Why is ‘Independent’ Bernie Sanders on the Democratic Congressional Leadership Team?

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By Emily Zanotti | 5:27 pm, November 16, 2016

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both earned themselves spots on the Democratic Senate leadership team, likely in response to public outcry in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss.

But while Warren’s nomination makes sense —she is, after all, one of the most progressive Democrats in Congress—Bernie Sanders’s election to the Democratic hierarchy is somewhat of a mystery.

Because Bernie Sanders isn’t actually a Democrat.

Back in July, after losing the Democratic Presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders slunk back to Vermont, returning to his home turf and to an abandoned campaign for Senate, as an Independent. While Sanders caucuses with Democrats regularly—and votes with them most of the time—he dropped his Democratic Party affiliation when he decided to seek another term.

According to both Bernie Sanders’ campaign website, and his Wikipedia page, Sanders retains “Independent” as his political affiliation.

After the Democratic National Convention, Sanders even made a public announcement, declaring that he would remain an Independent even though Democrats had asked him to join (and reform) the Democratic Party, though he says he’ll do his best not to challenge Democratic Party leadership.

Today’s announcement, then, seems pretty strange. How can a man who is not part of the Democratic Party be a prominent member of its leadership?

Part of it may be that Sanders supporters spent most of Monday in Senator Chuck Schumer’s office, “occupying” his space until he agreed to give Bernie Sanders a titled spot in the Senate hierarchy.

Or because the Democratic Party is so desperate to regain its relevance in the face of a devastating loss, it’ll turn to non-Democrats for any good ideas.