Political events in Iowa this week were enough to warm a Social Democrat’s heart in a post-election season of cold and darkness. Senator Bernie Sanders, the very Independent Senator from Vermont, spoke to a crowd of more than 200 in a church basement at Iowa State University and was the featured speaker at the holiday event of Progress Iowa, reminding us that politics in Iowa is a retail, one-on-one enterprise. On Wednesday night the draft Elizabeth Warren campaign kicked off its effort with a rally. MoveOn.org has endorsed Warren and is seeking to raise $1 million to put muscle in the campaign. Democracy for America endorsed Warren, put up $250,00 and literally put boots (much needed in the Iowa snows) on the ground by sending a staff member to help organize the push for Warren.
Of course, neither Sanders nor Warren has announced his/her candidacy to oppose Hillary Clinton and the corporate Democrats backing her. Warren, on the contrary, has said that she is not a candidate. Her supporters, noting the present tense, hope that a strong draft movement will cause her to come into the race. Sanders admits to interest in a run but says that he is trying to determine if he has sufficient support to make a campaign viable.
For many reasons, it is my hope that, if Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, decides to run, it will be in the Democratic Party primaries. The most important reason is that, with a closely divided electorate, an independent candidacy on the left would draw votes from the Democrats and might permit a Republican victory. Hillary Clinton has many drawbacks, in my opinion, but her victory would at least keep out the Tea Party-influenced Republicans. Second, the great bulk of progressives-social democrats is in the Democratic Party. We need to support efforts of these people to gain influence in setting policy and choosing candidates. Breaking away to support a third party would burn bridges that took years to build.
The draft Warren movement could, if she makes a Shermanesque statement, provide a ready-made base of support for a Sanders candidacy. Since that movement espouses an ideology close to Sanders’ views, issues of principle should be no problem. It is my hope that, if Warren declines to oppose Clinton, Bernie Sanders will step forward…in the Democratic primaries. At best he can win; at worst, he can pull Clinton to the left, as she fights for the progressive-social democratic heart of the Democratic Party. In any event, he will rally our wing of the Party and help it build for future struggles.