A new contender has entered the race for president, and it’s not who you might expect. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont threw his hat into the Democratic primaries on April 28, though the official announcement won’t come until April 30. Despite the fact that he is officially an Independent, he caucuses and campaigns with the Democrats and is, functionally, a Democrat, albeit a far left one.
In fact, Sanders officially identifies as an Independent because the Democratic Party is too far to the right for him. He is an unabashed Socialist, easily the furthest left member of Congress currently, and possibly ever. He is a fan of the federal government micromanaging and controlling almost every aspect of the economy and has made no bones about it.
Make no mistake, Sanders has no chance of actually winning the Democratic nomination, let alone the presidency. He knows it, and so does everybody else, aside from certain fringe elements. He is simply far too extreme for most Americans, and even some of the most liberal Democrats would have a hard time with his policies. His real goals by entering the race are twofold: energize the base and pull Hillary Clinton to the left.
Clinton has a longstanding track record of being a left of center Democrat. While she is in line with the liberal wing’s stances on social issues, like abortion and gay rights, she has a long ways to go on economic and defense issues if she wants to keep the left happy. She has pushed President Obama to take a much stronger stance on foreign affairs, especially with regard to dealing with Russia, and has been mostly a hawk on foreign policy for years.
Her economic policies are decidedly left of center, supporting progressive tax rates and policies that are supportive of women and minorities in education and other areas. However, they aren’t far enough left to appease Sanders’ supporters who, as mentioned, want policies that are much more restrictive of free markets in general, and the wealthy in particular. She does lose a major issue that is popular with the far left, though, having campaigned in the past on a government run type of health care program, and the Affordable Care Act has taken the wind out of those sails over the last few years.
Sanders will likely attempt to pull her to the left primarily on economic issues, though expect foreign policy to be a talking point during the campaign as well. But he will likely only be able to pull her so far, as winning the nomination, and the presidency, requires winning swing states that are big on free enterprise, especially in the West and Midwest. States like Montana, the Dakotas, Arizona, Colorado and Ohio would be hard pressed to select someone like Sanders, and the southern swing state like Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas would likely never vote for someone as far left as he is.
So now we watch as Clinton starts the tightrope act, attempting to appeal to both swing voters and the far left, but don’t expect much movement from her. After all, if Sanders is too far left to actually be a Democrat in the Senate, he is likely even further out from being able to capture any states that are important to winning the election.