How Sanders Can Avoid Becoming the Ted Cruz of the Left

As it becomes increasingly clear that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee, a lot of people are beginning to talk about what Bernie Sanders should do now. The more interesting question is: what happens to the “movement” he has inspired once this election is over. That is what Brian Beutler attempted to address. Here is a summary of his advice:

Sanders must keep the apparatus he’s built largely intact, but refocused on lobbying for progressive policies and promoting and financing progressive candidates—and making establishment Democrats fear the price of opposing both.

That sounds like good advice to me, with one caveat: don’t become the Ted Cruz of the left.

After the election in November, Bernie Sanders will go back to being the Senator from Vermont. Unless he wants to give up that seat – he will be working from inside the system. As Beutler goes on to point out, if Democrats win control of the Senate, Sanders will be in line to be chair of the Budget Committee. Using that position to advance his progressive agenda means playing the “establishment” game. Unless he wants to become a full-time activist working from outside the system (which would be a viable option), here are some things he could do:

1. Develop a plan for universal health care coverage that is more than simply throwing numbers at a page that don’t add up. In other words, develop a plan that would actually work.

2. Submit the Rebuild America Act to address this country’s infrastructure needs and create jobs.

3. Work with Senate colleague Sherrod Brown to develop a serious proposal to break up the big banks.

I could go on with other things Sanders has advocated for in this primary, but perhaps you get my drift. As a candidate, Sanders has been good at naming and describing problems. Where he has been weak is in developing serious plans to address them. Energizing his movement to maintain the pressure for more progressive policies means providing the country with actual progressive policies. Sanders could then mobilize the army of his young supporters to take up the cause and fight for them. As President Obama said at Howard University:

You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes.

You see, change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing.

The alternative is to become the Ted Cruz of the left – always disrupting but never offering anything constructive that could actually change things.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.