In mid-July, the Democratic Party unveiled a new slogan. “Stronger Together” was designed to make real the obvious truth that the party would be stronger if the Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton factions would work together.

The slogan was empty rhetoric. The party’s national convention was not a bringing together but a demand for capitulation by the losing side. In a column published in this paper, one-time Maine Democratic Party U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill was more crass in her complete disdain for the very existence of Berners than the national party might have liked, but perhaps not far off the sentiment of the establishment.

In a published response, I sounded a warning: “Establishment Democrats cite a Pew Report that at least 85 percent of Sanders supporters will end up voting Clinton. That strikes me as grossly underestimating the level of discontent. But even if true, that is over 2 million votes Clinton almost certainly needs and might not get.”

Indeed, there was a serious Demexit. Clinton won the popular vote overall, but in Michigan and Wisconsin, which Clinton did not win, the Green Party vote was more than Donald Trump’s margin. And if enough exiting took place in Florida and Pennsylvania, where the Trump margin was slim – and if alienated Sanders supporters voted for Clinton but did not campaign for her – the Democratic establishment’s treatment of the left wing of the Democratic Party was a primary cause of losing the White House.

The Maine Democratic Party learned nothing from the lessons of this last election. A Maine Electoral College vote went to a Republican for the first time since 1988, and the Maine Democratic Party this year was the first state Democratic Party anywhere in recent memory to lose a challenge to the Democratic National Committee for unlawful conduct.

On Nov. 20, the Maine Democratic State Committee voted to stay the course, re-electing the same officers who had overseen shocking failures for the state party. A 52 percent majority on the committee explicitly and intentionally refused to give even a token office to the 70 percent of Maine Democrats who said at the state caucuses and convention that they wanted change.


As word of this let-them-eat-cake directed at Berniecrats got out, social media in Maine was aflood with new reports of mass Demexiting. Maine Democrats point with pride to this being one of only 13 states with a Democratic majority in its House, but without the votes of Sanders supporters, no Democrat is safe in Maine in 2018. And more Sanders supporters are leaving.

Which is likely why every speaker at that Nov. 20 meeting trumpeted a promise to build the party. Great idea. But when Berners are told that we are not a valued part of the party, and when the Democratic State Committee explicitly and intentionally refuses to put onto the Executive Committee a person with ties to the NAACP, to low-income Mainers, to the Green Party – demographics that could be and should be Democrats but have not been – just where are those new votes going to come from?

As Cynthia Dill explicitly put it, “People who appear to have it all are thought to be incapable of understanding or helping people who have nothing.”

Yup, many people who have not enough think exactly that. Which is why the Maine Democratic Party must understand that staying middle-class suburban is not a viable strategy: Unless the state party establishment is willing to be Stronger Together, it may experience “self-righteous” political “squalor,” in the words of Dill.

The Democratic Party is at a crossroads: It can change, or it can become increasingly irrelevant. It just lost a presidential election to the most hated candidate in history. It is the minority in both houses of Congress, and in most legislatures in the several states; it sits in few governor’s mansions.

In Maine, Chellie Pingree can probably get re-elected to the U.S. House as often as she chooses to run, but otherwise there is precious little the Maine Democratic Party as it is now constituted can count on. Continuing to marginalize us “lunatic Bernie Bros” may come with a very high price tag – one the Maine Democratic Party might not be able to afford.

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