Now that Bernie Sanders can no longer become the Democratic presidential nominee, his campaign has shifted focus to his new project Our Revolution. The pretensions to the presidency are gone, but instead of going quietly into the night or vociferously campaigning for Hillary Clinton, he has doubled down on his revolution, which increasingly resembles a political insurgency.
Phase one of Sanders’s new Our Revolution appears to be rehashing a drama from his unsuccessful presidential bid and stoking divisions within America’s political left. This is not a welcome development.
In a fundraising email sent out to supporters, Sanders stressed the need to support progressive candidate Tim Canova and defeat former Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 23rd congressional district held on Aug. 30. Sanders is not content with her resignation as the chair of the DNC, and now he wants to use his national fundraising network of supporters to help remove her from Congress as a statement of his new found political clout.
The rhetoric Sanders uses to describe Canova’s campaign runs parallel to his own. Both men are supposed to be the true progressives in the race, started out as blips on the political radar, and now thanks to small donations and passionate supporters they can topple the political establishment that seeks to supposedly suppress their voices. Sanders famously requested $27 to support his campaign; for Canova he’s asking only $3.
And of course, Sanders is using the leaked DNC emails to present Wasserman Schultz as untrustworthy. Likewise, Canova has followed suit by filing an FEC complaint against her saying that she has “used her position with the DNC and the resources of the DNC to improperly benefit her congressional campaign.”
Since Canova is backed by Sanders and this election is being positioned as a pivotal moment in the future of the Democratic Party, Wasserman Schultz has brought out her big guns too, and on Tuesday Clinton detoured her campaign to Florida’s 23rd to endorse Wasserman Schultz.
Wasserman Schultz is certainly an embattled politician, and Sanders can definitely smell blood as he attempts to put another progressive flag on the map. But this is more than just a vendetta against Wasserman Schultz. Sanders is attempting to remake the Democratic Party in his own image, and over the next 18 days, he intends to challenge Wasserman Schultz, Clinton, and the DNC for political supremacy.
But this may be a battle that he cannot win. According to a poll commissioned by Canova following the Democratic convention, he trails Wasserman Schultz by 8 points. Clinton also won both Broward and Palm Beach County, which make up the district, with over 70 percent of the vote. It is unlikely that Canova will win this election, just like it was unlikely that Sanders would win the Democratic nomination.
If Sanders and Canova miraculously defeat Wasserman Schultz in the primary, the Democratic Party will have to take greater notice of his movement. But is that a political development anyone actually needs during this election cycle?
Considering the stakes of this election—a Trump presidency, and congressional elections where the Democrats could reclaim the Senate and close in on the Republican majority in the House—squabbling over Florida’s 23rd is an unnecessary distraction that encourages political division and polarization.
When I first heard of Sanders’s Our Revolution, I hoped that it intended to coalesce his supporters around a new, viable third party that could make a coalition with and aim to push the Democratic Party further to the left. Sanders has spent decades in government caucusing and collaborating with Democrats, so I hoped his new revolution embodied this Sanders, and not this latter-day version, who appears increasingly combative. This revolution would be thinking long term and beyond 2016. It could see that a liberal administration that is open to his progressive ideals combined with his network of supporters from across the nation would give him the opportunity to build the third political party that many Americans, including his supporters, are yearning for.
However, thus far, his intentions are far too reminiscent of the myopic, shortsighted Tea Party movement that intended to remake the Republican Party from the inside out. This revolution was also an insurgency, and its willingness to shun compromise in an attempt to hopefully find a truer form of conservatism has only created chaos, instability and a fractured GOP.
Donald Trump has been the beneficiary of this conservative disarray, and in his ascendency he has only stoked the fear and division that has consumed the GOP since the Tea Party’s revolution. Most liberals understand how imperative defeating Trump in November remains, but Sanders instead has opted for ousting Wasserman Schultz.
I get it, Sanders wants to take down the big bad Wasserman Schultz, and if Canova wins other Democrats will know that they should not mess with Sanders and his movement. But who are these other Democrats that are supposedly hell bent on suppressing progressive change? Sure, Sanders and other Democrats disagree on some policies—TPP is one of the biggest—but the Democratic convention was a veritable Sanders love fest, and the DNC compromised with Sanders and made progressive changes to the party platform. Sanders might not have gotten everything he wanted, but he got more than most expected.
Removing Wasserman Schultz from Congress won’t help Democrats and progressives defeat Trump or reclaim the Senate or House. And if Sanders/Canova lose on Aug. 30 Our Revolution will lose momentum before it even got started. A true revolution should not hinge on something this minuscule.