Can Bernie Sanders' Progressive Platform Take Hold in Trump's America?

Chris Riotta

Bernie Sanders isn’t focused on the 2020 presidential election. In fact, much like Donald Trump, the Vermont senator's heart may still lie somewhere along the 2016 campaign trail, from which one can still hear the echoes of his progressive ideologies and calls for the rich to pay their fair share in supporting the American dream for all.

So, when Sanders greeted a sea of supporters in Cleveland on Monday, his familiar battle cries for a single-payer healthcare system, increasing the national minimum wage and guaranteeing family leave for 12 weeks all sounded as if it were from a nostalgic moment in history. In fact, the only difference between the speeches he gave last year and the ones he continues to this day—the senator will speak again soon in Iowa, the political mecca of primary season—is that he may have more of a chance than ever to incorporate those ideologies in Trump’s America.

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The president has failed to enact many of the promises that floated his successful campaign throughout the 2016 election. A bipartisan bill funding the government through September does not include a down payment on his "big, beautiful" southern border wall. Immigrants, refugees and residents from several Muslim-majority nations can travel freely to and from the United States. Hillary Clinton is not locked up.


Meanwhile, Democrats managed to block many of the funding overhauls Trump proposed in his skinny budget, which would have effectively stripped funding from a bevy of popular government programs, as well as the Department of State and other federal agencies. And when it comes to Sanders, the party that nominated Clinton as their opponent to Trump in last year’s election is all ears, tapping him as the chair of outreach for Senate Democrats.

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Whether Sanders’ proposals could eventually become the law of the land depends on how successfully he and his supporters can embed themselves into the Democratic party. The senator has already gotten a head start, hosting a "Unity tour" across the country with Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, endorsing progressive candidates for local elections and calling on those listening to his message to take part in an organized resistance.

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Bernie Sanders continues to see growing support for his ideologies in Trump's America. Here, supporters greeted then-Democratic presidential candidate Sanders at a rally in Carson, California, May 17, 2016. Reuters

Since the election, Sanders has been introducing legislation virtually each week, calling on his fellow senators to close loopholes that save billionaires millions of tax dollars, expand competition in the national prescription drug market and transition to a 100 percent carbon-free economy, among others. The exact proposals he made throughout his campaign are finding their way to the forefront of the national conversation, as the Republican party continues to stumble with a majority in both houses. If the president were to begin opening his doors to Democrats, as he reportedly was considering following the failure of the GOP healthcare bill, Sanders’ ideologies could soon find themselves planted in the Oval Office.

"It seems to me that our job is not to just oppose Trump's reactionary agenda. Although we've got to do that and we've got to do it vigorously," Sanders said Monday. "What we need to do is put forth a progressive agenda that addresses the needs of working families in the country, an agenda that has a very different moral compass than that of President Trump."

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