Senator Bernie Sander's announcement that he will seek the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency creates the best possible circumstances for Liberals and traditional Democrats to get their policies accepted as a mandate for action. Now Liberals have to focus on promoting the delivery mechanism.
Since it may finally be dawning on Liberals that their favorite, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, will not seek the nomination and Sanders has thrown his hat in the ring, hopefully they can see the benefits that come with these events. The best chance for policy change comes with Sanders on the hustings and Warren standing on the sideline coaching Hillary Clinton: policy changes that affect middle class income, wage and working conditions, consumer protection, Wall Street re-regulation, strengthened financial safety nets, education, veterans' benefits, campaign finance reform, and improved civil liberties. The added benefit is Warren's ability to run block in the Senate protecting the Liberal flank from the DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) whose "moderate" positions have contributed to the income morass that most Americans deal with every day.
The logic of this "combo" may not have been intentional but the circumstances work well for the hope Liberals have of effecting change. These two can revive the hope that has been missing for the past eight years since our "late to the party" President has only been mouthing a progressive agenda in the out years when he hasn't had the slightest chance of getting any of it passed into law. But it also works well because it allows the President to continue giving lip service to the ideas and not get in the way of the ensuing policy debate.
It is not a matter of faith among economists and thoughtful politicians, but it is a well established conviction that the deregulation of the Reagan/Clinton/Bush years contributed mightily to the economic volatility of the last twenty years. Likewise, it is the "moderates and conservatives" who happily stripped away worker protections, education and training and supported the decidedly jaded tax and trade policies that have "hollowed out" middle class incomes.
The impact of Sen. Warren's protests on behalf of the middle class has already been mimicked by candidate Hillary Clinton. As Warren will tell you from her interactions with Clinton when she was First Lady and again as Senator, Hillary Clinton can be for an issue before she is against it. In an excellent article by Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker entitled, "The Virtual Candidate," he details Clinton's willingness to flip flop on issues. Thus, even though she is talking tough on middle class income and mass incarceration and sounding more and more like the Liberal she'd like us to think she is, it will take a lot of public prodding to insure that, should she be elected, she actually attempts to make political promises a reality.
Lizza, however, points to an even more important role that Warren will play over the next year and half. He echoes the sentiments of Barnie Frank (retired Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts) in quoting him "Right now, she's (Warren's) as powerful a spokesperson on public policy as you could be in the minority...because Democrats are not going to cross her ... No Democrat wants Elizabeth Warren being critical of him (her)."
Mainstream commentators are welcoming Sanders to the presidential race because his positions will help Candidate Clinton "hone her debating skills." They give Sanders zero chance of getting nominated. Whether that is true or not, the positions the two candidates will be forced to discuss on the campaign trail will allow the Democratic Party to do what it should have done starting in 2008 -- calling out the Republican Party for what it is, the defender of financial elites, promoter of divisive wedge issues and hypocritical champion of an imaginary system of free enterprise, independence, freedom and opportunism.
This cast of players insures that the election will be about ideology. Because Sanders and Warren are in the positions they are, the issues will be defined for the public. The Democrats are about a community of interests, a government that serves all of its constituents not the financial few, regulated capitalism, and support for redistributive legislation for resources and income. Republicans will wrap themselves in a laissez faire free enterprise flag and preach freedom, small government, independence, and deregulation.
Whether they are aware of it or not, Sanders and Warren provide the perfect storm. They are the best players available for the articulation of the Liberal agenda. The real question will be whether or not their followers understand the logic, and they then refocus the vain effort that has been underway for the past year to persuade Warrant to seek the nomination. What is needed now is as much financial support for Sander's candidacy as they can muster.
We are all aware that huge sums of money are needed to launch, and to sustain, a presidential campaign. Since it is quite clear that the Republican candidates will each have their respective billionaire to underwrite their efforts, and it is equally clear that little or none of those resources will be directed to Sanders, his campaign will have to be a grassroots effort all the way. That, in itself, is not the worst thing since the campaign results for the 2012 election indicate that Obama raised over $500 million in donations of less than $200 a person from over 4.2 million people.
None the less, there is an element of sobriety that should be posted lest anyone think that all is "nectar and honey." Warren's current polls are at 12.7 per cent approval, and Sanders are at 5.6 versus Clinton's 62.2 per cent (as reported by Real Clear Politics). Circumstances can always change, and a refocused support for Sanders may well enable the emergence of a viable candidacy. Absent that, however, it is a most reassuring to know that the Liberal agenda will be an active part of the Democratic presidential nomination dialogue.