If the reports we’ve been hearing this week are correct, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders will soon be announcing his candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. This would pit the 74-year-old, self-proclaimed socialist from Vermont up against a highly favored Hillary Clinton, who most believed would go virtually unchallenged by her party in her ascension to the Oval Office.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but as a right-leaning guy who thinks the country needs a conservative thinker back in the White House in 2016, I’m pretty excited about this. I’m excited because I think Sanders has the potential to do quite a bit of political damage to Mrs. Clinton—possibly as much or even more than the developing email-server and money-corruption scandals will.
One of the important news stories the media has willfully missed in recent years—electing instead to focus on the internal battle within the GOP—is the very real division that exists within the Democratic Party. Despite the hard-left turn President Obama has pulled this country into since taking the reins in 2009, there are many within the progressive movement who—believe it or not—actually feel that’s he’s been far too slow and timid in advancing the liberal agenda.
These people aren’t just part of some fringe, easily-discarded element of the Democratic Party like the groups that have gotten behind candidates like Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich in the past. The people I’m talking about make up a significant, growing portion of the modern-day liberal movement. They were the ones who were wholeheartedly sold on President Obama’s rhetoric on concepts like social justice and economic fairness, but have become frustrated over not yet seeing the perceived rewards of such pursuits.
People like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts have become champions of this movement that includes many young people in their 20’s and 30’s, and others who feel that the capitalist/free-market system is unjust, bigoted, and fundamentally rigged against them.
While such people would vote for Hillary Clinton in a heartbeat over any Republican, they’re not particularly impressed with her. They certainly don’t trust her. They take her populist rhetoric with a grain of salt, and they’re not shy about admitting that.
With Bernie Sanders, however, they believe he’s sincere, and that he speaks for them. They’re not even squeamish over the fact that he presents himself as a socialist. My liberal friends from all over the country are always posting Internet memes from Sanders (and Warren) on social media—you know, those images with quotes embedded in them that are supposed to sound profound and resonate with an instinctive sense of justice? They think the guy’s a rock star who makes a heck of a lot of sense.
In many ways, Sanders is the Ron Paul of the left. Despite his age and crotchety demeanor, his message resonates with young people who don’t feel particularly comfortable with the platforms of either major political party. And just like with Paul, the influence that comes with his fan-base will let him change the tone and direction of primary debate topics in ways that will force mainstream party candidates into awkward side-discussions, and having to address issues they’d much rather skirt around.
As we saw with Hillary’s 2008 campaign, and even in recent months, she’s terrible at walking that line between appeasing the hard-left with obligatory red meat lip-service and appealing to the sensibilities of moderates. She comes across as someone who’s unprincipled and rehearsed, and when she’s thrown a curve-ball from the left, the result is almost always awkward and accident-prone. With a bulldog like Sanders in the race to continually hold her feet to progressive flames and keep pulling her further left, I fully expect some of these Democratic debates to turn into circuses of hard-left one-upsmanship. Sanders of course won’t win in the end, but by the time it’s over, Hillary could end up sounding just like him on the issues, and have a heck of a hard time trying to get back to the center for the general election.
This is a good thing for Republicans, who aren’t going to have to deal this time with that kind of distraction during the debates. If Ted Cruz is the most disruptive figure of the bunch, they’ll be in pretty good shape.
So I welcome Bernie Sanders’ entrance into the 2016 race. He’d end up doing the GOP and America a great service.
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