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Democrats should disqualify Bernie

| Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Kerry Schneeman I The ObserverKerry Schneeman | The Observer

Imagine the quarterback of Notre Dame did not wear a Notre Dame jersey on the field, called his own plays without consulting the coach and refused to support other players on and off the field. Meanwhile, he benefits from the use of Notre Dame facilities and the glory that comes with being a member of our University’s football tradition. That would be ridiculous, right? Any sensible fan would be outraged, insisting that the player be cut from the team. You simply cannot use Notre Dame while refusing to endorse it. 

Well, now imagine Bernie Sanders as the quarterback and Notre Dame as the Democratic Party. Sanders is an independent running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Despite claiming to be a Democrat when he filed his presidential campaign, he still claims to be an independent on his Senate re-election campaign forms. He benefits from the (D) label and national attention the primary grants him without paying party dues or assisting the party’s platform. This inherently exploits the Democrats without any benefit for the party, and no organization should allow this situation to unfold.

The Democratic Party should have the right to only allow party members to seek the nomination for president. This nominee will be the face of the party, hold large control over the party’s platform and have access to an innumerable amount of party resources, particularly funding. It makes sense that party leaders would expect that nominee to be loyal to the party, and that is best expressed through membership. Nominating a non-member essentially hands the party off to an outsider, opening the possibility of radical changes that does not align with the views of party members. Sure, Sanders’s plans may be progressive or align with some Democratic platforms, but they largely do not appeal to the Democratic base. For instance, his healthcare plan is popular among his base, but not Democrats themselves. Democrats running for other offices have even distanced themselves from Sanders, attempting to escape backlash for the Vermont senator’s progressive views. This shows the danger of Sanders’s progressiveness infecting the Democratic Party’s platform in a way that does not appeal to actual party members.

Additionally, Sanders’s latest campaign strategies indicate his reliance on independents, not Democrats themselves. Under current party rules, independents in California must request a Democratic ballot to participate. Yet, Sanders criticized the California Democratic Party’s process, suggesting it locks out millions of independent voters that are vital to his victory. Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc. (a corporation collecting statistics on the primary), explains that the failure of independent turnout will harm Senator Sanders. Sanders’s insistence on an open primary shows his reliance on outside influence to win the Democratic nomination. He is not focusing on building a coalition within the Democratic Party, but on drawing voters from outside. While that may be a good strategy for the general election, it repeats the notion of outsiders influencing the events of a political party. Allow Democrats to decide their nominee, not the rest of the country. 

Now, Sanders did sign a statement stating he would act as a Democratic president if elected. However, there are a number of loopholes and lack of enforcement mechanisms that makes the signature worthless. He could very easily reject the Democratic Party’s leadership and platform if he becomes president. He has already done so in Vermont.

Each time Sanders has been elected to the Senate, he ran in the Democratic primary, won the nomination, rejected it and won the election as an independent. While this may seem innocent, it is dangerous for other Democrats. Sanders winning Vermont’s Democratic primary makes it impossible for another Democrat to run in the general election, as they do not have the party’s nomination. Essentially, Sanders exploits the Democrat label to get votes, silences his opponents and then wins not for the Democratic Party, but for himself. 

Some may suggest that this time will be different, and Sanders will change his party affiliation to Democrat. However, there are a few issues with that. If Sanders is committed to the Democratic Party, why did he file his 2024 Senate re-election campaign as an independent? Why did he only change his affiliation on the form to run for the Democratic nomination? It appears that Sanders’s affiliation is only for his personal benefit, not the interest of the Democratic Party. If I was a Democrat, that would make me concerned. 

In many ways, Sanders is holding the Democratic Party hostage. Democrats require energy and turnout to defeat President Trump in November, and Sanders holds a strong hold over the party’s progressive wing. Any slight against Sanders could fracture the party’s support, hurting the Democrats in the general election. A similar reaction already happened in 2016, where 12% of Sanders’s supporters backed President Trump, while less than 80% voted for Hillary Clinton and almost 10% stayed home or voted for another candidate. Those events contributed to a Republican victory, especially in key states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Sanders’s actions exploit the Democrats for their national news coverage and resources while contributing little to the party. In fact, what he does contribute is dependent on the party’s support of himself, someone who does not support the party.

Let me be clear. This column is not an indictment on the Vermont senator’s platform or appeal to voters. Rather, it is a criticism of Sanders’s refusal to partake in party membership while benefitting as if he was a member of the Democratic Party. This is highly unethical and unfair to other Democrats who support the party. Democrats should not be forced to accept the nomination of someone who, if it even happens, reluctantly joins their party. Instead of propping up the party, Sanders uses the party to prop himself up. My view comes from the standpoint of the integrity of the Democratic Party, and an outsider calling the shots distorts that. 

It is time to cut Bernie from the team.

Blake Ziegler is a freshman at Notre Dame from New Orleans, Louisiana, with double majors in political science and philosophy. He hopes his writing encourages others to take an interest in politics and government. For inquiries, he can be reached at [email protected] or @NewsWithZig on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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