Last month, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her bid for the White House. Clinton, who mesmerizes Democrats with her strong name recognition and decades of experience, has faced little opposition. Indeed, for many on the left, there is an assumption that she is the default candidate who has already won the primaries.
Then came Bernie Sanders, a long-serving progressive Senator from Vermont who defied the political establishment by announcing his bid for the Democratic primary. In the first few days of his campaign, Sanders was able to raise more than $1 million and take more press questions than Clinton.
However, many liberals are laughing at the prospect of a Sanders candidacy. Without considering the credentials of other candidates, these individuals still have this mindset that Clinton will not only be the Democratic nominee in 2016, but that she should also, by default, be the only one running.
From a practical perspective, this mentality may prove devastating for the Democratic Party next year.
When President Barack Obama first ran for his office, he ignited a wave of political enthusiasm from key demographic groups, including young people and minorities that were needed to beat Sen. John McCain in 2008. Their motivation to vote stemmed not just from the prospect of electing our first black president, but also from the fact that Obama brought us a message of change that was needed to undo the wrongs of former President George W. Bush.
What do we have now, though?
Sure, Clinton may motivate some young people because of her gender. But given the fact that Carly Fiorina is also running for president, albeit for the Republican nomination, this rationale dissolves rather quickly. Instead, we are left with an establishment candidate who holds hawkish views on war, remains silent on free trade
and the Keystone XL Pipeline and refuses to separate herself from the backing of large corporations.
Therefore, key demographics, particularly young people who were alienated by Obama’s relative lack of progressivism, will have little reason to turn up to the polls in 2016. This will increase the probability of the Republican nominee becoming the next president.
The Sanders challenge to the Clinton machine, though, provides an excellent opportunity for her to actually face opposition from a true progressive. At best, Sanders — or another prospective candidate, such as former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley — will win the nomination and drive all of the key demographics to the ballot box in 2016.
At worst, Clinton will be forced to confront progressive critiques during the primary debates, which will likely push her more toward the left and reduce young people’s alienation just in time for the general election.
Instead of rushing to support Clinton, let’s hear from true progressive voices. We shouldn’t dismiss them outright in favor of a de facto Hillary nomination.