Imagine in 2012, after President Obama defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney, that Democrats would have another chance at winning the White House in 2016. This time, however, one Democratic challenger would endure headlines like this one from Politico: "Judge says Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs FISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased Pompeo’s Cairo speech more ‘back to the future’ than break with past MORE's private emails violated policy." The other Democratic candidate would create enough enthusiasm for The Washington Post to write: "100,000 people have come to recent Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs Overnight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour MORE rallies. How does he do it?" Democrats today have two choices, and the future of the Democratic Party, as well as the nation, is at stake.


Will Democrats roll the dice on Election Day with a candidate at the heart of an FBI investigation (pertaining to emails and a private server) and who accepted $100,000 in donations from Donald Trump for the Clinton Foundation? Or, will the Democratic Party rally around a genuine progressive who just received the Congressional Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a man with the most comprehensive racial justice platform in 2016? After all, a future with Republican contender Trump leading this country could be the result of Democrats picking the wrong nominee. Therefore, it's important to analyze the two choices for Democratic nominee, especially since a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party is currently taking place. In reality, there are only two choices that progressives have in 2016.

1. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) isn't only drawing enormous crowds; he's within 7 percentage points of Clinton in Iowa, he's surpassed Clinton in New Hampshire, he beats Trump in a general election and people around the country him.

Sanders is energizing a base of Democrats and progressives around the country who've longed for a clear distinction between both parties. His momentum is only beginning, and with greater name recognition, the Vermont senator can duplicate what he's done in Iowa and New Hampshire throughout the country. Although naysayers believe that progressives in Iowa and New Hampshire aren't representative of a more diverse group of Democrats in places like South Carolina, such thinking is flawed. A prime example of why Sanders will continue to surge throughout the nation is found in a recent Des Moines Register article:

Liberal revolutionary Bernie Sanders, riding an updraft of insurgent passion in Iowa, has closed to within 7 points of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race. ...

"This feels like 2008 all over again," said J. Ann Selzer, pollster for the Iowa Poll. ...

In this cycle, Sanders is attracting more first-time caucusgoers than Clinton. He claims 43 percent of their vote compared to 31 percent for Clinton. He also leads by 23 percentage points with the under-45 crowd and by 21 points among independent voters.

Therefore, there's no reason to believe that "the under-45 crowd" in other states won't be enamored with Sanders, or that he won't lead Clinton by 20 or more points within this demographic in California (comedia Sarah Silverman recently introduced Sanders to a crowd of over 27,500 people in Los Angeles) or South Carolina. Arguments against Sanders winning point out that he's polling low with minorities, or that Clinton leads Sanders among Democrats. However, with increased name recognition — in addition to the fact that he is the only candidate with a racial justice platform applauded by Black Lives Matter — Sanders can use his history as a civil rights activist to easily surpass Clinton among minority voters. In contrast, the founder of Black Lives Matter Boston, Daunasia Yancey, referred to Clinton's racial justice record as "abysmal."

Also, the fact that Cornel West, as well as musical artists Killer Mike and Lil B, just recently endorsed Sanders for president will eventually account for far more votes than political wonks can anticipate at this juncture. Eventually, Clinton supporters gleeful of low polling among minorities for Sanders will have to look elsewhere for objections to his nationwide surge among Democrats. Once Hillary's infamous 3 a.m. ad against Obama in 2008 is analyzed, in addition to why she waited close to three weeks to address the topic of Ferguson, Mo. in 2014, minority voters will most likely take a greater look at Sanders.

In addition, naysayers of the Sanders campaign fail to consider one important fact: Sanders's nationwide momentum. According to HuffPost Pollster, on March 2, 2015, Clinton's polling compared to Sanders among Democrats was 60.2 percent to only 4.9 percent for the Vermont senator. In April, the lead was still seemingly insurmountable, with Clinton leading among Democrats at 61.2 percent to 8.3 percent for Sanders. But then, simply with increased grass-roots organization and effort (along with endless coverage about the Clinton FBI investigation), and without the billions in campaign funding Clinton will amass, Sanders was up to 17.7 percent support to Clinton's 55.5 percent. Fast-forward to Aug. 26, and Sanders is all the way up to 22.7 percent support, while Clinton has dropped to 47.2 percent. From March to August, Sanders has gone from 4.9 percent to 22.7 percent, while Clinton plunged from 60.2 percent to 47.2 percent.

With the Iowa caucus on Feb. 1, 2016, and with grass-roots organizations around the U.S. continuing the momentum of the Sanders campaign, it's likely that Sanders will cut into Clinton's lead among Democrats in the same manner he's dwindled her lead in Iowa and New Hampshire. Choosing Sanders in 2016 gives Democrats a viable alternative to politics as usual, a candidate who can easily defeat Trump, and a president who won't be embroiled in endless scandal.

2. As for Clinton, 55 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of her, swing-state voters don't trust her, there's an FBI probe of her emails and server, and Rasmussen reports that 46 percent of voters think Clinton should suspend her campaign.

Does this sound like the winning candidate for Democrats in 2016? Do winning campaigns have ongoing FBI investigations and polls indicating that voters simply don't trust the candidate? Furthermore, even the Democratic leadership is now worried about the FBI investigation of Clinton's emails and server. A recent New York Times article highlights the genuine concern that even Clinton supporters have about the email controversy:

Democratic leaders are increasingly frustrated by Hillary Rodham Clinton's failure to put to rest questions about her State Department email practices and ease growing doubts among voters about her honesty and trustworthiness. ...

Interviews with more than 75 Democratic governors, lawmakers, candidates and party members have laid bare a widespread bewilderment that Mrs. Clinton has allowed a cloud to settle over her candidacy — by using a private email server in the first place, since it was likely to raise questions about her judgment, and by not defusing those questions once and for all when the issue first emerged in March.

With Americans registering their mistrust of Mrs. Clinton in opinion polls, anxious supporters are starting to speak bluntly ...

Among those frustrated with Clinton are former governors and Democratic Party leaders. Their frustration is echoed by an Aug. 20 Quinnipiac University poll that states voters in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states do not find Clinton honest or trustworthy.

The 2016 race for the Democratic nominee is turning out to be a contest that political wonks and pundits could never have predicted, primarily because nobody could have predicted Clinton would need a private server as secretary of State. Also, nobody predicted the immense groundswell of support experienced by the Sanders campaign. Until Americans know the exact political reasons why Clinton chose to use a private server, and until the FBI finishes its investigation, a shadow of doubt will hover over the Clinton campaign. Eventually, this will lead to Sanders winning the Democratic nomination, especially since voters around the country trust the Vermont senator. Trust will be the key to winning the White House in 2016, and Bernie Sanders has an abundance of both trust and enthusiasm within his campaign. If the FBI is still investigating by next February, don't be surprised if the Democratic establishment chooses Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

Goodman is an author and a journalist.