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      Bernie Sanders for President?

      Should Senator Bernie Sanders run for President in 2016? (Photo: AP, 2014.)Senator Bernie Sanders is preparing a presidential run. While it can still be called off, volunteers already are eyeing Iowa and New Hampshire, a database is being prepared, and factions being formed, and its only winter 2014.

      The chief question being debated internally is whether Hillary Rodham Clinton needs a challenge to her present dominance. The Hillary defenders say the Democrats need to pave a smooth path through the Democratic primaries and avoid the crippling divisions in the Republican Party. They warn that an independent Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016 will siphon enough votes from Hillary to elect the Republican nominee, thus locking up every branch of government. That would be a disaster for the Democrats and every advocate of women's rights.

      Progressive Democrats who share Bernie's agenda are likely to be troubled and divided if he runs as an independent. They say he needs to get over his emotional hostility toward the Democrats, which is rooted in their long-ago opposition to him in Vermont. They point out that Bernie already caucuses with the Senate Democrats, so that entering the Democratic primaries would be a reasonable step towards maximizing his influence.

      However this is sorted out, there is a vast discontent among the Democratic rank-and-file alongside the recognition of the historic moment for women. The discontent is being channeled into a sharp progressive shift in Democratic politics, originating in the 2008 Wall Street Recession, the rise of Occupy Wall Street, the elections of Mayor De Blasio in New York, Senator Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Senator Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Senator Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, and even in recent socialist stirrings in Seattle.

      This shift is decidedly away from the neo-liberal, pro-Wall Street economics implemented in the Clinton era. Those Clinton policies split the party over NAFTA, the Seattle WTO protest, financial deregulation and the role of derivatives, the 2009 Wall Street bailout, the stimulus versus deficits debate, and campaign finance reform. As an immediate example of the shift, Paul Krugman, who says, "I am in general a free trader," is hoping that the NAFTA-style Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), "just fades away.” Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are already scuttling any vote on the proposal until after the November election.

      Adding to the rejection of Clinton-era economic policies, Hillary also has been more hawkish on Iraq, Afghanistan and the drone wars than President Barack Obama, the congressional Democrats, and the rank-and-file. That widens the gap further.

      So which Clinton will it be in 2016? More than any personalities in American politics, the Clinton family knows how to adapt. Perhaps they will slide quickly to the left. They showed up with smiles at De Blasio's inauguration, solidly supporting one of their many protégés. But at the same time, a rival Clinton protégé, Governor Andrew Cuomo, of New York, is supporting tax benefits for the ultra-rich, advertising New York as a corporate investment haven, and opposing De Blasio's plan for permanent funding for pre-K based on taxing the wealthy.

      Choices, choices. How far can Hillary "adjust" before the accusations of flip-flopping and opportunism consume the media space? Perhaps she will select someone like Ohio's Senator Brown as her vice-presidential nominee to appease the parties, and the AFL-CIO's populist hunger. Other deals are possible.

      Meanwhile, the vacuum is there for Bernie Sanders, the most genuine representative of the party's New Deal and Progressive traditions, and the newer opposition to climate change, to hold high office in years. His commitment to Medicare-for-all is unmatched. Bernie is not as outspoken on issues like Afghanistan and Iraq, but he is a thoughtful dove in comparison to Hillary. Democrats like Bernie, which is no small asset. Additionally, he is free to run in 2016 and, if he loses, return to the Senate floor with a louder voice and longer email list.

      Two things seem clear at the moment: Hillary will beat Bernie in a primary, while Bernie will pull Hillary towards a mandate for more progressive stands than she will take if running unopposed. It's unclear how much momentum Bernie might generate, but he might well amass a significant delegate bloc and, like Howard Dean, contribute to building "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party."

      If Bernie runs as an independent, however, the picture is cloudy, with storms predicted.

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      Reader Comments (8)

      Forget Hillary! Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren would be a perfect ticket!

      March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn

      Washington is so corrupt that the will of the people (and that certainly includes a new New Deal) is largely irrelevant. Hillary has built up insider connections over a lifetime, and they will serve her to ride directly into the presidency, supported on a feminist slide. A socialist will never become president of the US until the Augean stable of Republican ( and other) filth is cleaned out. This implies a radical movement beyond mere suffrage.

      March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterANTONIO BERNAL

      Sanders and Warren or Warren and Sanders would be a great left wing team for the Democratic Party pulling the debates to the left. Many people complain and do a good job of pointing out what is wrong with America but Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have ideas and solutions that could be implemented immediately such as the financial transaction tax on Wall Street to fund single payer health care for all, education, and renewable energy research.

      We need peaceful collectivist ideas to pull us away from yet another group of meaningless wars built on hubris that pretend to be some kind of solution. Everyone should put their fucking guns down and walk away from that noise.

      March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGary Amstutz

      I'm tired of conservative Democrats and never have cared for Hillary. Elizabeth Warren is wonderful and I would much rather see her run, with Bernie Sanders as VP candidate. She and he are much more genuine. Hillary and Bill are career politicians and not very progressive at all.

      March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShannon Caruso

      The Democratic party is no longer centrist, much less progressive. It took a strong turn to the right with Obama-- which took me by surprise as I had been enthusiastic about his candidacy
      If Hillary is the Democratic candidate I will be voting Green for the 2nd time in my life (first was Obama's second term.

      March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarta

      If Hillary is forced to campaign as more left than she normally would by a Sanders campaign, it would all become irrelevant once she took up residence in the WH. A more thorough corporatist/warmonger has never existed inside the Dem party and she would continue the failed Dem regression of an ever more rightwing party moving in lockstep with and ever more rightwing GOP.

      A true liberal or anyone left of that has no alternative but to see what voting for the lesser of two evils has done and will continue to do until we simply forsake the Dems or take over the party itself, something their existing power structure is very effective at preventing.

      There are no good choices in the near term but had we stopped the Dems and their move to the right 30 years ago, the situation we face today would have been resolved. We must think long term, as unpleasant as that makes our immediate future.

      March 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermichael nola

      I voted Green for the last two elections. That is probably the smartest thing I had done. For those who like to have a woman candidate, Dr. Jill Stein can never disappoint you. I believe if we can pull Senator Sanders to the Green along with Dr. Jill Stein, the world would be much better. The old Democratic political machinery won't be changed for the near future. I think a Sander/Stein ticket will bring us back to a Kennedy era which we has missed along with the inspiration of Dr. King.

      March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Choy

      A Warren/Sanders team would be a great ticket for the Left, but of the two only Bernie Sanders is actively exploring the possibility of running. It is probably too early for Elizabeth Warren personally to run for President. She has to establish her record as an effective progressive senator, while Bernie has had more time to do so in the US Senate and House, and as major of Burlington. Not that we didn't work hard for Elizabeth Warren's election. We need to elect many more such political leaders at all levels of government, and we are working hard on that in Massachusetts.

      March 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpaulgarver
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