What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.
Did anyone get to the Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame dinner last night to hear U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont? I wasn't there, but judging from Lynda Waddington's live tweets, he gave a great keynote speech, touching on economic inequality, climate change, education, and single-payer health care (which drew a standing ovation). Sanders thanked Iowans for sending Tom Harkin to Washington, where he earned his place in history.
Before the speech, Sanders told Waddington that he is considering running for president in 2016. The reception he gets in Iowa will influence his decision. I hope he runs, and not only because I would much rather caucus for him than for Hillary Clinton or "uncommitted." Ben Jacobs predicts Sanders would "flop" against Clinton in Iowa, but I think he's viewing the prospect through the wrong lens. People run for president for different reasons. Some are trying to win, while others are trying to drive the debate toward a certain set of issues. Of course Sanders doesn't have a "path to victory" against Clinton in the Iowa caucuses--no Democrat would be able to beat her here. That's not why he would be running. He explained his thought process in an interview late last year, which I've excerpted below. Sanders has always been elected to Congress as an independent, but I hope he would run for president as a Democrat.
The purpose of a progressive alternative in the race would be to force Hillary to focus more on issues of importance to liberals instead of spending all her time catering to Wall Street executives. On Friday she gave a "populist" policy speech about income inequality (excerpts are after the jump). Maybe she's only pretending to care, but the more she goes on record promising to do something about these problems, the better. I believe Senator Elizabeth Warren when she says she is not running for president. In her absence, Bernie Sanders would be an outstanding voice for progressive values during the Democratic primaries.
From Benjy Sarlin's report on Hillary Clinton's speech at the New America Foundation on May 16:
Clinton told the audience that middle class incomes had stagnated over the last decade even as the average worker's productivity had increased significantly in the same period. She pointed to studies that showed 4 out of 10 children born into the lowest rung on the economic ladder remained there as adults.
She cited troubling statistics indicating that many younger African-American workers were falling out of the middle class. She noted that life expectancies for lower income women were dropping. She warned that news that middle class Canadians now enjoyed better wages, hours, and government benefits than their American counterparts was a "wake-up call."
"And where is it all going?" Clinton asked. "Economists have documented how the share of income and wealth going to those at the very top, not just the top 1 percent but the top 0.1 percent, the 0.01 percent of the population, has risen sharply over the last generation," she said. "Some are calling it a throwback to the Gilded Age of the robber barons." [...]
She also explicitly contrasted her husband's record on inequality as president with President George W. Bush.
"The 1990s taught us that even in the face of difficult long term economic trends it's possible through smart policies and sound investments to enjoy broad based growth and shared prosperity," she said.
Excerpt from Sam Hemingway's report for the Burlington Free Press, November 15, 2013:
Sanders says he is willing to consider making a run if no one else with progressive views similar to his ends up taking the plunge.
It is essential, he said, to have someone in the 2016 presidential campaign who is willing to take on Wall Street, address the "collapse" of the middle class, tackle the spread of poverty and fiercely oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Also, addressing global warming needs to be a top priority, not an afterthought, Sanders said.
"Under normal times, it's fine, you have a moderate Democrat running, a moderate Republican running," Sanders said. "These are not normal times. The United States right now is in the middle of a severe crisis and you have to call it what it is."
Sanders said if he does run, he would "probably" do so as an independent. It's a label that has been of value to him in his statewide races but could become a complication as a presidential hopeful.
"The disadvantages of being an independent are you not going to get in these big debates that you have on television," he said. "But I'm very proud to be an independent."