Election 2020

Bernie Sanders on Democratic 'Unity Tour': 'I'm an Independent'

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a rally in Evansville, Ind., on May 2, 2016. (Denny Simmons/Evansville Courier & Press via AP)

This week, the new Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has been hitting the road with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison in a Democratic Party “unity tour” mostly in red states Donald Trump won this past November. But “unity” doesn’t exactly describe the spirit of the tour. In fact, when Sanders was asked point-blank if he considered himself a Democrat, he said no.

“Do you consider yourself a Democrat?” MSNBC host Chris Hayes asked Sanders on Tuesday. “No, I am an independent,” the Vermont senator responded.

“If the Democratic Party is going to succeed — and I want to see it succeed — it’s gonna have to open its door to independents,” Sanders explained. “There are probably more independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It’s got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party. That’s what we need.”

That’s cute. How exactly does socialism help working people, besides taking away their jobs? More on that later.

But Sanders’ answer on Democratic unity suggests his campaign was less than truthful about the senator’s long-term plans in party politics. Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told Bloomberg last April that Sanders would remain a Democrat after the election. Whoops!

Sanders also dismissed Democrat candidate Jon Ossoff, who is running for a seat in the House of Representatives in a special election in Georgia, saying “I don’t know” if Ossoff is a progressive.

Perez, who received boos from a Young Democrats crowd in Maine which cheered Sanders, echoed the Vermont senator’s talking points on health care. When asked if the DNC backs “Medicare for all,” Perez said his party believes “healthcare is a right, not a privilege.” He argued that opposing President Trump’s efforts to repeal Obamacare has been “an energizing force for Democrats, independents, and others who share the values of inclusion and opportunity.”

Here’s the video of boos for Perez on Monday.

And here’s another video of boos, this time in Miami, Fla., on Wednesday.

“We have shared values,” Perez declared. “We all believe America works best when everyone has a chance to succeed, when we have shared prosperity and not just prosperity for a few.”

Shared prosperity is a great vision, but economies grow and people flourish best in a free market. Sanders’ wing of the Democratic Party represents a rejection of these principles — an embrace of socialism, which may be growing more popular but actually represents a threat to both justice and prosperity.

The clearest condemnation of Sanders’ ideas comes in Venezuela, a country racked with recession, inequality, and shortages of everything from food to toilet paper. What is the government’s response? Seizing private industries. No, seriously: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government nationalized bakeries amid a bread shortage, took over toilet paper plants, and just this week confiscated a General Motors (GM) plant. GM’s response? Pull out of the country after 70 years.

Indeed, Maduro also reversed a 2012 gun ban this week, in order to arm his supporters so they could strike down opposition protesters. If anything demonstrates the necessity of Second Amendment rights, it is this fundamental abuse of power. Venezuela took guns away from its citizens, and is now using guns to suppress democratic opposition. It would seem a ready-made argument for the NRA, if it weren’t so tragic.

During the 2016 Democratic primary, Maduro actually endorsed Sanders. His growing popularity, and the growing popularity of socialism in general, suggests that what happened in Venezuela can actually happen here, and the home of this disease is the Democratic Party.

The great irony of the Perez-Ellison-Sanders “Come Together And Fight Back Tour” is not just that Perez gets booed while Sanders gets cheered, or that Sanders still doesn’t “identify” as a Democrat. The root problem is that the new Democratic Party — if indeed it has an ideological center — champions a broken ideology that empowers the federal government to the destruction of prosperity.

In protesting President Donald Trump as a power-hungry dictator, the Democrats embraced a socialist ideologue endorsed by a real dictator whose very socialism is destroying Venezuela. This would be downright hilarious, if it weren’t so tragic. If the Democrats continue down this road, opposing their party will be less and less about partisan politics and more and more about preserving the values of American freedom and prosperity against the strangling fist of big government.