A left-wing insurgency could spell trouble for Hillary.
We come on a ship they called the Mayflower,
We come on a ship that sailed the Moon.
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune …
American Tune, Simon & Garfunkle
Lots of people think Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.) is a Democrat. Even some political talking heads seem to think so. He is not.
Bernie Sanders is a socialist (or, as he calls himself, a “democratic-socialist”), who associates with the Vermont Progressive Party but who campaigns as an Independent and caucuses with the Democrats on legislation. In the Senate, he is counted as a Democrat for purposes of committee assignments. He chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and is the ranking virtual-Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.
In announcing his campaign for the presidency in 2016, Sanders stated that he will be running as a Democrat for the democratic nomination — even though he is not currently a Democrat. But in fact, he has no plans to register in his home state as a Democrat for the very good reason that he can’t. Vermont has no party registration and, like Minnesota, has an open primary system.
Consequently, it is unclear whether Senator Sanders will even be able to change his party affiliation and declare himself a Democrat later this year, come October, in preparation for the all-important New Hampshire primary. Obviously, a strong showing in New Hampshire is crucial for his campaign to gather sufficient momentum and money to attract delegates and offer a serious challenge to the Clintonites at the Democratic National Convention next year.
The problem for Sanders is that, although he ran in the Vermont democratic primary for the Senate in 2006 and 2012 (legal under Vermont election laws) and won each time, he then rejected the endorsement of Vermont Democrats for the general election and filed his campaign papers as an Independent. So he has established a clear history of rejecting the Democrat brand. In fact, Sanders has never run in any general election as a Democrat and has never called himself a Democrat until now.
Hence, it is equally unclear whether Senator Sanders is even eligible to run for the Democratic nomination, or for that matter, whether he is eligible to participate in the Democratic debates. Everyone seems to assume so, but everyone could be wrong. All I know as a Democrat myself is that the party has rules about who gets to call themselves a Democrat and who doesn’t for purposes of seeking party endorsement, a system that becomes increasinly stringent the higher you go. And I know that there are well-defined rules for issuing challenges to those individuals who haven’t established proper credentials.
At the same time, Sanders is the Dear Darling of the political left, a group known to get a bit peevish when they don’t get their way, which makes them peevish a lot. Imagine what will happen if Hillary’s campaign moves to block Sanders from appearing in the Democratic debates, which they may have every right to do given his history of rejecting any formal association with the party. Imagine if Hillary’s supporters in New Hampshire move to block Sanders from appearing on the Democratic primary ballot, which again they may have every right to do. Imagine what will happen if the Clintonites in other primary states do the same. Imagine what will happen if her campaign moves to block any national delegates that Sanders manages to cobble together during the primary season from being seated at the national convention, which under convention rules they might have every right to do.
The result would be a left-wing insurgency. And, far from anointing an heir-apparent, far unlike the outcome of a floor fight at a nominating convention, a left-wing insurgency would put a Hillary presidency in grave doubt.
A left-wing insurgency could happen, regardless of whether the Clintonites decide to play hardball. Sanders is not stupid. It won’t take him long to see the writing on the wall. A party nomination just isn’t in the cards, Boyo; you haven’t paid the bridge troll his pint of blood. At the same time, Sanders is a passionate and committed Champion of the Little Guy. He is a working-class mensch who remembers fondly the folks who raised him up and fondly the places he once called home. And he is that most difficult of all men to control: a poet-warrior, a gentleman-brawler, a man of honor whose word is his bond and who puts integrity before money or friendship.
Sanders believes — and he is quite correct — that the Great American Experiment in Self-government stands now at it’s eleventh hour. The government we have today already embodies an unholy union of corporatocracy and oligarchy, each supporting and defending the interests of the other. Only a vestige of what was once a true democratic-republic remains, since the mostly ineffectual election laws we created to preserve it were skinned and gutted by the Supreme Tort (a.k.a., Citizens United — may Scalia and his ilk burn in Hell). Sanders sees himself as a dragon-slayer and a true patriot. He will not go down without a fight, god bless him. So when the machine Democrats supporting Hillary start to throw knee-breakers in his path, and they will, because they must, Sanders will look for another route to his goal. Mark my words.
At that juncture, Sanders will withdraw his bid for the Democratic nomination and announce a run as an Independent. He is comfortable as an Independent. In so doing, he’s certain to fracture the vote for Hillary in the general election, but he’ll also divide the money taps into her campaign reservoirs long before then. Then we’ll be looking at a 3-way race and one entirely winnable by a fierce independent in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt. It’s perhaps telling that the logo of the Vermont Progressive Party is a Bull Moose. Imagine a coalition of disaffected progressive Democrats, Greens, Socialists and independents supporting a Sanders campaign under the independent banner of a New Bull Moose Coalition. It could happen, y’know.
In September of last year, a Gallup poll showed that nearly 60% of Americans believe a third political party is needed because the Democrats and Republicans do such a poor job of representing the American people. Those views have been pretty consistent since 2007. So there’s a lot of sentiment out there that neither party is quite cutting the mustard. Furthermore, about 66% of the electorate currently holds the view that the country is moving in the wrong direction (http://www.pollingreport.com/right.htm). And polls consistently show Congress at historic lows in approval ratings.
Would that sentiment translate into support for an insurgent, independent progressive campaign? Dare we believe that an independent campaign might be a dose of Viagra for an impotent political system and a flaccid government?
Yes, we do. It would just take a tiny pinch of Pixie Dust to make it happen. That “Pixie” goes by the name of Elizabeth Warren.
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