The Rise and Potential Fall of Bernie Sanders.
Several years ago, U.S Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) national profile did not extend far outside of his state of Vermont. The former Burlington Mayor and U.S Representative was largely delegated to his small state in the Northeast. In the so-called “invisible primary” leading up to the 2016 Election, Sanders was unimpressed by the field of prospective candidates the Democratic Party had to offer.
Within a short period of time, “Bernie” established himself as a counterweight to the Clinton political machine. Sanders-espoused positions like “Medicare for All” and tuition-free public college were considered radical and belonging to the fringes of the Democratic Party only several elections earlier (e.g Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 campaign). This septuagenarian, liberal firebrand connected with young people in a way that had not been seen since Barack Obama’s campaign for the Presidency.
Although Hillary Clinton ultimately won the primaries, Bernie Sanders won the “ideas war.” If so, why does this writer see Sanders falling from the position of power he attained during the 2016 Election cycle?
In 2016, Democrats were given a binary choice: Clinton or Sanders. If a voter was tired of the Clintons and found them to be insufficiently progressive, Sanders provided an anti-establishment alternative. In essence, a protest candidate. In the 2020 Primaries, no candidate will receive a coronation, and the debate stage could be historically large.
As we have seen in recent months, members of the establishment wing of the Democratic Party (i.e Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand) have run to the left policy-wise with the aim of capturing the enthusiasm and trust of the “progressive wing” of the Party. Besides Senator Sanders, other figures in this wing include Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OH), and Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Whether voters in Iowa and New Hampshire will embrace “establishment turned Progressives” such as Senators Gillibrand and Booker is yet to be seen. What is clear is how Senator Sanders is no longer a monolith in the Democratic Party.
If Sanders does run in 2020, he will face a crop of newer, younger, and perhaps more electable candidates than himself. Since “Bernie” set a standard for 21st-century U.S progressivism, then what we are now seeing is a plethora of people who want to claim his mantle. It is not difficult to imagine a Jeff Merkley or Kamala Harris (D-CA) thanking Sanders for his influence in the Democratic Party, while simultaneously pushing him aside.
Will die-hard Bernie supporters welcome someone new? Do the recent losses of Sanders-backed primary candidates in the Midwest show a limit to Bernie’s influence as a political kingmaker? Do current trends suggest a waning in the nation-wide vitality of progressive Democrats? We will have our answers soon enough.
Until then, I too will be watching, eager to see how everything unfolds.
Harley Neiditz is a Lead Contributor for theDailyLead.