By all evidence, we’re nearing the end of the Bernie Sanders experiment in America. Just last night, Joe Biden won primaries in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona and has a near-lock on the Democratic nomination. Where does that leave Sanders’s legacy on American politics and the Democratic Party?
Conventional wisdom since 2016 has held that Sanders pulled the “Overton Window” (which we’ll discuss more below) of the Democratic party toward his brand of democratic socialism. Sanders himself declared as much, saying before the no-audience debate with CNN that his campaign had “won the ideological debate.” This, despite the fact he’s losing in landslide fashion in the vital campaign metrics of votes cast, delegates, and polling.
At the height of the Sanders boomlet in the 2020 race, mainstream writers and journalists were freaking out. David Brooks said, “I’ve just watched populism destroy traditional conservatism in the GOP. I’m here to tell you that Bernie Sanders is not a liberal Democrat. He’s what replaces liberal Democrats.” But if you can’t win a nomination, how far is your capacity to change a party? Is Sanders’s power under- or overstated?
The Overton Window.