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Editorial: What America Needs to Hear From Bernie Sanders



Thursday, January 01, 2015
It now appears that Sen. Bernie Sanders is edging ever closer to a presidential campaign, with a decision due by March. Unlikely as it seems in the current political climate for a self-described independent socialist from Vermont to actually win in 2016, we hope he takes a shot at it. There’s a good argument to be made that, now more than ever, America needs to hear what Sanders has to say.

What he will say if he does run will be familiar enough to Vermonters, whom he has represented in various offices for nearly 35 years: that the once-great American middle class is being squeezed within an inch of its life by the richest one percent of the population, who are cornering the market on those material things that contribute to the good life. Expect to hear a lot from him about income inequality, the unaffordability of college education, the need for single-payer health care and why the big Wall Street banks should be broken up before they recklessly tank the economy again.

It is reasonable to ask why Sanders would find a receptive national audience at a time when Republicans so recently consolidated their control of Congress in the midterm elections and may be dependably relied on to pursue what might be accurately termed the anti-Sanders agenda.

There are three reasons we can think of. One is that many Republicans share with Democrats the view that it is increasingly difficult for ordinary working people to achieve the American middle-class dream. This is a concern that Sanders has been raising urgently throughout his public life, in a thought-provoking way, and it’s a message that has proven to have bipartisan appeal in Vermont, at least. One could easily imagine some Tea Party adherents warming to, among other things, the Sanders critique of Wall Street.

Second, a presidential candidate who vigorously espoused populism from a progressive point of view could help restore much-needed balance to American political life, which has tilted sharply to the right in recent decades. As mainstream Republicans have migrated further and further right, moderate positions have come to be viewed as ultra-liberal. Sanders could articulate a vision that puts the political spectrum in its proper perspective. In short, if Hillary Clinton ultimately is the Democrats’ nominee in 2016, she would have a better chance to be seen for what she is: a solidly middle-of-the-road Democrat.

The third reason we’d enjoy a Sanders campaign is that he might help restore anger’s good name in political discourse. It is a commonplace these days that Americans don’t want angry candidates for president, or any other office, for that matter — although they seemingly cannot get enough of the sound and fury peddled by the media commentariat. Sanders has been genuinely outraged about the treatment of ordinary Americans for as long as we can remember, and his life is one long testimony to the fact that savage indignation can be a creative instead of a destructive force. In fact, very little progress toward social change would be achieved without anger at existing conditions to impel it. It would be refreshing for Americans to be angry about the right things and be resolved to do something about them.

It now appears that Sen. Bernie Sanders is edging ever closer to a presidential campaign, with a decision due by March. Unlikely as it seems in the current political climate for a self-described independent socialist from Vermont to actually win in 2016, we hope he takes a shot at it. There’s a good argument to be made that, now more than ever, America needs to hear what Sanders has to say.

What he will say if he does run will be familiar enough to Vermonters, whom he has represented in various offices for some 35 years: that the once-great American middle class is being squeezed within an inch of its life by the richest one percent of the population, who are cornering the market on those material things that contribute to the good life. Expect to hear a lot from him about income inequality, the unaffordability of college education, the need for single-payer health care and why the big Wall Street banks should be broken up before they recklessly tank the economy again.

It is reasonable to ask why Sanders would find a receptive national audience at a time when Republicans so recently consolidated their control of Congress in the mid-term elections and may be dependably relied on to pursue what might be accurately termed the anti-Sanders agenda.

There are three reasons we can think of. One is that many Republicans share with Democrats the view that it is increasingly difficult for ordinary working people to achieve the American middle-class dream. This is a concern that Sanders has been raising urgently throughout his public life, in a thought-provoking way, and it’s a message that has proven to have bipartisan appeal in Vermont, at least. One could easily imagine some Tea Party adherents warming to, among other things, the Sanders’ critique of Wall Street.

Second, a presidential candidate who vigorously espoused populism from a progressive point of view could help restore much-needed balance to American political life, which has tilted sharply to the right in recent decades. As mainstream Republicans have migrated further and further right, moderate positions have come to be viewed as ultra-liberal. Sanders could articulate a vision that puts the political spectrum in its proper perspective. In short, if Hillary Clinton ultimately is the Democrats’ nominee in 2016, she would have a better chance to be seen for what she is: a solidly middle-of-the-road Democrat.

The third reason we’d enjoy a Sanders campaign is that he might help restore anger’s good name in political discourse. It is a commonplace these days that Americans don’t want angry candidates for president, or any other office, for that matter — although they seemingly cannot get enough of the ersatz fury peddled by the media commentariat. Sanders has been genuinely outraged about the treatment of ordinary Americans for as long as we can remember, and his life is one long testimony to the fact that savage indignation can be a creative instead of a destructive force. In fact, very little progress toward social change would be achieved without anger at existing conditions to impel it. It would be refreshing for Americans to be angry about the right things and be resolved to do something about them.