He has been trying to return it to the New Deal policies, or its core values, as some people see them. Success has been partial and run into a wall, however, and Bernie keeps being criticized by the “Democratic” leadership for not being a member of the party. This is not surprising when you take a closer look at what kind of party the “Democratic” Party really is.
The “Democratic” Party has been around for quite some time. During the time of the civil war it was the surviving pro-slavery party after slavery-opposing Abraham Lincoln had led the new Republican Party to depose and replace its predecessor, the Whig Party, whose corrupt leadership had also been favoring slavery, even as the majority of Americans wished to abolish it.
Fast forward: in the 1930’s our nation’s economic system based on greed and unlimited power at the wealthy top was in its worst downturn so far — the robber barons of that time trying to squeeze the last drops of blood from the American people and tanking the economy in the process. To avoid a communist revolution on par with that which shortly before had created the Soviet Union whom our nation’s establishment greatly feared, our then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt became the most popular president ever by implementing radical measures to prevent such a revolution. He redistributed some of the robber baron’s stolen wealth back to their victims: working class Americans, non-privileged Americans, ordinary Americans, regular Americans, working Americans, everyday people, low-income people, non-blue-blooded Americans, folks not born with a silver spoon in their mouths and a business empire at their back, red-blooded Americans, real Americans, or whatever you want to call us human beings who are not placed at the top of the dunghill.
FDR happened to be in the “Democratic” Party, so the reputation of people’s politics rubbed off on that party. The then-powerful American labor unions and worker-movement-parties (and lots of Americans!) sided with the “Democratic” Party in the process; and even after the worker movement parties had been exterminated by an all-out war from the top (known as the Red Scare and later the Cold War, replete with the witch hunts of McCarthyism), the labor unions remained a solid pillar of power for the “Democratic” Party for decades. However, when the robber billionaires got the Supreme Court to legalize political bribery at the end of the 1970‘s, and when Reagan dealt a lethal blow to our labor unions, the “Democratic” Party gave up on New Deal politics and the unions (and regular Americans!) and returned to the old game of serving the rich and well-to-do. It must have been easy, since political parties grown up to control government for the rich have leadership structures made to be bribed and manipulated from the wealthy top. (To ensure success, the “Democratic” Party set up the “Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee” in 1981 to sell influence to the robber billionaires. All it cost it was its soul.)
Ever since, we have been back in the situation of our “democracy” being nothing but a dog and pony show run by two major parties, both of which serve the same masters: the robber billionaires who wage war on the people from the top.
So, is it any surprise that Bernie Sanders, who probably is the most FDR-like politician of our age and has been fighting for the American people all his political career, has resisted the temptation to join one of these two utterly corrupt political gangs, called our major parties. Since he grew up during the golden age which America enjoyed thanks to the New Deal, it is also not surprising he clings to the hope that the “Democratic” Party can be returned to act as the people’s party.
However, if you analyze our history a bit, as I did above, you can see that the “Democratic” Party wasn’t formed to be a people’s party. It has a top-down power structure, just like the Republican Party. It has democracy-defying elements built-in, such as its superdelegates, all of whom are members of its top. Their task is to immunize the party from takeover by the party base, the unwashed masses (folks like you and I), who are supposed to peacefully acquiesce to economic injustice and despair, and to having no voice in our country’s policies (or in either party) while government, banks, and corporations merge into one giant octopus sending its tentacles everywhere and sucking the life out of us to stuff the blood-sucking rich.
This is why Bernie Sanders doesn’t fit in the “Democratic” Party and hasn’t joined it, even as he has maintained an uneasy alliance with it through much of his political career. Personally, I think, that building pressure from the bottom in the “Democratic” Party has its uses, at least in some states of our union where a degree of takeover from the base is possible (while in others it is not); but building a strong outside force in the form of a strong third party and an energetic people’s movement with grass-roots democracy built in, is even more important and critical to a successful toppling of the corrupt establishment that is driving us over the cliff economically, politically, and ethically.