Progressives in Iowa seem happy to have received word that Vermont's U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is taking his exploration of running for president seriously as news this week surfaced that he'll be traveling to the state later this month to attend a high-profile political event.
According to reports, Sanders will be the keynote speaker on May 17 at the 'Hall of Fame Dinner' hosted by the Clinton County Democrats in the town of Goose Lake, Iowa. The event, which honors local political activism, is described as the group's largest social event and fundraiser of the year.
Sanders made headlines earlier this year when he gave interviews to several national news outlets and said he was seriously considering a run for president in 2016 and called for the need for "political revolution" in the country.
Responding news of the upcoming visit, Jeff Cox, a member of the local Progressive Democrats of America chapter and former chair of the Johnson County Democrats, said he was thrilled, telling the Sioux City Journal that Sanders represents “the kind of New Deal Democratic approach to economics that has been lost to the Democratic Party, particularly under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.”
The Iowa group of Progressive Democrats, in fact, is holding its first "Draft Bernie Sanders for President" campaign event Thursday night in Iowa City.
Similar to many others at the national level, Cox described a possible run by Sanders as an important challenge from the left to the likely candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
Like Obama now, indicated Cox, Clinton is too closely tied to Wall Street interests and, if elected, would likely continue noxious foreign policies such as the "drone war," "assassinations" abroad, and holding people indefinitely "without due process."
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Nationally, the Progressive Democrats of America is actively lobbying for Sanders to run for president inside the Democratic Party as a way to challenge Clinton and others. Currently, though officially an Independent in the Senate and known as the chambers only confessed democratic socialist, Sanders caucuses with the Democratic majority.
This weekend, Sanders is scheduled to attend a memorial service in Massachusetts for Tim Carpenter, co-founder of the Progressive Democrats of America, who recently passed after a battle with cancer.
In a March interview with The Nation's John Nichols, Sanders said he was interested in what progressives at the grassroots level thought about his running inside or outside the Democratic Party. He acknowledged the potential upside and possible pitfalls related with both paths.
On the one hand, Sanders told Nichols, "the number of people who identify as Democrats or Republicans is at a historically low point. In that sense, running outside the two-party system can be a positive politically."
But on the other, he countered himself, "given the nature of the political system, given the nature of media in America, it would be much more difficult to get adequate coverage from the mainstream media running outside of the two-party system."
Either way, the question remains: If he runs, could he possibly win?
From the ground in Iowa, Cox offered this: “People say he can’t win (because) he’s a Jewish socialist from Vermont, but if an African American from Chicago whose middle name is Hussein can carry three states from the former Confederacy, anybody can win.”