And the progressive organizations and operatives who rallied around his presidential campaign — “the Bernie Mafia,” as they call themselves — feel as though they’ve finally won a seat at the adults’ table in the Democratic Party while the Clinton machine retreats.
In the days since the presidential election, Sanders — who is an Independent and not officially a Democrat — has been promoted to the Democratic leadership in the Senate. One of his top allies, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, has become the front-runner to be the next chairman of the Democratic Party, which largely opposed him in the primary. And Sanders is already encountering “Bernie 2020” signs and T-shirts wherever he goes, while batting away reporters’ questions about another presidential bid.
He’s on a tour to promote his new book, and everyone seems to want his opinion on the election — especially since, during the primaries, he won many of the key Midwestern counties against Clinton lost in the general election.
His Facebook page grew by 100,000 followers in the 24 hours after Clinton’s defeat.
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No one associated with Sanders wanted Donald Trump to win, and many in his movement worked hard to boost Clinton. But Sanders and his allies can’t help but feel some vindication. Mainly, though, they see an opportunity to assert themselves in the chaos of a decapitated Democratic Party.
Wednesday night in Washington, as Clinton delivered an emotional coda to her campaign on one side of town, Sanders was igniting a packed auditorium of college students with a tough-love vision for the future of the Democratic Party.
“I think a lot of people gave up on the Democratic Party in terms of standing up for working people and then said, ‘OK, I’m going to go with this guy,'” Sanders said of Trump.
“Ordinary people have got to know that the Democratic Party has the guts to stand up to some very powerful people today whose greed is destroying the middle class and working class of this country,” he said. “And if we can’t do that, I don’t see much of a future for the Democratic Party.”
The next morning, at a breakfast with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Sanders was the one reassuring Clinton of safe passage and a “very important role … in the future of the Democratic Party.”
Revolution Messaging, the digital firm that helped Sanders raise more than $200 million in small donations, sent an email to Democrats offering to help find jobs for laid-off Clinton staffers, who had expected to be waiting on calls from the Office of Presidential Personnel at this point.
Some Clinton allies and former staffers find the told-you-so subtext of Sanders’ display off-putting, especially when he said last week that he thought he could have beat Trump. And they believe that he hurt Clinton by poisoning his millennial supporters’ views of her.
The Bernie Mafia has tried to avoid gloating, but its mood has been transparently more upbeat than in the Clinton world.