Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, center, speaks at a press conference about the failure of the University of North Carolina system to uphold Title IX commitments, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Bernie Sanders long ago became the “democratic socialist,” a label given to him largely by his conservative opponents. But in recent months, as the two parties seek to rebound from the results of the 2016 presidential election, Sanders has been elevated to the leading figures of the Democratic party, his face appearing on banners and posters, and his muscular left-wing proposal for universal health care a proposal that has attracted support from a diverse list of celebrities.
Today’s Politico Magazine piece by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman — subtitled “Why Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Want Bernie Sanders” — chronicles how Sanders rose so quickly from obscurity to the top of the Democratic bench, featuring Sanders and Hillary Clinton in their very first debate. They write:
What’s staggering is that Sanders, who went on to win 10 primaries, is — to many Democrats — the one who has actually grown more moderate since then, a populist who is now courting a new generation of the left, using one trick the other got away with: a pitch that is hard to dispute on policy but hard to make politically.
The piece seems to lay out the trajectory of the rise of Sanders and Clinton, initially as their political parties struggle to regain footing after the divisive 2016 election, and then as Sanders begins to look into his past to shed the “left-wing icon” label. In Sanders’s case, the piece describes his strong support of an invasion of Iraq in 2002, his support for a $3.6 trillion tax on the middle class as senator, as well as his reputation as “dynamic theorems” which may have worn off as he gets older.
Of course, most political pundits and officials and commentators haven’t become so far from the truth when its comes to Sanders. As the piece in Politico notes, his foreign policy has also been seen as a major shift, in part as his foreign policy advisor is currently Jeff Feltman, who was President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time of the Iraq invasion.
Sanders’ rise was hardly a single event: first a series of victories in the U.S. House, followed by a bid for the Democratic nomination in the presidential race, where his true strength was in online support, even before his role in Congress became apparent. But now, as the Democrats seek to win back the White House and gain control of the Senate, the piece shows Sanders is becoming a recognized leader, with influential aides and with even more advice to the 2020 candidates, including his support for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.