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So Bernie Sanders has posed us – the American left – the question: Should he run for president? Well, let’s imagine what we will likely do in 2016 if he doesn’t run for president. Barring the appearance of some other surprise candidate of the left, we will, in our various ways, bemoan the inadequacies of the politics of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or whomever else the Democratic Party establishment puts forth, while also being alternately horrified and amused by the Republican contenders. We will lament the fact that our point of view remains absent from the televised debates and, for that matter, from almost all mainstream discussion. In short, we will simply not be a factor in the great quadrennial debate about America’s future. It will, in other words, be business as usual.
And what if Sanders does run? Since he already has substantial national recognition, it will be very difficult to deny him access to the televised debates. So, if and when we tune in, we might actually hear something about the problem of the country’s drift toward an oligarchy of billionaires and corporations buying elections. Or about how we could have rebuilt our highways five times over on what we’ve spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Or a call for a national jobs program to rebuild the infrastructure. Or a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program to supplant the Obama’s administration’s Affordable Care Act.
If Sanders runs, we may not agree with him on everything. And we will almost certainly have issues that we wish he would speak to or emphasize more. And yet the difference between him and the Biden/Clinton/Kerry/Obama mainstream Democratic Party point of view will likely be obvious across the board. A left point of view will enter the discussion in all sorts of places it usually doesn’t, well beyond the debates themselves.
If Sanders runs, everything will probably not go the way we might want. We may even learn that some of our favorite ideas don’t actually play as well before a larger audience as we might have hoped. Some of them may even have to go back to the drawing board. At the same time, far larger numbers of voters will become aware that a dramatically different approach to governing the country does exist.