Bernie’s R.I. Win is a Rebirth for the Democratic Party

So, last night didn’t go that well for Bernie Sanders.

Despite high hopes for a strong showing in the so-called “Acela primaries,” he managed to win just one of the 5 states at play -- Rhode Island. As a result, his path to the Democratic nomination, although still open, just got a lot slimmer.

But contrary to what you might hear on the mainstream corporate media, Bernie’s win in tiny Rhode Island is actually a pretty big deal.

It wasn’t the last gasp from a candidate who’s well past his sell-by date that establishment types are making it out to be.

It was a wake-up call to Democrats everywhere about what they need to do to expand their party.

You see, there’s a reason why Bernie Sanders did so well in Rhode Island: it has an open primary, and Bernie Sanders often does really, really well in open primaries.

Including Rhode Island, most of the actual primaries he’s won this election season have been open contests or virtually open contests.

This isn’t a coincidence.

It’s the logical result of the strong support Bernie has among the independent voters who play a big role in deciding open contests, because independents can actually vote in them.

Some establishment Democrats have shrugged off Bernie’s rapport among independents as yet another example of how he’s not a “true Democrat.”

The way they see it, he’s just a johnny-come-lately who only has support among other johnny-come-latelies who could care less about the future of the Democratic Party.

This kind of thinking is so short-sighted and downright counterproductive it just boggles the mind.

Bernie’s success in open primaries and among independents isn’t a bad thing or -- it’s exactly what the Democratic Party needs.

Independents account for 42 percent of the national electorate, and while doing well among Democratic loyalists is well and good during primary season, a good general election candidate needs to be able to win at least some of the independent vote. An even better general election candidate would win the majority of the independent vote.

And here’s the thing. Bernie isn’t just winning over a key voting demographic, he’s energizing people to come out and participate in the political process as Democrats

So if the Democratic Party were smart, it’d capitalize on Bernie’s rapport with independents, as well as young people, and try to replicate it across the board.

An obvious starting point would be adopting Bernie’s positions on things like healthcare, Social Security, free college, no more stupid wars, and taking on Wall Street.

It’s these positions, more than anything else, that have drawn people to the Bernie Sanders campaign and it’s why his campaign has done so well despite all the nay-sayers in the establishment passing it off as “just another protest campaign.”

But adopting Bernie’s policies is only one part of what Democrats need to do capitalize on his campaign’s success. They also need to recreate what’s made that success possible, and that’s means making all primaries (and caucuses) open contests.

Despite what some people might think about how important is to “have Democrats elect Democrats,” closed primaries arguably hurt Democrats in the long run. They artificially limit the party’s reach and don’t give candidates any incentive whatsoever to win over anyone other than party loyalists.

Open primaries, on the other hand, do the exact opposite.

They expand the party’s reach and give candidates a real incentive to win over people who, for one reason or another, don’t feel comfortable aligning themselves with a political party.

They also make it a lot easier for voters to take part in the political process because they’re a lot easier to understand: if you’re registered to vote, you can vote, regardless of the party you belong to. It’s that simple.

In fact, a good way to synthesize open and closed primaries would be to have independent voters declare a party affiliation on election day at the polls to vote on that party's ballot, and then they're automatically registered with that party until they change their affiliation.

As the primary season winds to a close and we head towards the general election, Democrats should be optimistic.

No matter who’s the nominee, the Bernie Sanders campaign has revealed an easy way for the Democratic Party to expand its base and therefore become, well, more democratic.

It’s time for open primaries across the board.

Let’s just hope the DNC is smart enough to realize that and make it happen.


Intermittent Instigator's picture
Intermittent In... 6 years 47 weeks ago

"So if the Democratic Party were smart...",

could well have read:

So if the Democratic Party wasn't so (shockingly, even to this former long-time Democrat) corrupt...

The Glenn Beck Review's picture
The Glenn Beck ... 6 years 47 weeks ago

Bernie or bust is a movement that's accelerating almost as much as climate change would under President Clinton.

Grid Bug's picture
Grid Bug 6 years 47 weeks ago

I don't think Democratic leaders want more diverse thinking that threatens the status quo. I hope disenfranchised voters care enough to create a third and maybe a fourth (for the Trumpies) party. Future elections would be more fair if that were the case.

Jussmartenuf's picture
Jussmartenuf 6 years 47 weeks ago

So very well put, Thom. However i have very small faith in the DNC having any intention of change as it is obvious that Wasserman-Schultz et al were rigging it for Hillary from the git-go. Keeping Bernie from gaining name recognition by running the debates against NFL Saturday night playoffs and not allowing Independents to cast a vote are just two examples of what i mean. One reason the Republican establishment dislikes Trump so is because he is bucking the system; so is Bernie. Anybody able to vote should be able to vote for whatever candidate they like and not be required to be a registered party member: one person one free vote. I suspect and fear the DNC organization does not want independents to vote as it diminishes their ability to control who the candidate will be. It is truly a corrupt rigged system that needs to be changed.

Queenbeethatsme's picture
Queenbeethatsme 6 years 47 weeks ago

I've been an Independent since 1982. My kids are Indies and so is my husband. Two of my kids were going to vote for Bernie. After I articulated my rationale for NOT voting for him, they both changed their minds.

Both my husband and I were born in socialist countries, both in Europe. A socialist system over time can adopt and prosper under carefully managed capitalism, which often is a nation divesting Central control and relinquishing assets.. But when a capitalist country begins to adopt socialist programs it is a disaster.

People point to both the US social security program and welfare as examples of socialism. Both were failures if for no other reason than unfettered access to public funds leads to mismanagement, corruption and dissolution.

Just look at the debacle of social security and the unpad IOUs that rendered that program bankrupt.

Bernie is an ivory tower idealist but he is not a realist. Not only can we NOT afford many of the ideas Sanders espoused, he steps far beyond the purview of a President and proposes programs no President has the power to deliver.

When a President, no matter how eloquent proposes programs that require a total revamp of State's rights and the educational system and proposes more money at a time of Fiat currency approaching hyper inflation... Well.. Just NO.

So far, I have debated this point with many Indies and young Dems and while all do not stop supporting Bernie, a good many do.

Bernie is like the idea of the helium powered car... On first glance it sounds lovely.. But as we examine the sum and the individual parts.. It is not only not feasible.. But if feasible, extraordinarily dangerous.

For me, if caught between Sanders and Trump I would choose Trump. better a spectacular end on a sure note than the slow ignominy of a poorly thought out choice.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 6 years 47 weeks ago

Bernie beats Hillary in three recent national polls......go to "truth dig"!

Pretty damning evidence that closed primaries produce results not representative of the will of the people.

Queenbeethatsme's picture
Queenbeethatsme 6 years 47 weeks ago

This has been the system for decades. Have you always been so vocal about the voting restrictions and parameters or only now are because your particular choice has run afoul of it?

I am an Independent and gave been one for over 3 decades. This is not new. This is the price we pay for a 2 party system, which many people seem to only have a problem when they have a non favored son candidate.

One of the reason people are not allowed in to vote as you wish is the strong possibility of corruption or voting to proffer a losing candidate.

There have been primaries where I registered for one of the parties to ensure NOT MY FAVORITE candidate was chosen..but that the worse candidate was chosen.. In this way, in November.. My real candidate on the other side had an easier time of defeating the opposition.

This happens a lot. It is the reason Republicans were so certain Romney would win in 2012 and it was the reason he did not win. The numbers get padded to ensure a certain candidate.

Most partiesdo not want to be manipulated like in some states we are shut out.

Queenbeethatsme's picture
Queenbeethatsme 6 years 47 weeks ago

I doubt Bernie could win a general.not among baby boomers or Republicans. Why are Democrats trying to self sabotage in a year when the GOP is already self destructing?

I would not vote for Mr. Sanders. I am already getting reamed by Obama care.

DFMM's picture
DFMM 6 years 47 weeks ago

Concerns about Hillary.

Of late, Hillary has been speaking out in support of some issues that Bernie has championed. The question is whether it was pandering or whether she will act on those issues if she becomes president. I would hope it's the latter; but the Clintons are no strangers to expediency. Consider that they made peace with David Brock and Richard Mellon-Scaife; two members of what Hillary ---rightfully--- termed the vast right-wing conspiracy. And while Hillary has affected a tone of high road and conciliation; my guess is that is only because she is ahead in the primary. If the race was closer; I have little doubt that Brock and his bag of dirty tricks would have been unleashed against Bernie. If Hillary is the nominee, we need to support her fully; but we need to send a message that we won't tolerate being ignored by the party once elections are over; and a way to do that would be to make an example of one person. Wasserman-Schultz might be a good choice; and with a nationwide ---not just Florida--- effort.

DFMM's picture
DFMM 6 years 47 weeks ago

Cruz selects Fiorina.

At first glance Ted Cruz's selection of Carly Fiorina as a running mate was a bit of an eye-raiser. But on reflection, it figures; it is little more than shady calculation and a Hail Mary attempt to win women voters. Also, if Hillary is the Dem nominee, and in the unlikely event that Cruz becomes the GOP nominee, and assuming Cruz doesn't double cross and dump her; having Fiorina on the ticket would be used as a defense against allegations of sexism by Cruz. Fiorina could also freely attack Hillary with no risk of being labeled sexist. Craven but slick.

Lonos02's picture
Lonos02 6 years 47 weeks ago

What pure hogwash.

lindaferguson 6 years 47 weeks ago

Hey, Thom! I came across this video last night that truly blew my mind by Sane Progressive on YouTube. The title is "Exposing 2016 Democratic Election Fraud Through Exit Polls Interview Richard Charnin." Since last night, I've been writing to my favorite alternative news programs to request they cover it on their show. Richard Charnin is the author of "Matrix of Deceit" and "Proving Election Fraud" and he's been able to prove through mathematical models that Bernie's votes are systematically being manipulated and stolen. I don't want Hillary Clinton winning the primary, but unless she's indicted, she seems unstoppable. But if Bernie's campaign and news shows like yours can publicize how easily election fraud is being done via this video, hopefully it'll make Bernie take some action against Hillary's team, perhaps demand a manual recount. (In every instance of vote tampering, isn't it curious how it always comes out in Hillary's favor?) Thom, I sincerely hope you or someone on your production team read this in time and bring this out in the open to help save Bernie's campaign. We NEED him to be our president. Thank you. Linda Ferguson

WindyCity's picture
WindyCity 6 years 47 weeks ago

The Democratic Party adopt Sanders' policies and programmatic goals? Really, Thom? The Democratic leadership is uniformly bought and sold by Wall Street and corporate interests. As Gore Vidal observed, there is only one political party in America, the Property Party. It has a left wing and a right wing. Both of the parties support the U.S. empire and militarism. While Sanders himself backs U.S. imperial adventures, his moderate New Dealesque proposals would raise the bottom line of large corporations, and cutting their profits is not acceptable. Ergo, the establishment's vicious assault against him in the primaries. The Democratic Party is irremediably corrupt. We need a new vehicle for progressive electoral politics.

cccccttttt 6 years 47 weeks ago

Now that Bernie is a national figure, now that Bernie has the money,

now that Bernie has energetic support, now is the time to form a third party

that will endure for many elections.


Leslo59's picture
Leslo59 6 years 47 weeks ago

To Queenbeethatsme --

1. The Social Security system is not bankrupt; it is actually quite healthy and, as Bernie has proposed, raising or eliminating the cap would allow SS to continue to provide assistance to our seniors long into the future.

2. Bernie has never said he could "deliver" many of the programs he espouses. Instead, if you listen to him, he says that a President Sanders (or any other president for that matter) could not create the programs alone. Obviously, Congress would need to be on board and to do that, the people would need to rise up (aka a revolution) and let their Congressional representatives know what would happen if they did not vote for programs (not be re-elected) the people want.

Please do a little more homework on Bernie before dismissing him.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 6 years 47 weeks ago

I haven't been here in a little while and I find it funny how most everyone has stopped arguing with Queenbee and taken to ignoring her (or him, smacks very much of an invented persona). What else can you do with pages of well known casuisisms and sophistries?
Queen, you must be paid by the post, not for effectiveness.
Queen, I spent part of my youth in a Western European social democracy and I know it works VERY well. Most all of your kvetching is unfounded conjecture. The truth is often quite opposite
I am not going to argue any more, point for point, with a made up person and their obviously made up facts and lame arguments.
There is a reason why the best arguments and superior logic don't make a dent on bloggers like that. They are not paid to discover the truth. They are paid simply to push talking points.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 6 years 47 weeks ago

cccccttttt, that's a great idea! Now that Bernie has inured Americans to the hitherto fearsome democratic socialism he could found a social democratic party people would vote for.

lauthur64's picture
lauthur64 6 years 47 weeks ago

One of the most undemocratic behaviors of both the Democratic and Republican parties is the use of caucuses as opposed to primaries (whether open or closed). If you go back and look at participartion in the 2008 Democratic primaries and caucuses vs Democratic votes for each state in the 2008 general election, you'd see that in caucus states, the ratio of individuals participating in the nominating process in caucus states compared to the general election is typically on the order of 1 to 5 vs numbers much closer to 1 to 1 for primary states. Caucuses, which require people to meet up at a location within a very specific timeframe and which generally forces them to openly state their preference are notably anti-democratic processes. I'm all for same day registration, reducing the influence of super delegates and opening the process to non-affilliated voters to some extent but I don't understand why there's no outcry about the need for removing these outdated caucus events from the nominating process. It probably wouldn't help insurgent candidates but it most certainly would open up the process and make it accessible to many more voters.

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