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Beyond Bernie

Rachel Murphy Azzara




The end of Sanders’ interlude with the Democratic Party is long-overdue.

No one can say we didn’t try. Hillary Clinton incorporated his ideas into her policies. Tom Perez took him on a Unity Tour. But, clearly, cooperation and unity don’t hold much interest for Bernie Sanders.

He’s like that cantankerous drunk uncle that you keep inviting to family holidays, who, after running your guests off one by one, slumps in his chair, bitterly mumbling incoherence until someone finally drives his crotchety ass home. It’s time to go home, Bernie.

The Democratic Party is the front-line of defense against the global crisis created by Trump and the GOP. We are the core of the Resistance. Attempts at division are a distraction, or, even worse, a concerted attempt to weaken. Given what we face, that is unconscionable and we’re done with it.

While it is long overdue for Bernie’s interlude with the Democratic Party to end, it has not been an experience without value. Like most failed relationships, there are insights to be gleaned and damages to be repaired. Primarily, how Democrats can reach the audience that Bernie resonated with, and cultivate that energy into productive political activism.

Both Trump and Bernie appealed to individuals on an emotional level. They both decried their supporters to be part of a ‘movement.’ They utilized the excitement and group psychology of rallies, liberally peppered with personal outrage, and, most importantly, blame. The fact that they were running on opposite ends of the political spectrum mattered little, the Democrats drew the ire of both, simultaneously being too progressive and not progressive enough.

Now, one would think that since Trump won and the GOP took both chambers of Congress, Bernie’s followers would realize that the strategy of battle must necessarily change, but the ‘brocialist’ camp is still intent on battling within the confines of the Left. As is the usual case with Bernie, he has done nothing to correct their course. This is particularly troubling, because Bernie knows better.

This isn’t exactly the fault of the millennials. [Editor’s Note: The Bros4Hillary are prime example]  They are at the age when personal idealism takes center stage over the pedestrian reality of pragmatic action. We can only imagine what those years would have been like for us, had we come of age with a black President, LGBTQ rights and the boundless potential of social media.

The gravity of what is at stake is not real to them because of the work that we did accomplish. While Bernie busies himself with being the geriatric crowned-prince of a “pure” progressivism of his own definition, we have worked quietly, with diligence, commitment and tenacity to actually achieve progress. What we have wrought without glamour or fame is literally being dismantled. We know what it took to get it and we know easily it can be lost.

Taylor Hill/WireImage

So, how do we reach them? How do we prepare them for the fight against the GOP? How do we make them understand that avoiding big swings of the pendulum of US politics is the only way to sustain and build on progress?

For one, we engage with them—we address their concerns, we honor their emotions, and we patiently explain our strategies and goals. This has not been the strong suit of the Democratic Party. We have mistakenly relied on the idea that logical thought will prevail—that thinking people will naturally gravitate to our platform. We can do better. Small group discussions, actively addressing community concerns, encouraging involvement in both the DNC and local politics. And, yes, events, rallies and marches—build on the momentum of the Resistance.

This leads into another issue that Democrats seem to naturally shy away from—optics and branding. Who are the core Democrats? How is the Democratic base represented in the public sphere? Who are the public faces of the party? We are a grab bag of wonks, grassroots activists and social justice warriors. Statistically, the base is largely middle-age females and minorities. Many have been actively involved since the Civil Rights movement. Those that choose to run for office or become pundits are our most visible representation. But, it’s a different world now. The millennials were reared on multi-media and the Internet. Berners get that.
The People’s Summit is openly having people submit applications to participate. Why? Because they are handpicking a desired ratio of representation. Pure optics. Consider the careful branding and self-promotion of Linda Sarsour and the organizers of The Women’s March? They are not just activists, they are a living billboard for Bernie progressivism.

Bernie captured the attention of the youth, but he’s really only taught them how to  shadowbox against themselves. Now it’s up to us to bring them on board, teach them how to roll up their sleeves and begin the hard work of change-making.

Guest Contributor Rachel Murphy Azzara is a writer, strategist and advocate currently living in St. Louis, MO. Her education is in Anthropology and Philosophy and she has career experience in strategic planning, outreach and digital marketing.



  1. Peter Cammann

    May 2, 2017 at 6:51 am

    What a lovely, condescending message. It’s comforting to know that the DNC will show us all the proper way to play politics with them.

  2. Alex Mohajer

    Alex Mohajer

    May 2, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Peter, you do realize this is not the DNC website?

  3. Rachel Murphy Azzara

    Rachel Murphy Azzara

    May 2, 2017 at 9:51 am

    I am not writing from the perspective or on behalf of the DNC. I am writing as part of the Democratic grass-roots activist base.

  4. Peter Cammann

    May 2, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Alex & Rachel – I understand that this blog is not the DNC’s and I respect that Rachel’s opinions are her own – but I do bristle at the suggestion that somehow the DEM party is owed the support of any particular group of people. I’m an IND, who has voted mostly for DEMs – but that doesn’t mean in any way that I support the DEM party (or the GOP, for that matter). The problem with the DEM candidate in ’16, and ’00 not so coincidentally, is that there was never a coherent, “elevator speech” delivered as a rationale for the candidacy, outside of “I’m not a GOP”. In both cases, the DEM candidate simply said, “I represent what you voted for the last two times and I oppose the person running against me”. That’s not enough either.

  5. Rachel Murphy Azzara

    Rachel Murphy Azzara

    May 2, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Peter, I do agree that the Dem party can do a better job of communicating and connecting. I also don’t agree that any group owes them allegiance. One can be as Independent as they want to be and decide what platform best represents what they want. We are, however, in a 2-party system and I struggle to see anyone finding the GOP platform particularly progressive. Sanders chose to run as a Dem. He’s waffled back and forth criticizing from the inside and from the out. That mentality hurt us in the election and we can’t afford to have a repeat of it in midterms–if we don’t gain seats in Congress, the GOP will destroy every ounce of progress we’ve made.

  6. Peter Cammann

    May 2, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Again, the point I’m trying to make is that the flawed assumption is that only the establishment DEMs can save the day. I recognize that the US is a two-party political system, but if a party fails to articulate itself, then it is bound to fail and nobody else should assume the blame for that result. Bernie ran in the primaries because no other progressive would challenge Clinton. I would have happily backed Warren last year, or Franken (had he decided to split from Clinton), but they made other plans. Bernie, who is my Senator, chose to take the plunge and I’m very glad he did. He articulated a progressive agenda and in doing so, he may have made an important difference. I see no reason why he should stop now.

  7. Scott Levison

    May 2, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    I saw a lot of Red-baiting directed at Sanders from HRC supporters…straight out of the Lee Atwater playbook. Joe McCarthy would’ve been proud.

    Hillary and Bill Clinton are no liberals. Bill’s handling of Rickey Ray Rector showed that.

  8. Rachel Murphy Azzara

    Rachel Murphy Azzara

    May 2, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    I don’t know of anyone ever saying that only establishment Dems can make a difference. Quite the contrary, actually. But, here’s the rub…this was for POTUS, coming off a GOP majority. Bernie running in the primaries was fine. Raising awareness, generating excitement in a new generation. Pushing back against the establishment. I liked Bernie, too. But, I knew he would be destroyed in a general election. Bernie knew that, too. This isn’t his first rodeo. He needed to pass the torch and support HRC in a timely fashion and he didn’t. He didn’t quell the Bernie or Bust people. He hurt the vote and that’s not how it’s supposed to work–it was more worth it to him to have the mic and risk Trump winning. And he did so. We’re not ok. People are being deported, we’ve lost environmental protections, funding slashed, wer’re losing healthcare, global relations are in crisis. The Right has the upper hand–and we fight everyday just to keep them at bay. By the time we manage to get a foothold again, we will have years to go before we reach the center, let alone push further left. BernieBros were so busy fighting moderates, they forgot about the real enemy.

  9. Peter Cammann

    May 3, 2017 at 4:05 am

    Ok. So Trump was Bernie’s fault? You lost me there.

    To my mind, the biggest reason why Clinton lost in the General was that she never offered a clear message as to what her presidency was going to be about. The campaign was hers to win or lose and it was just lame to see that she continued to blame others for coming up short, as recently as yesterday.

  10. Rachel Murphy Azzara

    Rachel Murphy Azzara

    May 3, 2017 at 4:32 am

    Scott, ‘Red Baiting’ and references to McCarthyism are obtuse descriptors within the context if the 2016 election. Russian interference is firmly established. Tad Devine’s relationship with Paul Manafort and their work for Yanukovych is not something easily ignored. Let’s be specific, concerns within the Left regarding Russia have to do with Russia’s active measures campaign to ensure a Trump win and concerns over people with political/business relationships that may have colluded in the matter. The concerns were not about Bernie’s politics or believing he is an advocate for Communism.

  11. geneve

    May 3, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    She wrote a 200+ page book on policies that would define her presidency..unfortunately the media wanted to cover her emails instead. Bernie stayed in the primary too long, he watched as his supporters threw dollar bills at her without stepping in & telling them to stop, & it seemed, he reluctantly endorsed her. Many things can be true at once. The harsh primary, media coverage, Russian involvement & campaign mis-steps etc etc. The book was called stronger together in case you want to understand the very clear message she was sending. BTW she didn’t ignore MI WI etc…She sent Bernie and he couldn’t close the deal for her with the white working class voters he says would have won with.

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