Bernie Sanders and DNC chair Tom Perez, together again for the first time? Maaaaaybe. “Tom and I are going all over the country,” Bernie Sanders told Jake Tapper this week, promising to turn the Democratic Party into “a 50-state party.” Sanders wants to push the Democratic Party to the Left, and unify it behind the progressive movement, but that didn’t get off to an auspicious start. Chris Hayes kicked off this interview with both men by asking Sanders the obvious question, “Do you consider yourself a Democrat?”
CNN took notice, and not just of this moment on the Unity Tour:
When the leader of the Maine Young Democrats asked the crowd what brought them to the rally, the audience erupted in “Bernie” cheers. The leader followed up by asking, “Maybe you came through because you are curious about the new DNC chairman and the future of Democratic politics?” — and the crowd cut her off with boos.
Things moved downhill quickly from there.
During a joint interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Tuesday night, Sanders said he does not even consider himself a Democrat. “I am an independent,” Sanders affirmed.
Aaron Blake at the Washington Post is similarly mystified as to what Perez and Sanders are doing together in this effort:
Over the last few days, Sanders’s has at times offered some odd comments for a guy pushing for Democratic unity.
- He said that he still isn’t actually a Democrat
- He repeated his line that President Trump “did not win the election; the Democrats lost the election” — drawing some angry responses from Hillary Clinton supporters who see this as either a shot at her or as something that Sanders’s primary campaign contributed to (or both)
- Sanders’s message has differed from Perez’s in a couple key ways
Mystifying? Odd? Perhaps, but the dynamic here is clear enough. Sanders doesn’t need Perez or the Democratic Party. He won’t run for president again at his age, and he can get re-elected as often as he likes in Vermont as an independent. He’s not a Democrat, and only identified as such to compete for the party’s nomination in 2016. He’d be much more at home in the Green Party, which tried to woo him into being their nominee last year rather than Jill Stein.
Perez, on the other hand, needs Sanders — and Democrats need his credibility with hard-Left progressives. Perez narrowly won his DNC chair against a challenge from Sanders protege Keith Ellison, which made him the “establishment” choice and angered some of the Team Bernie activists. That’s why the pair named their effort the “Come Together and Fight Back” tour, but so far, they’re not seeing much coming together and the fighting is at least in part internecine. As CNN points out, the two differ on health care, and on messaging in general, but … they’re united against Trump.
And that’s what Perez really needs — to get the anti-Trump energy to work for the Democratic Party. Even Hayes wonders whether that will work, given Hillary Clinton’s spectacular failure to capitalize on distrust of Trump. Rather than learn a lesson from that, Perez and Sanders are taking the same confused act on tour, and that lack of insight might transform it from a political effort to an comic performance-art piece. Viva la Resistance, losers!