Bernie Sanders Tests the Waters in Atlanta

June 18, 2015

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Plenty of ink has been spilled describing the challenges Republicans will face over the next year selecting their 2016 presidential candidate. Choices range from libertarian to social conservative to moderate to establishment to tea party, with plenty of subflavors in between. For the Democrats, the conventional wisdom as been that Hillary Clinton would be chosen as the nominee without much of a fight.

Others, including Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and former GOPer Lincoln Chafee are among the 15 declared Democratic candidates. However, the Hillary alternative that seems to be attracting the most attention is Vermont Senator and avowed Socialist Bernie Sanders. Supporters have staged rallies for the 74 year old around the country with the theme, “Who the Hell is Bernie Sanders?,” including in Atlanta, where around 100 people showed up at Manuel’s Tavern on a recent Sunday, as the Washington Post reports.

In the Atlanta version, it was a gathering of ardent progressives but also relative newcomers to this world, people slightly surprised that it was the rumpled, white-haired Brooklyn native — who speaks of reversing “grotesque” income inequality, getting billionaires out of politics and the need for “political revolution” — who was best articulating their growing unease with the direction of the country.

These people included [Dan] Friedman, his gray hair closely clipped, his glasses wire-rimmed.

“If you look at his 12 points,” he said, referring to agenda items such as taxing the wealthiest, breaking up big banks and free college tuition, “they are more aligned with mainstream Americans than other candidates, particularly if you do away with labels — that ‘socialist’ label.”

Friedman said his own politics had not changed that much since he first voted Democrat in 1968 after the Bobby Kennedy assassination; rather, he said, the party had moved further away from his values, so far that he was now slapping on a People-for-Bernie name tag.

On the Republican side of the aisle, there’s been a lot of talk about how one candidate or another isn’t conservative enough, along with fears that “the establishment” will dictate which candidate emerges as the winner at the RNC Convention 13 months from today. Looking across the aisle, some conservatives fear Hillary Clinton as the third term of the Barack Obama presidency. Judging by the reaction at the “People for Bernie” meetings like the one in Atlanta, it appears that some Democrats are looking for an alternative to an expected Hillary coronation.

Donald Trump announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for president on Tuesday, evoking LOLs from many in the GOP who, despite admiring his spunk, think there is no way the real estate mogul and reality TV star could win the nomination. The question for Democrats is whether a Sanders candidacy represents a serious effort by the party to get back to its progressive heritage, or if Sanders is the Democrat’s answer to Donald Trump.

Peach Pundit-GA Politics

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