Although he has not made a formal announcement, US Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-VT) told left-wing publication The Nation that he is “prepared to run for President of the United States” in 2016.
Many voices in the right-wing blogosphere like to accuse Barack Obama of being a disciple of Marx, a laughable contention considering Obama’s penchant for cutting big taxpayer-funded checks for Wall Street — but Sanders has always openly and proudly called himself a socialist. While Sanders is referring to European-style “democratic socialism” a la Scandinavia or France, rather than the murderous autocratic socialism of a Cuba or a North Korea, his candidacy should be a point of concern for those who desire a return to smaller government and free markets.
Indeed, Sanders is so far to the left that he refuses to formally join the Democratic Party, remaining nominally independent (although he caucuses with the Democrats). He lived and worked on a kibbutz commune in Israel; began his career as a politician opposing the Vietnam War; co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus; opposed both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; is a leading proponent of global warming regulation; and led the effort on the left to block bailouts for Wall Street.
A Sanders candidacy should be a point of concern for those who desire a return to smaller government and free markets.
And if you’re worried about the shadow of Eugene Debs growing across the American landscape, consider this: in 2011 Sanders’ approval rating was 67%, making him the third most popular member of the Senate.
Commenters on the left are hoping that a Sanders candidacy would pull inevitable Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to the left, away from the centrist, business-friendly DNC policies of her husband and of Obama, in the same way that the doomed candidacies of people like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich helped pull centrist Obamacare-cheerleader Mitt Romney to the right in 2012.
If Clinton did dodge left during her campaign, it would probably have little effect on her actual presidency if she won — Obama also made promises to his liberal base he has failed to keep. Likewise, Romney would most likely not have kept his promises to the Tea Party, risking the ire of his wealthy NASCAR-team-owning supporters in the plutocracy.
But could a Sanders run help a GOP candidate, or an independent Tea Party candidate, in 2016? With a socialist gadfly nipping at her heels, could Clinton make a mistake that would cost her the presidency? Or could Sanders draw enough votes from the Vermont-Berkeley-Portland granola-eating crowd to tip the election for the Republicans, like Ralph Nader arguably did in 2000? (If Al Gore had actually moved left to appease potential Nader voters, he likely would have won the election incontestably, with major historical consequences, considering subsequent events).
And as we enter a strange universe where Tea Partiers and far leftists start finding common ground — opposing NSA surveillance and civil liberties erosion, Wall Street bailouts, and reckless foreign aid and military intervention — could a Sanders candidacy actually help true conservatives get their message across? Or does hearing the same ideas leave a socialist’s mouth hurt the cause?
Only time will tell.