The Left Finds a Voice

bernie-sandersBernie is in and now it gets interesting. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I, VT) threw his hat into the race for the Presidency and instantly became the standard-bearer for the left-wing of the Democratic party. Those who have been begging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D, MA) to run now have a port in the coming storm.

Many will immediately shrug this off as a quixotic venture. There are so many reasons why Bernie hasn’t the proverbial snowball’s chance that it is tempting to assume that his entry is irrelevant. He is a 73-year-old Jew, a self-described democratic-socialist, and the Senator from a negligible state. In years past, any one of these factors would have disqualified him. And he has tenuous connections with the party whose nomination he is seeking, although he does caucus with them in the Senate. He has no national presence or organization and, as far as I can tell, neither the big bank account nor deep pocket supporters that are now considered essential for a meaningful run. So why does he matter?

There are at least two reasons. Even if he doesn’t win a single primary or caucus, he will push Hillary Clinton off her current policy of avoiding controversy. The comparison alone with the outspoken Sanders will be invidious. She can’t tread so lightly anymore without appearing too light-footed to take on the job of President. For example, no longer can she dance around the issue of international trade pacts like the Trans Pacific Partnership. Secondly, Bernie will give her fits in the Democratic debates, especially if the field remains small. He is frank and speaks his mind with the determination of a New Yorker from Brooklyn, even though he long ago moved from his roots – though not dropping his distinctive accent to be sure. The debates will be at worst entertaining and at best more informative than past ones have been.

I like Bernie even though I don’t agree with some of his ideas or proposals. I am sick and tired of politicians who bend with the wind and speak in tiresome generalities. Bernie will be a breath of fresh air and for that reason alone I welcome his candidacy. As an aside, I am not influenced in this by the fact, recently discovered, that he and I were fellow students at the University of Chicago.