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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 1st June 2018 > BERN NOTICE

BERN NOTICE

Is Bernie Sanders rebuilding the Democratic Party? Or is he setting it on fire?
Portraits by CHRISTOPHER LANE
NEW WAVE Two years after his failed presidential campaign, Sanders’s progressive agenda has rapidly remade the Democratic Party. Bernie on the 2016 campaign trail
SCOTT OLSON/GETTY

“ PLEASE DO NOT THINK THESE ARE SOMEHOW radical, or unpopular, or extreme or fringe ideas,” Bernie Sanders tells me.

It’s early May, and the once-and-perhaps-future presidential contender is ticking off progressive policy proposals—his policy proposals—that, in the two years since his loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, have rapidly remade the Democratic Party: universal health care, tuition-free public college, a $15-an-hour minimum wage. When he’s told that some believe his ideas may be better suited to Finland than Nebraska, Sanders bristles. “Look at the polling,” he snaps in his thick Brooklyn accent, which decades in Vermont have not diminished. “You don’t have to believe what I tell you.”

By many measures, he’s right. In the two years since his insurgent campaign for the White House succumbed to the Clinton juggernaut, Sanders has gone from cult hero to mainstream dynamo. Larry David can mock him on Saturday Night Live as a cranky, quixotic septuagenarian, but when Sanders endorses an idea, many of his peers in the Senate listen without laughing. The American public has become increasingly receptive to his brand of democratic socialism; once-skeptical centrists have seen the polls and have followed accordingly.

This has resulted in a high-stakes ideological war to out-Bernie Bernie. In March, for example, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York endorsed a pro posal that would ensure the government guarantees a job to every American. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey followed with modest legislation, before Sanders bested both lawmakers with a national plan (pay rate: $15 an hour, of course).

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BIBLE THUMPERS: RUSSIA IS CRACKING DOWN ON JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES It was just after sunrise on April 10th when the doorbell rang at Anatoly and Alyona Vilitkevich’s apartment in Ufa, an industrial city in central Russia. Their early morning visitors: masked police officers armed with automatic weapons. The police’s tactics that morning were the type often used to detain dangerous criminals. But Anatoly isn’t a suspected terrorist, murderer or drug trafficker. Police arrested him because he and Alyona are Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian evangelical movement known for its members’ door-to-door proselytizing. Jehovah’s Witnesses are also committed pacifists who historically have been persecuted by governments all over the world for their refusal to perform military service, or salute the flag. Some of the most brutal repression took place in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. And now it’s the Kremlin, with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church, that’s ramping up the pressure. The state’s crackdown comes as part of a government-backed drive against minority “foreign” religions.