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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

How Sanders Campaign Has Influenced Policy

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy explains “What Bernie Sanders Has Achieved“:

…To gauge his influence, you need only listen to one of Clinton’s campaign speeches. On issues like inequality, trade, the environment, corporate offshoring, and bringing Wall Street miscreants to justice, the former Secretary of State has adopted Sanders’s language–and, in some cases, his policies. Clinton had undoubtedly always intended to run as a center-left progressive in 2016, just as she did in 2008, but Sanders has forced her onto ground she hadn’t originally intended to occupy.
It isn’t just Clinton, either. Even Republicans have been taking up some of Sanders’s themes. “The top one per cent under President Obama, the millionaires and billionaires that he constantly demagogued, earned a higher share for our national income than any year since 1928,” Ted Cruz said earlier this year. Donald Trump has talked about the need to raise taxes on hedge-fund managers and leveraged-buyout tycoons. John Kasich has rebranded himself as a champion for the poor and excluded. Of course, the regressive tax policies that Cruz, Trump, and Kasich are advocating would exacerbate inequality, rather than reduce it, but the fact that Republicans have felt obliged to address these issues at all surely owes something to Sanders and the populist wave that he represents.

Cassidy credits Sanders with doing more than any other candidate to raise the issue of money in politics, a growing concern with all demographic groups. It may be a while before the needed reforms to prevent further abuse are achieved. But when it finally occurs, Sanders will deserve some of the credit. Cassidy adds,

It’s too early to say what Sanders’s legacy will be, or whether some of the ideas that he is pushing–such as breaking up the big banks, introducing a single-payer health-care system, and returning tax rates on the rich closer to the levels that F.D.R. introduced–will eventually be adopted. Given the Republicans Party’s grip on Congress and the centrist mindset of Clinton’s advisers, it is hard to see much movement in this direction any time soon.
But it is also evident that, in the past ten months, Sanders has defied the pundits, alarmed the comfortable, and inspired the young. He has turned what looked to be a political coronation into a lively and hard-fought contest, forcing his opponent to modify her positions and raise her game. He has demonstrated that Presidential campaigns don’t have to be beholden to big donors…

Sanders’ path to victory has narrowed, considerably. But in a fragile political environment, there are several scenarios that could shift the political winds in his favor and lots of delegates are still available.
Many Democrats would like to see Sanders fold, so Clinton could save her money for the general election. But that benefit should be measured against the added credibility Clinton would have as a result of winning a hard-fought nomination — Sanders has killed the “coronation” rap the GOP hoped to pin on her. If Sanders quit now, the youth vote he has mobilized could evaporate into apathy.
More of consequence, Clinton’s policies have improved from being honed in the forge of competition with an adversary who has some popular positions. As an added benefit, she has also sharpened her debating skills. And if she picks Sanders for her running mate, she will likely get the benefit of a more unified party than would be available to her via the ‘coronation’ route.
Perhaps most importantly, concludes Cassidy, Sanders “has shown that, surprisingly enough, there is still a place in American politics for an independent-minded speaker of uncomfortable truths. What’s more, he isn’t done yet.” And that is likely a good thing for the Democratic Party.

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