Sanders & Warren: Will The Democratic Party Follow Them Leftward?


By Lauren Gambino
The Guardian (8/27/17)

At Fellowship Chapel in west Detroit, Bernie Sanders delivered a thundering battle cry for the progressive movement before a crowd of nearly 2,000 people, squeezed into wooden pews and crowded into an overflowing room.

The town hall had the feeling of a revival meeting led by Sanders, who preached with the same urgency the message he delivered repeatedly on the 2016 presidential campaign trail: the system is rigged against the American people.

But in Detroit he punctured the bleak prophecy with a glimmer of hope.

“What this whole debate is about is what constitutes human rights: the right of freedom of speech, freedom of religion,” Sanders said. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt said we need economic rights, not just political rights. And healthcare is a human right.

“The good news is that more people agree with us.”

“For the sake of our country and the world, the Democratic Party, in a very fundamental way, must change direction.”

As Democrats feel their way out of the wilderness after sustaining one of the most stunning defeats in modern presidential history, the party’s ascendant left, emboldened by Sanders’s successes in 2016 and an energetic grassroots movement, is pressing ahead with an economic agenda that includes proposals for universal healthcare and debt-free college. And they are starting to feel that this may be their moment.

Progressive leaders such as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the firebrand from Massachusetts, have helped steer the party toward a platform of economic populism, which they believe is a political roadmap to winning back the House of Representatives – and possibly even the Senate – in next year’s congressional elections, and stopping Donald Trump’s agenda in its tracks.

Leadership vacuum

This week, Sanders and Warren, both of whom have moved to fill the leadership vacuum atop the Democratic party, hit the road to champion their progressive politics. Sanders held three events in the Rust Belt states that Trump won in 2016, a trip designed to show that his progressive ideas have appeal in rural America, while Warren, who is running for re-election to the Senate in 2018, crisscrossed Massachusetts to meet with constituents.

At a town hall at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Warren mocked her own wonkish reputation, stretching out her arms to illustrate a rising GDP chart, the start of her response to a question about how to address growing economic inequality.

“OK, everyone settle in – she’s going to talk forever,” the former Harvard professor joked, before launching into a 10-minute critique of trickle-down economics.

But Warren drew raucous applause when she told the crowd: “We have set up a series of policies in Washington that work for those at the top and leave everyone else behind. And what I say is it’s time to change that.” …

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