It is all fantasy at this point, but will Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wind up being a presidential candidate in 2016? That is what some progressives are asking as they scan a field without dreams.
Hillary Clinton has a lock on Democratic funds, party machinery, and broad appeal as the first woman who might become president. However, concerning the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, on Latin America, on massive domestic spying, on Wall Street and campaign finance, Clinton so far has promised little change from the status quo. That leaves an opening for a populist candidate like Sanders to rally Democrats and Independents in a mainstream challenge to the priorities of the One Percent.
Sanders, first, would have to decide if he wants to re-register as a Democrat or as a third party Independent – a difficult consideration. His outspoken positions on health care, taxing the super-rich, regulating Wall Street, defending fair trade and protecting an open society, would register deeply with organized labor and the historic rank and file of the Democratic Party.
By running as an Independent, Sanders could push Clinton toward more progressive stances and position him to form an electoral pact still guaranteeing a Democratic victory in November 2016. On the other hand, Sanders could register Democratic as a formidable challenger in many primaries.
Sander may not be a “whole progressive,” if there are such ideological standard-bearers any longer. He has high marks from the National Rifle Association, reflecting Vermont’s tradition as a gun rights state. Sanders was not among the frontlines of opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the Long War. Coming from a small, mostly white state, he may have troubles connecting with the vast constituencies of color fast becoming the center of gravity in national elections. But to the extent that protecting democracy from the ravages of the rich and powerful is the issue that resonates among most Americans, Sanders could be The Natural. Think about it: uniting citizens against Citizens United.