Iowa activists welcome Bernie Sanders to race

1 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A chart of every president by his age when first elected to office.

On one recent Iowa visit, showed he’s the kind of presidential contender who’s perfectly comfortable speaking at a podium that’s actually an overturned milk crate on a tabletop.Noted critic of economic inequality, corporations and the rich, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said he was running for president to buck the system in which billionaire families were able to buy elections and candidates.

But an energetic swath of progressive advocates gave his newly minted presidential campaign little more than a lukewarm welcome Thursday before redoubling their efforts to convince the senator from Massachusetts to jump in the race. “We’re excited to see Bernie Sanders join the 2016 Democratic primary,” Erica Sagrans, the campaign manager for Ready for Warren, said in a statement. “But we need Senator Elizabeth Warren in the race to make sure we have a Democratic nominee who will lead these fights all the way to the White House.” “This is Elizabeth Warren’s moment,” Chamberlain said. “She has galvanized progressives and Democrats in ways that no other candidate or elected leader has. Sanders, a no-frills man of the people, will be welcome in the presidential race because he’s so sincere about his ideas for making working-class Americans’ lives better, some Iowa Democratic activists said Thursday.

The junior senator from Vermont will turn 75 two months before the 2016 general election–if he were to win the nomination (one leading online gambling site puts the odds of that happening at 50-to-1.) The person most likely to stand in Sanders’s way, Hillary Clinton, will be 69 on the day of the generation election. Bernie Sanders has decided to take the plunge into forbidding waters for the same reason earlier socialists campaigned for the office: to protest the current order and promote major reforms his rivals either oppose or support only when doing so juices their standings in the polls. So that’s why you’re seeing this huge amount of support.” Sanders, who has served in Congress since 1991, might seem a natural substitute, having fought for the issues that progressives care about—mitigating income inequality, taxing the rich, regulating Wall Street, imposing campaign finance limits—long before they became standard Democratic positions. It’s possible the Vermont second-term U.S. senator can become a real contender here — and peel away votes from frontrunner Hillary Clinton — if he can explain himself to enough voters, they said.

Sanders, a self-described socialist and one of the most outspoken liberals in Congress, faces a difficult fight against Clinton, the presumptive party frontrunner. “The people at the top are grabbing all the new wealth and income for themselves, and the rest of America is being squeezed and left behind,” Sanders said in an e-mail to supporters declaring his candidacy. Sanders is going to compete in Democratic primaries so he can debate Hillary Clinton and attract media that would otherwise ignore a passionate, white-haired independent with an uncompromising left-wing agenda. He unabashedly calls himself a “democratic socialist.” Adam Green, the co-founder of the effusively pro-Warren Progressive Change Campaign Committee, also struggled to name an issue where Sanders hasn’t been equally strong. Instead of dwelling on “Canadian birth certificates and pants suits,” Sanders gets to the heart of problems that bog down the national economy, said Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa AFL-CIO. “All the labeling about, ‘Oh, he’s a left-wing person’ — if you just set that aside for a second and listen to him talk about the issues, a lot of the stuff he talks about is pretty important,” Sagar told The Des Moines Register Thursday morning. “If you’re a Republican, you have kids who have student loan debt, too. Not that he has much choice: Since the 1950s, the United States hasn’t had a third party capable of disseminating its anti-capitalist politics to the public at large.

If you’re an independent, you’re worried about retirement, too.” Sanders, who officially announced his campaign for president Thursday, will focus on three issues, according to his political strategist Tad Devine, a longtime campaign operative who guided Al Gore and John Kerry’s presidential bids. Now in his second Senate term and previously a member of the US House of Representatives, he caucuses with Democrats even though he was elected as an independent. He criticized the official unemployment figure of 5.5 percent, arguing it was closer to 11 percent because so many people have given up looking for work. The Republicans who have declared their candidacy consist of two people who would be 45 when elected–Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio–and Rand Paul, who at 53 would still be on the young side for a president.

During the first half of the 20th century, however, radicals like Sanders could join the Socialist Party of America, which boasted more than 100,000 members at its height. But the group’s spokesman declined to answer questions about why the unlikely presidential contender is superior to the candidate who is actually running. Sanders will talk about how to fix the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, and argue that few people benefit from the way government is currently structured, Devine told the Register. In 2010, Sanders stood on the Senate floor for more than eight hours lecturing about corporate greed and criticizing Wall Street as he sought to delay a tax bill that would extend cuts initially enacted by former President George W. Statistician Nate Silver rejected any notion of Sanders having a chance at the nomination. “I mean, literally, Al Gore is more likely to be the Democratic nominee than Bernie Sanders,” Silver tweeted.

It even managed to elect a couple of congressmen as well as dozens of mayors in locales as diverse as Milwaukee; Berkeley, California; and the little railroad town of Antlers, Oklahoma. While acknowledging that Sanders’ odds of winning were nearly nonexistent, the mainstream media hailed his announcement as good for the campaign and even the Democrats’ front-runner, Hillary Clinton. Sanders, who spent “not a dime” on TV advertising in his 2012 re-election race in Vermont, will hire Iowa staff and will personally devote more time talking with Iowans than any other candidate, his aides said.

The charismatic former union leader crisscrossed the nation, stretching out his long arms as if to touch the admiring crowds whom he urged to destroy “the foul and decaying system” and erect a “cooperative commonwealth” in its place. But Debs’ platform also included such “immediate” demands as women’s suffrage, a progressive income tax, an eight-hour day, a ban on child labor, and a vote for the residents of the District of Columbia that no longer seem radical at all.

Sanders was a distant second; Clinton a close third. “It speaks to something larger,” Green said. “We’ve had a rising economic populist tide … and Elizabeth Warren has come to personify that rising economic populist tide. A former Presbyterian minister, Thomas preached the same utopian gospel as Debs had. “I am not the champion of lost causes, but the champion of causes not yet won,” he liked to say. By the end of the decade, Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Congress had enacted each of these proposals, save the last one, which the physicians’ lobby condemned as “socialized medicine.” Although Sanders has no leftist party machinery behind him and is too intelligent to predict a socialist future, he might be able to assume a role in the current campaign similar to that which Debs and Thomas once played. But Sanders is perpetually on the attack, armed with an unvarnished class-conscious message that, until the emergence of Occupy Wall Street, had long been absent from the public square. “The true greatness of a country is not measured by the sum of its millionaires and billionaires,” his senatorial website announces. “Rather, a great nation is one in which justice, equality and dignity prevail for all.” Count on Sanders to fight for reforms that will discomfort the comfortable.

He will demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour, legislation to make it easier to organize unions, a big increase in Social Security payments largely paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy, the aggressive development of renewable energy sources, and an end to the dominion of big money in politics. He might even call for prosecuting and jailing the people whom he blasted in a marathon 2010 speech as “the crooks on Wall Street whose actions resulted in the severe recession … whose illegal, reckless actions have resulted in millions of Americans losing their jobs, their homes, [and] their savings.” Sanders won’t spare the Democratic front-runner either. “On the same day that Hillary Clinton visited three homes of wealthy Manhattan benefactors to raise an estimated $1 million in campaign funds,” his website announced this week, “Sen. A century ago, Debs told Americans it was “better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.” The raspy-voiced Vermonter, who still speaks in a Brooklyn accent, will base his campaign on that same logic.

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