by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of American Reporter Correspondents
December 18, 2014
CAN BERNIE SANDERS IGNITE A PROGRESSIVE POPULIST MOVEMENT?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- I don't know if the junior U.S. Senator from my adopted state of Vermont, Bernie Sanders, will run for President in 2016.
And, I'm willing to take the word of the senior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, that she doesn't want to run for President in 2016.
I do know that if Sen. Sanders does run, he would be the only candidate representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party in the presidential primaries.
Sen. Sanders isn't a member of the Democratic Party and, as an Independent, isn't beholden to the special interests and big corporate donors that the party sold itself out to, back in the 1990s under Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Last week, he offered up a progressive economic agenda that addresses the 40-year decline of the American middle class and the growing gap between the wealthy and everybody else.
"Today, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages," Sen. Sanders said.
He pointed out that, in inflation-adjusted dollars:
And that's for the people that have jobs. Six years after the Wall Street crash, our nation has more wealth and income inequality than any major country and the highest rate of childhood poverty.
"We once led the world in terms of the percentage of our people who graduated college, but we are now in 12th place," Sanders said.
"Our infrastructure, once the envy of the world, is collapsing.
"Real unemployment today is not 5.8 percent, it is 11.5 percent if we include those who have given up looking for work or who are working part time when they want to work full time.
"Youth unemployment is 18.6 percent and African-American youth unemployment is 32.6 percent."
That's why, in Sen. Sanders' view, the most significant question facing the American people is: "Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy?"
Sanders detailed a 12-point economic program to:
Have you heard Hillary Clinton propose anything like this? Or, aside from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, heard anything like this from any other Democratic candidate?
One thing is certain, however. The Democratic Party's refusal to talk like this to voters is a big reason why most of their candidates didn't win in the last month's mid-term elections.
That's why so many liberals are pleading with Sen. Warren to run against Clinton. Warren has the hearts of the rank-and-file of the Democrats, but the big money has already lined up behind Clinton.
If Sen. Warren wants to sit out 2016, Sen. Sanders would do fine as the standard-bearer for progressive populism.
It's a message Sanders has honed for years here in Vermont, a message that cuts across party lines. The level of grassroots anger over the greed of the 1 percent and the politicians who protect them is strong, but few candidates have the guts to stand up against the billionaires - except for Sens. Sanders and Warren.
They are the two who could help ignite a movement to get people back into the political process. And that's what Bernie Sanders really wants.
If Democrats start speaking clearly and boldly on economic issues, and use Sen. Sanders' blueprint as a starting point, we would see a transformed nation.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.