For several reasons, there has been a lot of talk about Sanders (and some of his supporters) not being a Democrat, as if that’s a problem (though I suspect that if he were to change his party registration, some would find something else trivial to complain about, since proxy battles over the 2016 election will never fucking end). Before I continue, I’ll remind readers that I’m a life-long Democrat, have donated to Democrats, and have volunteered for multiple Democratic campaigns. Hell, I once registered absentee to vote in a Democratic municipal primary. I’ve also never missed an election. So don’t bring that you’re a Johnny-come-lately BernieBro crap here.
Being a Democrat isn’t like joining a union. In a union, there are formal benefits, such as group negotiation, union legal representation, and so on. There are often informal benefits, such as getting help from your brothers and sisters when you face a personal crisis, such as a family tragedy, or unemployment. But what do I get for officially being a Democrat, other than a shit ton of junk snail mail and email? It makes me laugh to think that my local Democratic party is going to show up and help me when I face a crisis. From a rank-and-file perspective, the Democratic Party is an electoral brand, nothing more. Even the Democratic Socialists of America will fix your tail light for free. But Democrats?
If we look at policy among elected officials, Sen. Sanders is an independent, but you have to be staggeringly ignorant to not realize he has been a much more reliable Democratic vote than most Blue Dogs/New Dems. Who would you rather have: 10 Bernie Sanders or 10 Evan Bayhs? It’s not even close. As Howard Dean put it, “Functionally, he’s a Democrat.”
As to criticizing the Democratic Party, unless you believe that American political history began circa 2015, there is a long, awful tradition of Blue Dogs and New Democrats discussing ad nauseum what the Democratic Party needs to do (and unlike Sanders, who is actually proposing legislation, they didn’t do much). For years, Lieberman, Bayh, Zell Miller (remember that asshole?), and others would go on the Sunday talk shows and describe just how badly Democrats (always the liberal ones!) were screwing things up, all the while proposing Grand Bargains and Salvations of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid that would screw rank-and-file Democrats.
Meanwhile, among us mere mortals, we need allies. And who knows? Maybe if we treat non-Democratic Sanders supporters like people, instead of idiot monkey children, they might even want to become Democrats. We do need the support.
I’m all for a big tent: feel free to call yourself a Democrat! But this obsession with being a registered Democrat strikes this life-long and active Democrat as self-defeating.