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Friday, May 15, 2015

Bernie Sanders

There was a cartoon in The New Yorker recently that showed a couple in bed. The husband turns to the wife and says, "I had that same dream again, where Bernie Sanders is president and everything gets fixed."

Indeed, Bernie Sanders, the march-to-his-own-drummer Senator from Vermont is perhaps the most beloved politician by the far left, except maybe for Elizabeth Warren, and a fantasy panacea. Since 1998, he is the only self-identifying socialist in Congress, He is a strong advocate for dealing with climate change, economic inequality, and staying out of the mess in Iraq. Now he is running for President.

As a liberal Democrat, I look askance at the extremist Republicans who are running for president. Most of them seem nutty to me, but of course I am subjective (still, I think a few are certifiably insane). A few have gotten elected. But on the Democratic side, it isn't often that people as far left as Sanders throw their hat in the ring. If you think Barack Obama and Bill or Hillary Clinton are extreme liberals, you don't know Bernie Sanders. In fact, I would say that there really hasn't been a liberal president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt (LBJ loses major credibility over Vietnam).

I, too, dream of a Bernie Sanders presidency, but let's face it, he has a snowball's chance in hell. Right now he is only one of two Democratic candidates, but the other is Hillary Clinton, and aside from a catastrophic scandal or health issue, she will be the Democratic nominee. If something were to derail her, other candidates would scurry to run. Sanders will never be the DNC's choice for President. He would be deemed unelectable.

It's a sad fact that this is true. Why is someone as conservative as Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush can be elected, but anyone deemed too liberal is seen as a pariah? Of course, I think there has been a correction, as some Republicans are so far right, much further than Reagan, even, that there is a "too conservative" to be elected position. Being against same-sex marriage, or anti-abortion, is way behind the curve with voters born after Reagan rode off into the sunset.

Sanders has an interesting background. He got into politics in his 40s, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont (he had several unsuccessful runs for senate and governor in the 1970s). He is not a lawyer, and is described as having been a researcher, filmmaker, and carpenter.

He was elected to Congress as its only independent in 1990, and then into the Senate in 2006, making him the longest-serving independent congressman in U.S. history. Of course, he caucuses with the Democrats, and is running for President as a Democrat, which is very important. I'm certainly hoping that he does not then run as an independent in the fall, which would be very bad news for Hillary, as we all know that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election in 2000 and gave us the medieval Bush presidency.

Many people think Sanders running is a good, if futile, thing, as Hillary shouldn't be just served the nomination on a silver platter, and he can force her to address issues important to progressives. This is probably true, but I'll be that's not what Sanders is thinking--he thinks he can win. But he will attract the far left--readers of The Nation and Mother Jones and watchers of Rachel Maddow--and maybe they'll stick around and vote for Hillary.

Sanders is not a perfect progressive. I was dismayed to read that he has voted against gun legislation, including the Brady bill. Maybe you have to pander to all those gun-owners in Vermont. I would like to know more about this, because Sanders doesn't strike me as the type of politician who panders.

I should add, though I'm loathe to, that Sanders would be 74 years old next year, far older than the oldest presidential nominee--even older than Bob Dole. But that is not a disqualification, even though the Republicans are squawking about Hillary's age, when she is as old as Reagan was when he was first elected.

He does look very grandfatherly. He reminds me of Grandpa Simpson, who was famously on the front page of the newspaper with the headline, "Angry Old Man Yells at Cloud." Sanders, who doesn't have too much snow-white hair on the top of his head, is often caught with that hair in glorious disarray. He's my kind of guy--a politician who doesn't seem to own a comb.


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