The Democratic presidential primaries on Tuesday provide a historic opportunity for voters to impact the direction of American politics. These represent the “last stand” for Bernie Sanders, the most successful left-progressive candidate of the post-Reagan era. Sanders’ transformative campaign has already created the blueprint for an ongoing movement to rebuild the middle class, overcome the powerful forces aligned against working people in the 21st century and set the country on a course for social and environmental justice. If Sanders closes the primary season with a bang, it will put a winning accent on a campaign that seeks nothing short of a radical reconfiguration of American politics and society — and even the revitalization and redemption of the modern revolutionary tradition.
While no one can predict the future, victories in California, New Mexico and the Big Sky states on June 7, combined with a strong showing in New Jersey, would leave Sanders (or at least his movement) in a position analogous to Ronald Reagan’s in 1976: a close runner-up, poised to lead the country in a new direction. It certainly won’t be easy; unlike Reagan, Sanders would face unified opposition from the establishment. Still, victories in these final contests would cement the impression not only that Sanders’ program represents the future of progressive politics, but also that he won the battle of ideas in this election cycle.
In a sense, a convincing set of Sanders victories might even be the best possible outcome for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which seems increasingly adrift with no compelling message beyond “Fear Trump” (which plays directly into the narcissist’s hands). Clinton desperately needs to crib more notes from Sanders’ infinitely more inspired campaign. Even if just for political expediency (
Bernie Sanders at a rally in Tucson, Ariz. His movement is advancing toward a “beautiful community” of social solidarity. (Rick Scuteri / AP)