Bernie Sanders is not going to be president of the United States. He is not even going to be the Democratic Party nominee. In fact, he likely won’t win more than a handful of votes for that nomination. This doesn’t mean he won’t stay in the primaries long past the time most candidates would have dropped out.
The U.S. senator from Vermont won’t be spending any campaign money anyway (as he won’t be raising very much). Instead, he will hang in there as a representative of the Ghost of Democrats Past, haunting the largely center-right Democrats who are pro-capital, anti-working class, and have spent the last five decades selling out whatever was left of the progressive movement following the last great sell-out. And Sanders will do this while projecting almost as much sincerity as Willy Wonka pleading with Mike Teevee to “Stop. Don’t. Come back.” as the nation slides toward a business oligarchy with slightly theocratic tendencies.
While many pundits (and quite a few rank-and-file Democrats and ex-Democrats) are thrilled by the prospect of Sanders at least getting the chance to pull the conversation back to the left after a decades-long slide to the right (and yes, I’m sorry to tell all of you this, but the presidency of Barack Obama has constituted nothing less than a slightly slower slide to the right), others are rightly saying that Sanders essentially serves as the “Ron Paul of the Democratic Party,” which is only a slight disservice to Sanders.
After all, the Democratic Party already had a Ron Paul in the form of Dennis Kucinich, who was, let’s be honest, the tiniest bit odd in much the same ways that Ron Paul is the tiniest bit odd. At the very least, Sanders is articulate in a way that neither Kucinich nor Paul are, all while possessing as much passion for his beliefs as those two men.
But neither articulation nor passion are going to stem the tide of the torrents of cash funneled into the coffers of the very safe candidates for president on the Democratic ticket in the coming months. And unless Sanders manages to pull U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren to his campaign in some meaningful way, he’ll be hard-pressed to move the conversation in the upcoming political cycle anywhere near as far to the left as it could be, much less as far as it needs to be.
For a country that prides itself on freedom of choice — especially when it comes to matters like food, clothing, cars, and entertainment — America has painfully few political choices. In almost any grocery store you will find two dozen types of coffee, 30-plus kinds of cereal, and scores of “craft” beers crowding the coolers next to the usual Budweiser, Miller, and Coors offerings. Yet in our political landscape, nothing has changed for decades. Yes, there were shifts in the 1960s between the folks who called themselves Republicans and those who called themselves Democrats, but even those shifts were nothing more than a reshuffling of what has always been the case in American politics: There are two different groups inside the ruling elite who have slightly different views on what people should get out of their leadership. The only real difference between Democrats and Republicans is the Democrats are at least going to say they feel really, really badly about what’s happening to you because of their terrible ineffectualness. The Republicans just don’t care.
On the other hand, if you’d like a look at a slightly different political system, you should simply gaze at our former colonial masters in England. They recently completed an election in which it was not initially clear if either of the two main parties would win control, due to their odd electoral process and the presence of several other players, ranging from the left-libertarian Greens to the left-authoritarian Scottish National Party to the nationalist and fascist UKIP.
Does such a system work better than what we have here in the United States? Well, frankly, no. England is controlled by the people who have replaced the post-World War II dream of a society in which no one is left out with a dog-eat-dog drive to destroy all the great public programs that helped their nation get to the point of destroying all their great public programs. So in that regard, they are very much in the same boat as we are in this country, where members of Congress who grew up on public assistance are hellbent on eliminating that assistance for future generations.
But at least the British were able to have interesting conversations about their politics in the days leading up to Election Day. We Americans, on the other hand, have nothing to talk about it. The conversations are all the same.