The sun is setting on the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign; his California state director is departing a month before that state’s primary. The Vermont senator had an impressive run; he won a bunch of high-profile states, almost 43 percent of the Democratic primary vote, and will probably finish with 10 million votes or so. If it wasn’t for the super-delegates, he might have pulled off the biggest upset victory over Hillary Clinton since . . . well, 2008.
Still, if the you find the notion of an openly socialist major-party presidential candidate unnerving, you should thank your lucky star that it was Bernie Sanders as the red flag’s standard bearer this year, and that his primary obstacle was a figure who had been a Democratic-party icon since 1992. At some point, Sanders’s agenda will be picked up by an ambitious politician who is younger and more charismatic, and who doesn’t resemble an angry Larry David. Some Democrat with big aspirations is going to start talking up “free” college education, “free” child care, “free” health care, and gargantuan expansions of entitlements. Some other liberal will echo Sanders’s argument that the reason you’re not rich is because other people are making a lot more money. The odds of a candidate with this agenda winning a Democratic primary someday look pretty good.
If you were an ambitious Democratic politician, dreaming of running for president in 2020 or 2028 or some future date, which campaign looked more like the future? Which candidate accomplished more and won more support with fewer institutional advantages?
If Hillary Clinton is defeated in November, the Democratic party will be as leaderless as it has ever been since Bill Clinton appeared on the national scene. Obama will depart the stage and Joe Biden and John Kerry will go with him. None of this year’s also-rans look like the voice of the future. Jim Webb doesn’t fit in the party anymore, and Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee are the answers to questions no one is asking. Whatever genetically inherited ambitions Chelsea Clinton has, she’s not jumping into presidential politics anytime soon. The 2020 bench looks awfully thin. HUD Secretary Julian Castro? Labor Secretary Tom Perez? New York governor Andrew Cuomo?
When’s the last time you heard discussion about New Jersey senator Cory Booker? (Not even T-Bone is talking about him these days.)
No, the only idea stirring much excitement and enthusiasm in Democratic politics these days is socialism.