Someone asked me if this really mattered. After all, they said, as long as Sanders caucuses with the Senate Democrats, what difference does it make?
Well, no, it doesn't matter significantly. But I do think it's important. And I think it does matter. I say that as someone who still hasn't decided yet who he'll vote for in the California primary. Someone who likes Bernie Sanders and would be just fine if he was the Democratic nominee -- and became president. But the question does matter.
After all, if someone wants to get the nomination to be the Democratic candidate for president, that position makes you the leader of the Democratic Party. And if one wants to become the leader of the Democratic Party, then I think it's valuable to know if the person considers themselves a Democrat, or if it was just an expedient legal maneuver of paperwork when asking people to vote.for you.
This question came about when I saw Bernie Sanders giving a speech late last week, explaining what he believed the Democratic Party should stand for and what issues they should pursue, admonishing the crowd about how they should act as Democrats. It occurred to me that if Bernie Sanders didn't plan on staying in the Democratic Party after the election, if he didn't get the nomination, it seemed a fairly presumptuous thing to do -- someone not planning to be a Democrat wagging his finger at Democrats about what they should believe and stand for.
To be clear, I think much of what Bernie Sanders stands for and promotes is wonderful. Not everything, but a great deal. And some things I think are wonderful, but not necessary what's best for the Democratic Party that encompasses liberals, moderates and conservatives. Being a Democrat is not the same as being a Democratic Socialist. There are reasons the two standards are different.
And further, I'm not suggesting that whatever Bernie Sanders' answer is to the question is, then that means people should or shouldn't vote for him. One may love most everything he proposes, and not care one whit under what banner he calls himself. Then again, one may want to know how committed the Democratic Party leader would be to what's best for the full swath of the Democratic Party, not what's best in the long run for Democratic Socialism.
And the answer could also explain why Bernie Sanders hasn't done all that much fundraiser for Democratic candidates, or hasn't made many campaign appearances with other down-ticket Democratic candidates. It's an answer which -- depending on what it is -- also can explain why someone like Elizabeth Warren, who seems to hold many of the same highly progressive positions as Bernie Sanders, may have a more impactful future in the Democratic Party.
In the end, I think for all the great many questions the candidates are asked in this incredibly contentious primary season, it's a very low-key and simple and obvious question to ask. And a substantive, valuable one, as well.
"Sen. Sanders, if you don't get the Democratic nomination for president, will you continue to stay registered in the Democratic Party, or will you return to being a Democratic Socialist, as you've always been?"