Sanders Supporters See Some Silver Lining in Trump Victory

Sanders Supporters See Some Silver Lining in Trump Victory

A Washington, D.C., rally to celebrate the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership turned into a shout-out to progressives the moment Bernie Sanders took the stage just outside the U.S. Capitol, where hundreds had converged Thursday to catch a glimpse of their hero.

“I’m not here to blame anybody, criticize anybody, but facts are facts,” the one-time presidential candidate said, detailing sobering election losses up and down the ballot. “It’s time for a new direction for the Democratic Party.”

Donald Trump’s surprise win brought unexpected energy to the rally. What would’ve likely been a giant victory lap for progressives had Clinton been victorious, ended up as a lively post-mortem instead. Sanders admitted he didn’t have the slightest doubt that Trump’s promise to take on the establishment was what got him so many votes. “One of the reasons that he [Trump] won is, in my view, a failure of the Democratic Party that must be rectified,” he said, as the crowd cheered and chanted, “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”

That failure, according to Sanders, was neglecting working-class voters. Hillary Clinton lost the election in large part because of a drop in support in states that have substantial blue-collar populations, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Some wonder whether the Obama administration’s bullishness on the Trans-Pacific Partnership made things worse. “I’ve left the open the question whether or not the administration’s push for a lame-duck vote and getting people dispatched all over the country and all over the world, saying we were going to move on this,” said U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat. “You have to question whether or not that resulted in the loss of the Rust Belt states.”

Buzzards now circle above the trade deal, which isn’t dead yet, but will be soon after Donald Trump’s inauguration: He has promised to kill the TPP in his first 100 days. Trump isn’t exactly the hangman progressives expected, but the imminent death of the trade deal is one silver lining for opponents of the accord.

Another is the chance to reshape the Democratic National Committee. Larry Cohen, former president of the Communication Workers of America, says the political vacuum left by the election could be an opportunity for progressives to gain more influence in the Democratic Party. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled the party’s new leadership team, which included Bernie Sanders as the director of outreach. Progressives are eyeing leadership positions on the Democratic National Committee as well. “[Minnesota Representative] Keith Ellison is an amazing leader,” said Cohen. “He’ll know how to handle the job.”

Kim Kamens, a Sanders supporter who runs a custom wood and metal design, architectural, and technology manufacturing business with her husband in Philadelphia, is eager to see change at the DNC, which she calls an “antiquated fundraising machine.” Kamens has seen more and more full-time workers forced into temporary manufacturing jobs. “The working class was left out of the Democratic agenda,” Kamens said. “It feels like Democrats have lost touch with the American people.”

National Nurses United co-president Jean Ross agrees. “The message of incremental change is not going to work for working-class Americans,” she says. “We need to change the message, not tweak it.” The NNU endorsed Sanders early on in the primaries, but refused to endorse Hillary Clinton in the general, even after Sanders did. Ross has no regrets on not endorsing Clinton. “Our integrity is intact — Bernie’s our guy.”