MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Sen. Bernie Sanders invested significant time and energy stumping for progressive candidates around the country before last-week's mid-term election. In congressional and gubernatorial races, Sanders-backed candidates didn't do that well. But, overall, progressive candidates are taking office in greater numbers.
Sen. Bernie Sanders says the progressive movement in America is growing stronger. "There's no question about that," he said.
Vermont's junior senator criss-crossed the country campaigning for progressive candidates and causes. His own opponent in last week's election criticized him for not focusing on Vermont, but Sanders won easily anyway. Democrats regained control of the House, but many of the candidates Sanders supported weren't successful. Sanders says that doesn't matter.
"The establishment will tell us, and has always told us, that we should always be centrists, we should always be conservative. The truth is, you check this out, that when the freshman class of the United States Congress swears themselves in, they're gonna be the most progressive class in the modern history of the United States Congress," Sanders said.
According to Ballotpedia, of the 14 people Sanders endorsed for the U.S. House, nine were defeated either in the primary or general election. Six of eight gubernatorial candidates he backed lost. The two U.S. Senate candidates he backed won.
Norwich University political historian Mark Boonshoft says Sanders is right about the House becoming more progressive. "I think you could make a strong argument that the progressive ideas are gaining such ground that they are moving people left, and so the people who are getting through and winning had to move left in certain places," he said.
But the House is likely to follow a more moderate path, Boonshoft says. "I think what moderates would tell you is that the sort of swing of the House is more due to their efforts than the progressives. Those progressive candidates won in kind of safely blue seats, whereas moderates were flipping seats in Colorado, Virginia and Texas," he said.
Sanders says democratic control of the House means progressive priorities can advance. "I think there's a lot that's possible. I think that Trump and Republicans are gonna be on the defensive. I think what you're gonna see is an effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour which will help tens of millions of workers in Vermont and all over this country," he said.
Sanders hopes to see his "Medicare for All" plan move forward. But Boonshoft says it's unlikely to pass in the next two years. "I don't think there's really any chance, barring, like, some massive upheaval, that anything gets through," he said.
The likely new speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is only promising to protect the Affordable Care Act.