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Op-ed Placement

Bernie Sanders Is Done, but His Ideas Live on in an Ideologically Bankrupt Party

Originally Published in The Washington Examiner on 4/8/20.

Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign may have just ended, but his movement lives on. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) should be worried.

Even in Joe Biden’s hastily made basement command center, Sanders’ ideas are still winning. Nearly all of today’s Democratic Party’s new proposals have their roots in the Sanders camp. Medicare-for-All, free college, free childcare, higher taxes, some incarnation of a Green New Deal; all have pushed the Democratic Party to the far-left. The current Democratic platform is essentially Sanders-lite, and even the DNC’s heir apparent, Joe Biden has tailored his message to emphasize the expansion of the failure that is Obamacare and a ban on fossil fuels.

Compare this to what Joe Biden ran on during his first failed attempt at the presidency in 1988. For years, Biden was known as a deficit hawk, and even proposed caps on entitlement spending. Yet his 2020 campaign website includes nothing on our burgeoning national debt. Even Sanders understands that his proposals are expensive, but Biden, the former deficit hawk, does not even pay lip service to the looming fiscal crisis.

Biden also was once a proponent of reforming social security in an effort to balance the budget. But when pressed by Sanders in a recent debate, he claimed his past comments were “taken out of context.” Biden used to support the Trans Pacific Partnership. Now he says he’s not sure he’d join it under the current rules. Sanders is a staunch advocate of protectionism and an enemy of free trade.

Clearly, Biden has flip-flopped on his positions, rarely for the better, as is the case with criminal justice reform. But like Biden, the DNC as a whole has moved to embrace the regulatory and administrative state to fix America’s problems.

It’s often been said these past few years, but the Democratic Party of today is a far cry from JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.'' The Sanders-esque Democratic Party is concerned with hand-outs, at the price of the free market.

Truth be told, much of Sanders’ base could be described as selfish political actors who maintain a thousand foot view of how the world ought to work-- from their perspective of course. Sanders’ camp is centered on grievances that they believe a central government must fix. Nevermind that the same government has helped create and inflame such societal divisions as wealth inequality, Sander’s camp believes that a one-size-fits-all approach will somehow save the world. This view is sophomoric at best and malevolent at worst.

No wonder Sanders is wildly popular with younger voters. But as usual, that level of enthusiasm doesn’t translate into success at the polls. Younger Americans remain one of the least politically active demographics in the country. Unfortunately for Sanders, his younger base seemed more concerned with ranting about the Senator’s ideological purity on social media than actually getting folks to turn out at the polls. Nevertheless, Sanders’ brand of “Democratic” socialism has a lock on the next generation of Democratic voters-- that is, if they remain with the DNC. I’m confident they will.

Afterall, parties in American political culture are surprisingly resilient. Both of the major parties have undergone new twists and turns, and I believe we are in the midst of another such re-alignment right now. The Democratic party is here to stay, but with socialism’s “red” taking over the blue.

Either way, gone for good are the days of the so-called moderate Democrats, those who understood and respected the value of free enterprise and limited government. Prepare now for a wave of would-be successors to Bernie Sanders, each of them striving to take up his mantle by moving further and further to the left. Progressive ideological purity might sound good to the far-left Democratic base, but it is assuredly a death sentence for down ballot races in tough districts across the country.

Big government socialism has found a new home at the DNC. Even in defeat, Bernie Sanders has helped remake the Democratic Party in his image.

Adam Brandon (@adam_brandon) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is president and CEO of FreedomWorks.