Thursday, October 21, 2021

One of Bernie Sanders’s oldest staffers explained her experience with the senator’s progressive allies

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The congressional office of Bernie Sanders is among the most politically and culturally progressive of any in Congress. But behind the scenes, staffers for Mr. Sanders’s Senate office have acknowledged feeling marginalized by members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who are in Congress — a growing problem in the Democratic Party and political culture that is central to Mr. Sanders’s own political success, according to several staffers and aides.

“The public narrative of where we are right now is that we are all liberals, all in, always ready to disagree. But those on the inside I don’t think think like that. I think there are a lot of people who are much more progressive than they have the ability to outwardly present themselves to be. I think that’s been part of the issue,” said one staffer who has worked on Mr. Sanders’s Senate office for at least a decade.

When her bosses looked around for people with “really progressive views,” she said, “they found conservatives.”

“There are a lot of people I am close to and I respect and love, and I would love to have a place in the CPC to work with them,” she said.

Republican staffers, for their part, make frequent trips to their own offices to discuss in detail the messaging and policy objectives of the party.

“Yeah, they’ve been Democrats since day one, which some people think is a way of handicapping people,” said one Republican staffer, who works with a CPC member in Congress and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personal relationships. “But we’ve always talked. We’ve always gone to each other’s offices, we’ve always been respectful, we’ve always walked that line. And some of them have rubbed people the wrong way.”

The Progressive Caucus is a core force in both houses of Congress, and the secretive body’s internal battles are often portrayed as involving intraparty strife — or, at least, divisions over how liberal to be. That charge, according to the former Sanders aides, is completely off base. Most if not all of the members in the caucus have been solidly progressive for a long time. And not all agree on how to go about enacting that agenda.

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