Bernie Sanders may have lost his bid for the presidency, but his political influence is still felt strongly in a Democratic Party that has mid-term elections fixed firmly in its sights. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi picked up one of Sanders standards from his campaign — the $15 minimum wage — and promised to pass it swiftly should the Democrats regain majority status.
Confidence in the Democratic Party’s 2018 election odds has shifted as President Trump and the Republican House have struggled with budget and healthcare legislation despite having the majority. Special elections around the country have also given voters and leadership what could be small previews of what’s to come in next year’s contentious congressional races. If the news of late is any predictor, 2018 is going to be a wild ride of frenzied Hollywood financing and savage beat-downs that inspire pro-wrestling memes.
In many ways, however, Pelosi’s endorsement of the $15 minimum wage is as much about the past as the future. Politico points out that Pelosi has backed the hike since 2015 and pointedly referenced the 2007 increase of the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in her remarks on the new potential Democratic agenda. The Democrats are simply trying to play it safe by putting a reasonably popular goal and a successful former strategy front and center.
The irony, of course, is that the Democrats are trying to repeat a past success by hitching their apple wagon to Sanders’ star. The Vermont senator has long presented himself as an alternative to the left-of-center establishment and isn’t even technically a Democrat. That conflict is indicative of the same general confusion the Democrats have felt about how the party can regain momentum.
We saw this not only in the primaries but also in the contested race for a DNC Chair, which resulted in Tom Perez winning the position. Perez’s win was historic in that he’s the first Latino to hold the seat, but he’s also a familiar face who served as Obama’s secretary of labor.