Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson says it's about time we had a candidate pushing democratic socialism as a solution:
The independent from Vermont is not likely, putting it mildly, to displace Hillary Clinton as the Democratic front-runner, or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as the leader of U.S. liberalism, but in the best tradition of Debs and Thomas, he is advancing ideas that Democrats, Clinton included, may in time embrace. Sanders calls for Medicare for all and free higher education to be financed with higher taxes on the rich. Like Debs and Thomas, who won their highest votes in elections in which the tide was running left (for Debs, 1912, in which the victor was Woodrow Wilson; for Thomas, 1932, in which the victor was Franklin D. Roosevelt), Sanders is running while Democrats are again moving left in response to the deep dysfunctions of U.S. capitalism.
In the past few weeks, leading Democratic think tanks have proposed establishing a public option for health care, national funding for state universities and higher Social Security benefits — policies distinctly more progressive than last year’s standard Democratic fare. Democratic city councils are raising the minimum wage and requiring paid sick days. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats brought the free-trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations to a shuddering, if provisional halt, pending the addition of legislation that pays more heed to the concerns of U.S. workers.
Much of what Sanders champions is a slightly more social democratic version of the newly populist liberalism. He can make an even more helpful contribution by offering proposals to change our economic institutions in ways that re-socialize capitalism — rolling back the power that major shareholders wield over corporations, creating labor rights for workers in the gig economy, making businesses more answerable to their workers and consumers.
Combining his avowed socialism with his gruff grandpa manner, Sanders brings to today’s politics an authenticity otherwise in short supply. At best, his role, like that of Debs and Thomas, may prove to be prophetic. “I am not the champion of lost causes,” Thomas insisted, “but the champion of causes not yet won.”