As it turns out, Scott Brown isn’t the only politician from next-door New Hampshire voters should be watching. In an interview with The Nation magazine this month, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says he’s thinking about launching a campaign for president in 2016.
It’s unlikely on the face of it: Sanders is 72 years old. He’s a registered independent and self-described democratic-socialist. He’s an outspoken critic of much of the country’s economic, environmental and social order. He’d be the country’s first Jewish president. And yet, at a time when most candidates from both major parties sound cautious and scripted, when their campaigns are predictable and wearying, Sanders would at the very least give voters something new to think about. And it’s hard to imagine many voters would disagree with his over-arching worry:
“What I do wake up every morning feeling is that this country faces more serious problems than at any time since the Great Depression, and there is a horrendous lack of serious political discourse or ideas out there that can address these crises, and that somebody has got to represent the working-class and the middle-class of this country in standing up to the big-money interests who have so much power over the economic and political life of this country,” Sanders told The Nation.
What would a Sanders candidacy be like?
One big question is whether he’d run as a Democrat or as an independent, one he’s not yet ready to answer. He’s mindful of the drawbacks of a third-party candidacy – the difficulty being taken seriously and the possibility of being taken just seriously enough to draw significant votes away from a Democratic candidate but still lose, thereby electing a right-wing candidate as president, what Sanders describes as the “Ralph Nader dilemma.” That said, Sanders has had serious electoral success as an independent. He was mayor of Burlington for eight years, a member of the U.S. House for 16 and now a U.S. senator.
Sanders speaks seriously of “political revolution” – not the lingo likely to come out of the mouths of Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton. What he means is convincing the vast numbers of apathetic Americans to get involved in elections and pay attention to their government at work. He wants them to understand when the government is working in their interests, and when it’s not. “It’s about creating a situation where we are involving millions of people in the process who are not now involved, and changing the nature of media so they are talking about issues that reflect the needs and the pains that so many of our people are currently feeling,” he says. “Essentially, what a political revolution means is that we organize and educate and create grassroots movements, which we certainly do not have right now.”
Sanders has worked on legislation to address climate change. He is a critic of the nuclear power industry. He voted against going to war in Iraq and favors a single-payer health care system. He once gave an 8½-hour speech about corporate greed, the decline of the middle class and in sharp criticism of the proposed extension of the Bush-era tax rates that eventually became law.
So far, Sanders says, he’s talking about the prospect of a campaign to people across the country and plans to do some traveling. He’s not in a hurry to make a decision. But if he’s looking for a serious audience or two to measure public reaction to his message, there’s really no need to travel much farther than across the Connecticut River. Voters here are always eager to help a would-be candidate find his way.