Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war Congress must address the looming debt crisis MORE (I-Vt.) is one of the most rare political creatures in U.S. politics. The longest serving independent in U.S. congressional history, Sanders is unapologetic about his socialist leanings (thank goodness he didn't run for national office in the 1950s); his passionate message is that big money from big corporations who stash their profits overseas virtually own the political system; and he is one of the most vocal members of the Senate chamber on issues of wealth disparity, income inequality, stagnant wages, climate change and the power of Wall Street and the financial industry.
Yet, for all of those reasons, it's unlikely that Sanders will be able to muster the support of moderate Democrats that he so desperately needs if he has any shot at competing against former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumptive favorite for Democratic voters by an overwhelming margin. The Democratic Party, despite talking points from the Republican National Committee, is no longer an exclusive club to liberals and progressives. Rather, it's a party that is incredibly broad, encompassing everyone from moderate Democrats in the heartland to the occasional conservative Democrat in West Virginia to a good chunk of the independent voting bloc. Throughout his career, Sanders has never been particularly popular with the centrist, pragmatic elements of the Democratic Party, and it's difficult to see how he can change that without drastically curtailing the very same messages and policies that he's worked his entire life for.
To put it bluntly, hell will freeze over before Sanders wins the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.
During his April 30 press conference on Capitol Hill, Sanders was his usual fast-talking, substantive, inspirational and bombastic self, declaring, "We're in this race to win." But let's be perfectly honest: All candidates for the presidency use this type of rhetoric, even if they are dozens upon dozens of points behind their main competitor. According to a recently released Quinnipiac University poll, Sanders would be lucky to be just 12 or 24 points behind. Instead, he's 52 points behind Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE.
Sanders had a direct message to Americans like me who don't believe he is a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination. "People should not underestimate me," Sanders told the Associated Press a day before his formal announcement was made. "I've run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.” But again, if we're going to be completely honest and realistic, to compare the great state of Vermont to the United States as a whole is like comparing the Rev. Al Sharpton to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: It doesn't really work, and it's a stretch to say the least.
This is not to say that Sanders shouldn't be given the respect he deserves. He is, after all, a long-serving public servant who cares deeply about the state he represents, and he's run successful campaigns ever since he was first elected as mayor of Burlington, Vt. in 1981. He's served in Congress for 24 years, 16 as Vermont's only representative, and eight so far as a senator. And his passion on the issues is unparalleled compared to many of his colleagues in the Senate chamber (in fact, ask him a question about healthcare or money in the political system, and he could probably spend a good 20 hours on the Senate floor jabbing his fingers in the air and screaming into the microphone).
But ... President Bernie Sanders? I could be wrong, but at this particular time, President Obama has a better chance at running for a third term than Sanders has in taking down Hillary Clinton.
DePetris is a Middle East analyst for Wikistrat, Inc, a geopolitical risk consultancy, and an independent foreign policy consultant.