Senate Democrats Have Some Questions for Bernie Sanders

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One can hardly report and comment on ‘real liberal politics’ and ignore real liberal politicians’ concerns and questions about another real liberal politician seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency. That being said, since there is an unofficial purity test for “the true progressive,” Senate Democrats are beginning to ask some pertinent questions about their Senate colleague Bernie Sanders (VT). And although seldom reported, they are the same questions many Democrats are privately asking and no, questions to a Democratic candidate are not attacks from corrupt Americans; they are just questions.

Since the progressive purity issue arose a fair number of Senate Democrats are refusing to stay silent any longer and criticized Sanders’ “platform as naïve” and took particular exception to his condemnation of Hillary Clinton “as a fake progressive.” For what is likely a good reason, the Senate Democrats are asking for the Vermont “independent and self-described socialist” to be put under the microscope.

One hopes the Senate Democrats want to learn about how Senator Sanders intends on delivering on his ambitious plans other than parroting “political revolution.” This is especially true after Democrats have witnessed President Barack Obama, and many fellow Democrats’ failure to sway Republicans for the past seven years to support the same proposals Senator Sanders is proposing.  Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said,

You need to start asking him questions about his plans and his background. How he’s going to address foreign policy and national security, how he’s going to pay for his free higher education and health care proposals. There are a lot of unanswered questions

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.”

With all due respect to Senator Shaheen, one question has been loosely answered;  Senator Sanders has alluded to how he will pay for his proposals besides starting a political revolution. A better, and harder to answer, question might be how he intends to convince majority Republicans to support huge tax hikes he says are key to implementing and paying for his proposals.

Shaheen began making that argument about ten days ago and she has been joined by a growing group of Senate Democrats after Senator Sanders claimed that “Clinton is a only a progressive some days. Other days she says she is a moderate.” According to many Democrats, that accusation pales next to another Sanders’ claim that “You can be a moderate. You can be a progressive. But you cannot be a moderate and a progressive.” Many ardent Progressives would argue that being a progressive is being a moderate; at least within traditional Democratic circles. Still,  it is never a good idea for a Democrat to demand purity.

As one liberal pundit put it, “Staking out an extreme left wing position like this is a mirror image of the Tea Party right; those who tolerate only the most ideologically pure in their ranks, and drive out any who believe in compromise.” No small number of Senate Democrats agree that ideological purity is not the purview of “any other progressive.” A staunch liberal, and progressive Senator, Brian Schatz (D-HW) said, “Hillary Clinton is a progressive and I don’t think any other progressive gets to judge and be the gatekeeper of progressivism. We need to remember who our real adversary is, and that’s the tea party and what they’ve done to the country.”

Mr. Schatz brings up an important point that is beginning to concern many Democrats; divisiveness over who is the real progressive Democrat is not conducive to Party unity going into a general

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election. Some Senate Democrats went farther and claim that although Senator Sanders caucuses with Democrats but identifies as independent, he is not really a Democrat; something Bernie’s enthusiastic supporters celebrate and revere him for.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a well-known liberal Democrat said, “Hillary’s a progressive in the way she views the issues every day. Bernie’s a Democrat some days. And that’s a fact with evidence.” Some  members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which Senator Sanders is the only Senate member, were irritated at any attempt to label Mrs. Clinton.

Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) said, “I certainly think she is progressive enough. One could ask progressive enough for what? Although there are a lot of positions that Senator Sanders has that I agree with in theory, I also believe that we are not going to get them done in this current political environment.”

Senators Schatz, Boxer, Shaheen and Representative Bass should beware of being labeled corrupt, deceitful and ideologically impure because that is precisely what anyone, Democrat, progressive or liberal faces for asking questions that warrant an answer from a candidate seeking to be the Democratic Party’s standard bearer. Particularly after criticizing the Party for several years; a fact that many skeptical Democrats want an answer to as well.

A Missouri Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill said what her Democratic colleagues are really unhappy about is that they are labeled as “the establishment” by Sanders who condemns Clinton for her ties to the Democratic Party. McCaskill said,

All of us are laughing going like, ‘How did we become establishment?’ I’ve been fighting the establishment my whole life. It feels weird that they’re dismissing all of the senators that are supporting Hillary Clinton by lumping us into some category that most of us find distressing and unfair

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.” Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WS) echoed McCaskill’s sentiments saying “the backing of 13 female senators shows that Clinton’s support isn’t establishment. After all, they are 13 of just 46 women senators to have served in the history of the chamber; they aren’t the establishment.”

Whether or not any progressive, pure or polluted, thinks these Senate Democrats’ questions and concerns are borne of a corrupt, deceitful, or establishment mindset is irrelevant. They are valid concerns that will pale in comparison to what Republicans have in store for a Sanders’ nomination; why else are Republican PACs pouring money into helping Senator Sanders win the nomination and providing his supporters 25 years’ worth of the GOP’s debunked Clinton smears and criticisms?

These Senate Democrats deserve answers as much as any American voter, especially after being assailed by another Democrat and are likely as worried about Democratic Party unity going into a general election as many Democratic voters who have not worked with Mr. Sanders for over a decade. It bears repeating, queries from members of the Democratic Senate are nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the mountain of questions and criticism the GOP, Karl Rove, and Koch brother’ PACs have amassed and it is a sure-fired bet they will not be dissuaded one iota by accusations of corruption and deceit like timid Democrats.

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