Sen. Bernie Sanders and the progressives are getting ready for their next pitched battle.
An op-ed penned by the independent senator from Vermont and published by the Boston Globe on Thursday hints that if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is elected president, Senator Sanders could press her to appoint officials to top finance and trade posts that pass a progressive litmus test.
“We need a secretary of treasury who is prepared to take on the greed and illegal behavior of Wall Street, not someone who comes from Wall Street or will leave office to go to Wall Street,” wrote Sanders. “We need a trade representative who understands that our current trade policies have failed, and that we must adopt a trade approach that represents workers and not the CEOs of large corporations. We need an attorney general who is prepared to vigorously enforce antitrust laws and prosecute bankers and corporate leaders who break the law.”
Calls for sweeping reforms of the financial industry have galvanized the party’s progressive grassroots, though Mrs. Clinton and other centrists in the Democratic Party may have little interest in it. Progressive advocacy groups have begun to draw up lists of preferred candidates for Cabinet posts, along with potential candidates who raise red flags, the Washington Post reported this week.
Sanders's op-ed mentions other areas where his and Clinton’s stances are more obviously aligned – the minimum wage, college tuition, prescription drugs, immigration – and he opens by pledging that he is "currently working as hard as I can to see that Donald Trump is defeated."
But the timing suggests that Sanders and other progressives – who cemented their foothold by rewriting the party’s policy agenda after the primaries – could be preparing to flex their muscles quite soon after the elections, if Clinton is elected. Those battles could determine whether a party that has moved away from its roots as the working man’s party to become a coalition between minorities and the educated well-to-do could once again position itself as the champion of the white working class.
Sanders’s declarations appeared as Clinton’s campaign seemed to be on cruise control, a day before the FBI again shook up the race by announcing a new batch of emails that could be relevant to its long-closed investigation into the former secretary of State’s use of a private server to conduct official business.
Another ongoing issue for the Clinton campaign – the steady drip of hacked campaign emails from Wikileaks – has appeared to justify many of the accusations coming from the Sanders’ camp during the primaries, such as the Democratic National Committee’s conspiring against him and Clinton’s reassuring of Wall Street executives that she was uninterested in "turning the clock back or pointing fingers."
"Wall Street doesn't pay a quarter of a million dollars for her to come and tell them how bad they are. What she said is pretty much exactly what we expected," said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of progressive activist group Democracy for America, in an interview with the Associated Press.
"The day after she's elected president, progressives will have to hold her accountable and fight with her to make sure she passes powerful, progressive populism," he said.