Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is no longer left enough for some Democrats, because he has been reluctant to join calls to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
That’s according to the New Republic, once a reliable center-left organ. Writer Sarah Jones has declared that Sanders is “undermining his position as the nation’s most prominent left-wing politician” by suggesting that ICE should be reformed, rather than endorsing the total elimination of border enforcement.
Sanders could be a source of consistent, left-wing pressure on party leadership, whether or not he runs in 2020. If he intends to build a lasting political movement out of the remnants of his last presidential campaign, he’ll need to become an effective counterweight to the mainstream Democratic Party. But based on his ICE comments and the uneven results of his campaign efforts, Sanders no longer seems like such a sure figurehead for disgruntled Democratic voters.
While Sanders has inspired many on the left, including newest Democratic Party heroine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, his refusal to abolish ICE outright, Jones argues, means that perhaps he was never such a thought leader after all. “[D]espite his sudden popularity in 2015, Sanders has never been a figurehead to everyone in the American left. … He does not occupy the left-most band of the spectrum,” Jones writes.
She goes on to list his apparent heresies, including his reluctance to call for the nationalization of industry:
It’s certainly true that Sanders is to the left of most Democrats. But contrary to how he’s often portrayed in the media, he is not a doctrinaire leftist. … Sanders is not a revolutionary. His views aren’t even entirely consistent with democratic socialism, the political tradition he claims. It’s one thing to call for breaking up the big banks, and quite another to call for the nationalization of private industries.
The fact that Sanders stopped short of joining calls to abolish ICE turns out to be the latest heterodoxy — and, for Jones, it is the last straw. In fact, she says, Sanders is basically a “mainstream politician” who has no real claim to left-wing credentials but for the fact that American political discourse has shifted so far to the right.
In contrast, those who have passed the Democrats’ new litmus test include Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).