Bernie Sanders delivered a live speech to supporters last night via video feed, announcing that his presidential campaign would continue on to the convention with a shift in focus. His top two priorities apparently are: Help defeat Donald Trump, and exert maximum influence over the Democratic platform. Democratic loyalists – party elites and the media who aspire to serve them – are welcoming the first and absolutely flabbergasted by the second.
“Man Still Yelling,” read the Gawker headline. “Bernie Sanders Officially Announces He Will Run for President Forever,” groused Slate. Over on Vox, Matt Yglesias pointed out the “One sentence from Bernie Sanders’s speech last night that really enrages Democratic leaders.” (The party fashions itself a workers’ paradise, but Bernie thinks there is more to be done.)
Why on earth, the thinking goes, would Bernie continue his campaign? At this point, winning is an implausible proposition, save for a Hillary Clinton indictment. Can’t Bernie do more service to the party by dropping out now and endorsing the nominee?
This mentality reveals much about the mindset of Democratic loyalists: Ideas are subservient to party success. Sanders’s mission to inject the party platform with socialism is utterly foreign to Democrats whose values follow this calculus. The chief virtue of the party’s manufactured ideology is that it plays well on the airwaves; fall in line with the party and you will be rewarded.
Sanders, who holds precisely zero loyalties to the party he just joined, represents a twofold rebuke to the party establishment. From his vantage, the party propounds an insufficiently leftist set of principles. And from his position of immense popular support – Sanders, recall, received a similar share of support from primary voters as Trump – he is well equipped to change these principles to his liking. Sure, Sanders’s refusal to bow to the Democrat machinery is a rebuke of the party-over-everything outlook, but his effort to color the party red is equally so a rebuke of the establishment assurance that their ideology is the most progressive one around.