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Hullabaloo


Saturday, March 08, 2014

 
The Sanders question

by digby


He's right. It's absolutely shameful.

Speaking of which, Howie posted something very interesting yesterday about Senator Sanders:
Why Settle is the name of an ActBlue page that suggests that we do not have to always settle for vile careerist corporate shills as presidential nominees. Alternatives are offered. One of those alternatives is the great independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. And yesterday, John Nichols offered SandersThe Nation's platform to explain why he's prepared to run (against Hillary Clinton and whichever right-wing automaton the Republicans put up. "Sanders," writes Nichols, "has begun talking with savvy progressive political strategists, traveling to unexpected locations such as Alabama and entertaining the process questions that this most issue-focused member of the Senate has traditionally avoided… [H]e says his political instincts tell him America is ready for a 'political revolution.'" 
"I like Hillary," he responded to Nichols; "she is very, very intelligent; she focuses on issues. But I think, sad to say, that the Clinton type of politics is not the politics certainly that I’m talking about. We are living in the moment in American history where the problems facing the country, even if you do not include climate change, are more severe than at any time since the Great Depression. And if you throw in climate change, they are more severe. So the same old same old [Clinton administration Secretary of the Treasury] Robert Rubin type of economics, or centrist politics, or continued dependence on big money, or unfettered free-trade, that is not what this country needs ideologically. That is not the type of policy that we need. And it is certainly not going to be the politics that galvanizes the tens of millions of people today who are thoroughly alienated and disgusted with the status quo. People are hurting, and it is important for leadership now to explain to them why they are hurting and how we can grow the middle class and reverse the economic decline of so many people. And I don’t think that is the politics of Senator Clinton or the Democratic establishment." 
He's got a point. I don't know if Sanders is going to throw his hat in the ring but I do know that we should have a primary campaign that features one or more Democrats who will challenge the status quo. That is the mechanism in our system in which the grassroots of both parties get a chance to weigh in and try to shape the debate. It allows for questioning on subjects important to the base of the party and can potentially move the campaign in directions the voters care about.

If Hillary Clinton is unopposed and is never asked the tough questions by those on the left, she will run a general election campaign from the very beginning and it will be a wasted opportunity for the progressive faction of the Democratic Party. And there's little reason for the Clinton campaign to need to do that. The Republicans are a party in chaos and it's highly unlikely they could beat her even if she ran to the left of Sanders. But the consultants and the Party Poohbahs, as well as Clinton herself, will take the easy way out if they can and avoid any controversial policy issues for as long as possible. That's the political professional's preferred approach and I suppose it's understandable. But they aren't the only ones with a say in this. The activists and the grassroots have a say in it to. Or they should have, anyway. If Sanders agrees to run, it's worth supporting him so that he can qualify for debates and other venues where he can ask some tough questions on our behalf and present the liberal argument to the people of this country when they are paying attention to politics. We need that. Desperately.

And by the way, it certainly sounds like Sanders is thinking seriously about it.

BTW: That Pew Poll of the millenials I mentioned in the previous post also says this about voters aged 18 -33:





There is a huge amount of support among millenials for Barack Obama despite their feelings of alienation from political parties.  I don't know if that support will automatically translate to support for Hillary Clinton, but I think it would be foolish to simply assume it. They have not adopted the "Democratic brand" and that is the single best indicator of how people are going to vote. These people haven't voted a lot yet so there's still plenty of room for them to surprise us. Dig down into that millenial data and you'll see some rather deep fault lines that I hope the Party is taking into account before it does its usual premature triumphant victory dance.

None of this is to say that I think Clinton will have a problem winning. It's hard to imagine at this point that she won't be the next president (although I've certainly been wrong about that before...). And as a woman, there's a big part of me that will be personally thrilled to see a woman president --- especially since I assumed America would only be allowed to elect a socially conservative, right wing Republican woman.  (Clinton is a lot of things but she is not a right wing social conservative.) So, there is that.  And it's not nothing. But I believe that both Obama and Clinton as "firsts" are cautious politicians who have failed to see that these historic presidencies are actually opportunities to take on the entrenched power structure since they also come at a time when the world is in transition in a dozen different ways. They certainly have to battle the conservatives, and that presents obvious institutional impediments to change, but they have more power than they think they do.


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