WASHINGTON (TIP): In a country where the term socialism is almost taboo, a Senator who comfortably describes himself as a ”Democratic Socialist” has thrown his hat in the 2016 Presidential election ring, much to the delight of the liberal-leftist fringe in the United States.
Bernie Sanders, the Independent Senator from Vermont, a state known as much for its progressive politics as its marginal separatist tendency, declared on Thursday that he would run for president as a Democrat, providing the first official challenge to Hillary Clinton for the party nomination. He is having to take on the Democratic affiliation to avoid problems with getting on state ballots and participating in debates that independents face.
Few pundits give the grandfatherly 73-year-old Sanders any realistic chance to win the nomination. But he is expected to perform the important role of forcing Hillary Clinton to address left-liberal issues that he has passionately espoused, such as reducing income inequality and scaling back the influence of money in politics, a platform on which his rival is particularly vulnerable at this moment.
Sanders’s run in the 2016 election cycle was in the works for some time now and his website had announced ”A political revolution is coming” while seeking donations and snarkily remarking that the campaign is ”Paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires),” a swipe at rest of the field backed by money bags. On Thursday, as Clinton was fighting to ward off attacks from the right about alleged quid pro quo in which foreign governments and business entities funneled money into the Clinton Foundation for favors, Sanders, looking positively pristine, made his move.
If elected, Sanders would be the oldest person and the first Jewish individual to be US President, not to speak of the first person to win with an overtly socialist label. A civil rights’ activist, whose father lost his family in the Holocaust, he has spent time in Israel on a kibbutz in course of championing a socialist way of life.
Even President Barack Obama jocularly endorsed his quirky politics in a light-hearted moment at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last week, gagging, ”I like Bernie. Bernie is an interesting guy. Apparently some folks really want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.”
The odds are formidable, not only because of Sanders’s age and what some see as the socialist stigma around him, but also on account of his modest resources in what is arguably the world’s most expensive election marketplace where billions of dollars are poured in by big business lobbies and vested interests.
Sanders though has indicated he is not fazed by the odds or his modest means, while indicating that he will bank on small contributions from ordinary people, much the same way candidate Obama amassed a campaign war chest. ”People should not underestimate me,” he told The Associated Press. ”I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates, and I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.”