Presidential Campaign

Bernie Sanders, liberal kingmaker

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After the California primary, it is now certain that Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) cannot be the Democratic nominee for president, but he can still be the second most important Democrat in the election if he plays his cards right.

{mosads}Sanders should drop out of the presidential campaign as a candidate for the presidency, and reconstitute his campaign as a people’s PAC to raise substantial money from small donors that would be used to support liberal candidates running for the House and Senate against Republicans.

With this people’s PAC project, which I have suggested before, Sanders would keep a political staff to run the program outside his Senate office, raise somewhere between $100 million and $300 million from his small donors, travel across the country to rallies in support of liberal candidates, and do national talk shows on a regular basis to support the cause.

My guess is that President Obama would support this project and help add even new small donors to the current Sanders list for the purpose of helping Democrats regain control of the House and Senate. I hope Sanders would ask. If he does, I am not without friends in the White House and would offer my strong support for this.

In my Thursday column in The Hill, I will discuss the growing role of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) in support of Democrats during the campaign and make the case that liberals of all persuasions should get behind this effort.

I fully realize that some on the left have doubts about Hillary Clinton, which I definitely understand and, on some issues, share.

I would make the argument that on the fundamental issues of the Sanders revolution, the left would get perhaps 85 percent of a loaf with a Clinton presidency, and on the great issues before the United States Supreme Court, the left would get close to 100 percent percent of a loaf.

Words cannot overstate the importance of the Supreme Court to the future of progressivism. The nominees that a President Hillary Clinton would select for the judiciary would be almost identical to the kind of nominees a President Bernie Sanders would select.

On the full landscape of issues important to progressives that go before the courts, the left would win one huge victory after another with judges appointed by either Clinton or Sanders.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission would be reversed. Voting rights would be protected. The environment would be defended. The rights of women, workers, LGBT citizens and minorities would be upheld.

Similarly, if Democrats regain control of Congress, the power of the Congress and committee chairs would revert to liberals with a dramatic impact. To give just two examples, in a Democratic Senate, Sanders would become chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) — a fierce advocate of dramatic financial reform — would become chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. The same would be true in many committees in both the Senate and House if Democrats regain control, and in all cases the Democratic chairs would be light years better for progressives than the current Republican chairs in a Republican Congress.

I completely disagree with the “Bernie or bust” people, who would doom the judiciary to a generation of right-wing control and doom both houses of Congress to GOP control, not to mention the extreme dangers to America of a President Donald Trump who has injected racism to the center of American politics and is hostile to civil liberties, civil rights, income equality, the battle against climate change and a long list of other progressive causes and values.

Sanders still has a golden opportunity to have a truly powerful impact on American history in ways that would touch, and improve, many aspects of American life. His supporters and small donors can have a huge impact, achieving many aspects of the Sanders revolution that would begin immediately and last for decades to come.

Being a liberal kingmaker who changes the course of American politics, American government and American history is not the worst consolation prize for progressives who care deeply about the future of the nation.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at

Tags 2016 Democratic primary 2016 presidential campaign Bernie Sanders Democratic Party Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton liberals people's PAC Sherrod Brown small donors
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