Bernie Sanders
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Democrats might be forgiven at being a little miffed at this news:

[Sanders] also confirmed on Tuesday that he will return to the Senate as an independent, not a Democrat.

“I was elected as an independent so I’ll stay two years more as an Independent,” he told reporters. As the longest serving independent in U.S. congressional history, Sanders had only declared himself a Democrat when he entered the presidential race last year.

When Sanders switched his affiliation from independent to Democrat, I think a lot of people saw that as a meaningful statement. Yes, it was a requirement if he wanted the nomination, but it showed that he was personally invested in the party. Or, it seemed to, anyway.

Think about it this way. How would it have gone over if he’d said at the outset that he had no intention of remaining a Democrat but was only running for the party’s nomination because it would make it easier to win the presidency than if ran as an independent or third-party candidate?

I bet a lot of people would have not liked the sound of that. Why has he been working so hard to influence the platform of a party he doesn’t even want to belong to?

It’s feels like a con game even if it isn’t necessarily quite that. But, believe it or not, a lot of people supported Sanders not because they actually thought he might win the nomination but because they wanted the party to adopt or more seriously consider his ideas. In other words, they were invested in him because they were invested in the party.

And, now, at the very moment when his influence is being most keenly felt within the party, he announces he is bolting and no doubt taking as many people with him as he can.

Some people might see in that a bit of betrayal or, at the very least, abandonment.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at