June 16 2015 11:30 PM

Political maverick Bernie Sanders is good for the country

Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton recently delivered her first mass rally to hungry Democratic boosters. She was primed to define herself to the electorate, and explain why she's running for President of the United States. On New York's Roosevelt Island, the New Deal symbolism was thick and the crowd went wild. 

Days later, Jeb Bush surprised no one by officially joining the bloated contingent running for President on the Republican ticket. His backers, assembled in a Miami gymnasium for the announcement, also went wild—in English and in Spanish. 

All this media attention focused on the presumptive finalists for their respective parties leads one to think about movie sequels. These two candidates with family members who previously served as Presidents might offer us campaigns that play out like film follow-ups. Clinton II: The Good Wife. Or, Bush III: Call Me Jeb!

On the heels of these sequels, the $8-billion summer blockbuster in the political genre was just released: Donald Trump's selfmarvel movie that could be called Fantastic Me. When The Donald announced his seemingly serious intention to run for President as a Republican, a dozen lackeys converged in the atrium of Trump Tower in Manhattan and pretended to go wild. 

If you don't care for summer schlockbusters and are tired of sequels, there's an indie biopic making the rounds that just might score with voters when it's awards time in Iowa next year. Rumpled Bernie Sanders hasn't tamped down his unruly locks like Trump, but when the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont declared he was running for the Democratic nomination for Presidenta dozen crickets on the Capitol lawn turned their amps up to 11. Since that day in April, however, the crowds at campaign stops have increasingly gone wild. 

There is a fantastic New Yorker cartoon in which a husband (who vaguely resembles Bob Newhart) sits up in bed, looks over at his wife (she sorta looks like Suzanne Pleshette) and declares, "I had that dream again—Bernie Sanders became President and everything everywhere was magically fixed." 

The self-described democratic socialist is connecting with an American public that's fed up with politics as usual. Sanders rails against income inequality in the United States, and shows genuine concern over the country's disappearing middle class. He fears the notion that soon, only families with household incomes in the Trump strata will be able to afford college. Sanders introduced legislation that would eliminate undergraduate tuition at four-year public universities. The College for All Act would also lower interest rates on federal student loans. He proposes raising $300 billion a year to finance the plan by taxing trades of stocks, bonds and charging fees on Wall Street derivatives. 

Sanders wants to expand Social Security. He wants to move away from Obamacare and make Medicare available to everybody. Sanders also says he wants to stand up for working families. 

Sure, sure, that's what everybody says. Bush is for working families—he'd like to keep his own family working in the White House. Trump is for working families—families working on their golf games, mostly. 

Clinton also talks about supporting working families. She frames her personality as one forged by a mother who rose above economic hardship and mistreatment. Clinton also has a history of advocacy for women and children.

 She's the frontrunner in her own party, and she's polling ahead of the dozen or so declared Republicans in the race, including Jeb!

Clinton is lucky to have Sanders in the mix. Rather than treat the primary season as a coronation, she'll have to debate the issues with him. And he'll keep the conversation plunged into progressive waters. 

The country is ready to lean left politically. The legalization of gay marriage and medical marijuana are examples of social issues that are, generationally, digging deeper roots. Even Jeb! is trying to lean to the center from the right. 

The left is where Sanders lives, and he'll have a say in pulling the Democratic party that way, likely with Clinton at the helm. If this Presidential election ends like a Hollywood movie, though, the country just might wake up next year to a recreation of that New Yorker cartoon.


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