Arthur Christopher Schaper
In his first appearance on "Meet the Press", Democratic Socialist US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced to newly hired host Chuck Todd his interest in a 2016 Presidential Bid.
Now serving his second term, one of the most liberal votes in the upper chamber, Sanders the President candidate would represent the frustrations of hard-core progressives whose hopes for change have been crushed by the constitutional professor turned President Barack Obama.
If he runs as an Independent, Sanders faces an immediate challenge: without a major party base to stand on in the fifty states, he will have to build his own party structure and campaign, like constructing a plane and flying it at the same time: no easy feat.
Twice Sanders acknowledged that he had to decide that issue. Would he run as an Independent or a Democrat, and if under the major party, he would run clearly to the Left of Hillary Clinton, who for all intents and purposes is prepping her own bid, minus the formal declaration. No doubt, Sanders would upset any Democratic Presidential candidate's chances in 2016, peeling away the frustrated yet easily motivated liberal-progressive-left turnout from the mainstream candidate.
While feeling out Sanders’ ambitions, Todd referred to the growing ideological clash of an Establishment Democratic Party with the party’s more ideologically aggressive wing. In a sense, the Tea Party to the Left is mobilizing, and may immobilize Democratic chances in 2014 and 2016. The narrative is changing swiftly now, away from the chronic, over reporting of conflicts within the Republican Party. Progressives in New York and throughout New England are already troubling statewide Democratic counterparts, with counterproductive policies taxing an already overtaxed revenue base, and Sanders’ plans crystallize this conflict.
Like his more progressive Democratic colleagues in the US Senate, the Vermont Senator decried the Citizens United decision with unjustified hyperbole: "One of the worst court cases in American history." Readers with a general knowledge of US (and particularly) judicial history would single out Dred Scott v. Sandford which practically rewrote the Constitution to permit human slavery in every state, overriding decades of forged Congressional compromise. Korematsu v. United States upheld the legality of indefinite internment of Japanese-Americans, another shameful legal ruling overturned thirty years later. Other decisions (Roe v. Wade, Kelo v. New London, Connecticut) have disturbed constitutional scholars for their blatant rejection of the Bill of Rights, word and spirit.
After denouncing Citizens United, Sanders launched into a predictable rant against the Koch Brothers and their spending millions of campaign dollars, all while conveniently ignoring the influence of left-wing billionaires. Chuck Todd brought to Sanders' attention quite a few. As for the suggestion that the Koch Brothers' financial influence is staggering compared to left-wing politicizing, the statistics could not be clearer. Aside from Sheldon Anderson and William Ackman's staggering personal investments in lobbying, left-wing Tom Steyer funded a climate change filibuster in the US Senate, and he has pledged huge sums to defeat Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott. Politifact confirmed that the majority of active billionaire campaign funders donate to Democratic causes, too.
Regarding financial influence in political campaigns, one could bring up the sudden defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, outspending his Republican primary opponent ten-to-one, yet still lost by ten points. The issue which motivated Virginia voters to oust their incumbent Congressman? His neglect of constituent concerns, plus his aggressive push for amnesty. The very voter anger which Sanders claims that President Obama has ignored, broke out in full flare and pushed out a pro-amnesty advocate in the House.
And on that issue of mobilizing voter frustration, a theme which Sanders emphasized that the President had failed to harness, the Vermont Senator refused to explain the causes of voter frustration (shrinking middle class, unequal income distribution): the socialistic policies championed by Sanders and his coterie (forcing the minimum wage, bureaucratized health care, prolix tax codes), all which have aggravated a sluggish economy. Cap and Trade, sponsored in the House to die in the US Senate, would have crushed poor and working families with higher energy costs. Obamacare has made health care inaccessible because of expense and rationing. Minimum wage hikes have pushed more young and minority workers out of the entry-level job market. Not once did Sanders acknowledge that Obama's decisions not to push so hard to the Left is precisely why this country is not as bad off as it could have been.
Sanders wants to harness voter angst with both political parties, yet his Independent democratic socialism would just make matters worse. Chuck Todd deserves some credit for questioning the Vermont Senator's hollow slights against the Koch Brothers while ignoring left-wing billionaires, and his unrelenting push for Sanders to distance himself from Hillary Clinton indicates that the Democratic Party now has its own Establishment v. Grassroots conflict to iron out in the years to come. With Sanders running as an Independent in 2016, he would scuttle Democratic chances at winning the White House, while offering Tea Party conservatives a stronger change to redefine the political process toward limited government and less corporate cronyism as a defining factor in federal politics.
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.