “Make American Great Again,” Hillary has merely drifted through the Democratic primary season with quiet voters, and little passion.
But if you’re still not sold that Hillary needs support from the far-left Bernie voters, then perhaps we can take a closer look at what she and the Democrats have been up to. Last week, Hillary announced a new college plan, by which tuition for public universities would be completely free for families earning under $125,000. This plan seems less like a position of the super PAC-funded Clinton, and more like a page right out of Sanders’ platform. Back in May, Hillary took a similar step to the left, and advocated for a public option, by which Americans can buy into Medicare. The Democrats have also placed a $15-an-hour minimum wage in their platform, once again appealing to the pro-Bernie left.
As the Democratic National Convention approaches, I plan to see more strides to the left, and more victories for Bernie, his campaign, and his voters. At the convention, the Democrats will unveil a progressive platform, which will remind of us of Bernie’s seemingly impossible stances from just a few months ago. Whether Hillary announces a running mate from the far-left, or she enlists a more conventional, centrist candidate, the DNC will show us Hillary’s strategic turn to the left. While Bernie Sanders might not be the Democratic presidential candidate, he has given a voice and legitimacy to the far-left progressive movement. Hillary has won the candidacy, but Bernie has won significant support from the party and has certainly shaped its platform.