The Incredible Shrinking Political Party

Pete Buttigieg pleaded with last night’s debate audience in Las Vegas—and throughout the country—to see the light. “Let’s put forward somebody who’s actually a Democrat,” the former South Bend mayor said in a not-so-subtle shot at two of the frontrunners for his party’s presidential nomination. “We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out.”

Bernie Sanders told reporters in 2015 he was “the longest-serving independent in the history of the United States Congress,” and—while he has since formally affirmed membership in the party—he continues to exist well outside of its mainstream. According to reporting by Edward-Isaac Dovere in The Atlantic Wednesday, Sanders nearly mounted a primary challenge to President Obama in 2012. (A Sanders spokesman denied these claims.)

Also onstage Wednesday night was Mike Bloomberg, who—once a Democrat—successfully ran for mayor of New York as a Republican in 2001 and became a registered independent in 2007, only rejoining the Democratic party again in 2018.

On the other side of our political divide, today’s leader of the Republican party wasn’t one as recently as 2009. In a 2004 interview with Wolf Blitzer, for example, then-reality-game-show-host Donald Trump said he “probably identif[ies] more as a Democrat. … It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans.”

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