Bernie Sanders was at his most candid during his recent keynote address to the some 4,000 plus attendants at the 2017 People’s Summit. He was scathing of Donald Trump’s presidency and failed promises to “drain the swamp.” But the Vermont Senator and most popular active politician saved some his most powerful criticisms for the Democratic Party.
“Now I am often asked by the media and others ‘how did it come about that Donald Trump, the most unpopular presidential candidate in the modern history of our country, won the election?” he said to the raucous crowd who packed themselves into the Arie Crown theatre. “And my answer is… that Donald Trump didn’t win the election, the Democratic Party lost the election,” he said to thunderous applause.
He then took the Democratic Party to task outright. “Let us be very, very clear… the current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure.” he boldly proclaimed. “This is not my opinion,” he said, “this is the facts.”
“You know we focus a lot on the presidential election. We also have to understand that democrats have lost the US House, the US Senate, Republicans now control almost 2/3 of the governor’s chairs throughout this country, and over the last nine years, Democrats have lost almost 1,000 legislative seats in states all across this country. Today, today in almost half of the states in America, the Democratic Party has almost no political presence at all… If that’s not a failure, if that’s not a failed model, I don’t know what a failed model is!”
These sharp criticisms came as a relief to the many progressives in attendance who felt as though Senator Sanders was too easy on the Democratic Party, and the role they played in the 2016 presidential elections. This was a recurring theme throughout the three day long gathering of activists, journalists, volunteers, organizers, and artists from around the country and the world.
Sanders was also quick to remind the audience about the gains the progressive wing of the democratic party were making. He highlighted examples like Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the recently elected mayor of Jacksonville, Mississippi who won his race in a landslide, more than doubling his nearest contender’s vote count. Christine Pellegrino, the Sanders delegate and progressive who recently won a state assembly election in a district that had never before elected a democrat, in a district that Trump had won by 23 points.
Sanders was not alone in his views on the failures of the Democratic Party. CNN Corespondent Van Jones ripped into the wasteful and shambolic campaign waged by Hillary Clinton. “Let’s be honest,” Jones said. “They took a billion dollars, a billion dollars, a billion dollars, and set it on fire, and called it a campaign!” Jones did not pull any punches.
“They took a billion dollars, and spent it on themselves… A billion dollars for consultants. A billion dollars for pollsters. A billion dollars for a data operation, that was run by data dummies who couldn’t figure out that maybe people in Michigan needed to be organized… That wasn’t a campaign, that was a boondoggle!”