Can A Sanders-Warren Coalition Lead Dems Away From Civil War?


A Sanders-Warren coalition would address those who ‘felt left out of the economy over the last eight years’ and weren’t able to get back on their feet.

Progressives are plenty pissed off that the Democratic Party wouldn’t listen to the voice of the people and, as a result, lost Tuesday’s election. They are chomping at the bit, ready to launch an intra-party civil war — unless a Sanders-Warren coalition can avoid it.

A Sanders-Warren Coalition Or A New Party?

One might expect that it would be Bernie Sanders sounding the clarion call for fundamental change, but it’s Robert Reich, Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton. In a conference call, Reich told members of the grassroots Democracy for America, founded by Howard Dean:

The Democratic Party can no longer be the same, it has been repudiated.

This has been a huge refutation of establishment politics and the political organization has got to be changed…if the Democratic Party can’t do it, we’ll do it through a third party.

Another former official under Bill Clinton and  Hillary supporter, David Goodfriend, said:

One thing for sure is that the Democratic Party will lean more on Bernie than Hillary going forward.

What does Sanders himself think of that? He apparently wants to reform the Democratic Party rather than see it die. In an op-ed for the New York Times on Sunday, Sanders wrote:

I believe strongly that the party must break loose from its corporate establishment ties and, once again, become a grass-roots party of working people, the elderly and the poor. We must open the doors of the party to welcome in the idealism and energy of young people and all Americans who are fighting for economic, social, racial and environmental justice.

Fair enough. There is a large part of the Democratic Party that sees that as a possibility — under new leadership. That leadership will not only include Bernie Sanders. Democracy for America’s executive director, Charles Chamberlain, is just one who proposed a Sanders-Warren coalition. He said:

It’s more true than ever that the leaders of our party and the leaders of our movement are going to be Bernie and Elizabeth. It’s not going to come from the old Wall Street wing of the party.

Sounds simple. But it’s not. Sure, there are many others who see no way forward except for the Democratic Party to accept the message they got from the American public. Better that than an internal civil war. This faction recognizes that only Bernie, on the Democratic side, tapped into the anger that swung the election to the Republican candidate. Unfortunately, Trump also recognized the anger and manipulated it to his advantage.

Former Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), recently in charge of Clinton’s transition team but now out of a job, was clear on that point:

There were people who felt left out of the economy over the last eight years who were never able to get back on their feet, blue collar men and women. Donald Trump was able to capture them in terms of emotion and sentiment…

The broader question is how to have a Democratic Party that can attract those working men and women.

Sanders is totally open to working with his friend, Elizabeth Warren, who also has a history of speaking to the working person’s needs. A Sanders-Warren coalition is possible because Sen. Warren declined to make an endorsement between Sanders or Clinton until the latter had effectively secured the nomination.

The Tone Deafness Of Party Officials Continues.

However, others who need to be on board with enticing the working class back into the Democratic tent are often as tone deaf as ever. They have substantiated the fear held by the party’s left wing that they will not relinquish power without a fight.

First of all, former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Howard Dean has announced that he’s going to run for his old job instead of cede power to progressives. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) for the position. Ellison is not only one of the most liberal members of Congress, but also an African-American and a Muslim.

The fractiousness of the party — and the threat of a civil war— wasted no time in rearing its head last week. The interim leader of the DNC, Donna Brazile, was conducting a meeting of Democratic officials on Thursday. A staffer identified only as Zach stood up and asked:

Why should we trust you as chair to lead us through this? You backed a flawed candidate, and your friend [former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz] plotted through this to support your own gain and yourself. 

You are part of the problem. You and your friends will die of old age and I’m going to die from climate change. You and your friends let this happen, which is going to cut 40 years off my life expectancy.

Zach finished what he had to say and stormed out of the room. Some staffers booed him, but others nodded their heads in agreement, all with Brazile looking on. One of the attendees, who understood exactly where Zach was coming from, backed him up with this statement:

The party is at a crossroads. They have been using the same playbook for decades, and now, they won’t let anyone else come in and change it up. The fact that Democrats just sat through a devastating defeat and now have to trust the leadership that not only contributed to Clinton’s loss, but the crushing 2014 midterm losses, well, what do they expect?

What, indeed? It still doesn’t sound like most establishment figures within the party can accept any responsibility for the debacle of the election. Nor do they appear to have a plan for moving forward.

Bernie Sanders wrote on Sunday about ‘standing together’ and not letting demagogues ‘divide us up.’ But the words seem to be falling on many deaf ears. He and Elizabeth Warren have a lot of work to do to keep the party from diving off a cliff.

Is it even possible that a Sanders-Warren coalition can avoid an all-out civil war?

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Deborah Montesano

Deborah Montesano is a political blogger and social activist. In spite of years of monitoring the political scene in America, she remains optimistic about the future.
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