Bill Press: Sanders a serious opponent

Greg Nash

Looking ahead to 2016, the contrast between the two major parties could not be more striking. Two more Republican candidates — Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson — joined the race Monday, with Mike Huckabee expected to announce on Tuesday. This is in addition to the official bids of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. And there are at least a dozen more hopefuls waiting in the wings.

On the Democratic side, there was only one: Hillary Clinton. That is, until last Thursday, when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described “Democratic socialist,” jumped into the race. Granted, with no national organization and no super-PAC, his candidacy is a long shot at best. 

{mosads}No matter. Win or lose, he will have a profound, positive impact on the Democratic race for president in 2016.

One of two independent senators, Sanders is running as a Democrat, which is critical for several reasons. Under our present, lop-sided system, a system that is rigged against outsiders, it’s the only way he can get on the ballot in all 50 states — and it makes it possible for him to be included in official party debates. So, there will be no coronation after all. Clinton won’t just be handed the nomination. She’ll have to fight for it, duke it out in the primaries against Sanders, and maybe others. That’s good for the party and good for all the candidates, including Clinton. Contested primaries are important to test and prove candidates under fire. Without it, they become rusty and lazy.

For progressives, Sanders’s presence is especially important because he will champion and force debate on issues Clinton might not have otherwise talked about. Sanders believes campaigns should mean “serious debates about serious issues,” and that’s what he’ll deliver. Where she often hesitates to take a stand, he never does. On any issue. 

Take the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example — Sanders is leading the charge against it. Clinton used to be for it, now she’s “somewhere” in between. Nobody knows, and she won’t say.

Calling for nothing less than a “political revolution” against what he calls the “billionaire class,” Sanders has vowed to make his campaign the continuation of a life-long career of fighting for working families. He’s already on record for raising the minimum wage, investing in infrastructure, overturning Citizens United, making the wealthiest Americans and big corporations pay higher taxes, expanding Social Security and tackling the issue of climate change. He’ll raise all the issues Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren might. The only difference: She’s afraid to take on Clinton. He’s not.

In a world of poll-tested and blow-dried candidates, Sanders also has the appeal of authenticity. So what if he’s not movie-star handsome? Or his hair goes in several directions at once? He’s the real deal. Plus, he’s an experienced candidate, having survived 20 different campaigns without airing a single negative ad. In fact, when he ran for reelection in 2012, he didn’t run any TV or radio commercials at all — and won with 71 percent of the vote. He has strong grassroots support. He raised $1.5 million in small donations within 24 hours of announcing. 

“Don’t underestimate me,” Bernie warns. Doing so would be a big mistake.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.

Tags Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton

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