It’s official, the independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders is running for the highest office in the land once again. The self-styled Democratic Socialist announced in an email to followers that he is officially seeking election; a move that will doubtless excite not only his 2016 fanbase but also the fledgling socialists inspired to politics by newcomers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Is Sanders embarking on a whole new platform of ideas that are sure to resonate with folks in Flyover country? Or will this be a rehash of the 2015 platform that leaves both the voting public and the DNC shivering with dread? Or perhaps neither. It is possible that several key factors might be working in Bernie’s favor, and that even the machinations of the Democratic Party might not be able to stop him securing the nomination.
An Existing Base
The multitude of other contenders for the role may tick all the right boxes in terms of age, experience, heritage, and, of course, messaging, but they lack something that Senator Sanders already has: a support base. By the end of the 2016 Democratic primary, Bernie had managed to raise almost $230 million from mostly small donors investing their own money in a candidate they supported. He had 13 million votes already tucked away before Hillary Clinton secured her spot as the opponent to beat Donald Trump.
For those 13 million voters, especially those who felt robbed by the shenanigans of the DNC, this is unfinished business that will pull them back into the political fray with a vengeance. As Sanders wrote in his announcement email:
“Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution. Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.”
Not a Democrat
Smartly, Sanders has not tied himself directly to the Democratic Party for the length of his career. While other candidates will not only have to defend their own personal track records of voting and decision making, they will also have to defend the actions, announcements, and follies of those with whom they share a party platform.
In this age of pugilist politics, it is often as easy to attack the opponent as it is to attack the support structure around them. Being an independent senator, Sanders can throw caution to the wind once nominated and denounce Democrat politicos as loudly and as heartily as he wishes.
The Will of the people?
Yet the one factor for Bernie Sanders that may prove all decisive is the idea that America is ready for his particular brand of Democratic Socialism. He wrote:
“Three years ago, during our 2016 campaign, when we brought forth our progressive agenda we were told that our ideas were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme.’ Well, three years have come and gone. And, as a result of millions of Americans standing up and fighting back, all of these policies and more are now supported by a majority of Americans.”
And there is certainly a whiff of truth about this. There are millions of Americans who feel failed by the free-market system (or who fail to realize that this system has been hijacked by socialist properties). This primary season will be a referendum on whether the Democratic Party is ready to embrace a more socialist America. If Sanders wins this battle, it will force a demarcation between the old guard and the new; it is difficult to imagine House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ever fully endorsing such a radical platform.
It may well be that Bernie Sanders most difficult opponent is not President Donald Trump, but rather the party he seeks to represent.