Bernie Sanders’ rise this year as a viable candidate, win or lose, for President asks a clear question: why hasn’t the Democratic Party worked harder to develop left candidates for President? Huh?
Sanders’ rise also uncovers the damage done by the Clinton era and his minions who were also part of the Obama administration in constantly pushing the party to the right (not the center) and even trashing liberals at times in their own party as extreme. So what do we have as a result of the Clinton DLC years? The Democrats now offer a legion of political players who are not really solid left but who toy with pieces of a liberal agenda once promoted proudly by guys named Roosevelt and Johnson and championed once by the greatest moral voice ever in American history — the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The reason I ask why don’t (or didn’t) Democrats develop more left candidates for President is because of chatter that will soon begin regarding Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders is from Vermont, a former Congressmen, and now, Senator. He has been a solid voice of liberalism and left politics for decades. His state makes it easy for him. Soon, this will be the talk of the campaign: the U.S. is electing a Socialist. It is silly. There was once a real Socialist Party in the U.S. (and there still is) and no one thought it was that odd until the Democrats co-opted the agenda of the Socialists by embracing some of their goals.
Yet, imagine if the Democrats had similar candidates developed like Sanders all the time and who had run for office and were just Democrats. Dennis Kucinich comes to mind (he ran in 2008) but for the most part, there hasn’t been a viable left in the U.S. in decades politically. Martin O’Malley should be more left but he isn’t; it was part of his undoing this year because despite his experience, Bernie Sanders was better on the issues than him even though O’Malley has been liberal for the most part on most issues. There are many others.
Fact is the Clinton machine that has controlled the party since 1992 and Al From’s DLC did the party no good. The Democrats remained viable and in office but that was about all they did. They are (and were), in effect, GOP Lite. They got cosy with Wall Street (took the money as Ralph Nader said), tried to take watered down positions politically, and it rarely paid dividends. They were almost always run out easily by a real Republican. The Democrats who stayed true to the values of their party, like Sherrod Brown of Ohio, received strong support from their real voters: liberal and left leaning. And many of them won.
The destruction of the post-Clinton era can be repaired. Bernie Sanders is likely instilling in the young Americans values we have all forgotten that relate to the general welfare, the common good, the pursuit of an ever elusive social contract. This is important for those who reject the rididulous politics from the GOP.
When the left is strong it pulls the Democrats to rational thought and action. It forces the Republicans as well to make a choice and they have: extremism. Many continue to govern and run for office using racism, homophobia, hate, arrogance and Islamaphobia as their platform and guiding values. They offer nothing concrete to reduce family debt, make college and health care more affordable and surely are usually repeating the same old and awkward lines about privatizing everything and reducing government (ask Republican Rick Snyder how that works out or Bobby Jindal who left Louisiana a disaster area).
This is just ideology. It has nothing to do with the daily lives of ordinary people and being a civil servant. Thus, the lesson of all of this for the Democrats is not much different than what Howard Dean said in 2004: run as Democrats. Don’t run from your legacy.