By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny
I want to put this on people’s radar and suggest a few questions as the drama begins to unfold: What would happen if Bernie Sanders ran for President in 2020?
Barring Change, Sanders Could Easily Enter the Race
First, let’s make all the enabling assumptions — that he remains healthy and strong, that he remains the most popular politician in America (see graph above), that no disruptive scandals emerge to derail him in the meantime.
Given all that, it’s certainly possible that he will run. Consider just a few indicators. Politico:
Bernie makes moves pointing to 2020 run
The Vermont senator is taking aggressive steps to address long-running political weaknesses, like his lack of foreign policy bona fides.
Bernie Sanders is taking steps to address longstanding political shortcomings that were exposed in 2016, ahead of another possible presidential bid in 2020.
From forging closer ties to the labor movement to shoring up his once-flimsy foreign policy credentials, the moves have provided the senator inroads into party power structures that largely shunned him in favor of Hillary Clinton last year. They’ve also empowered the progressive icon to harness his newfound political power and help Democrats fight President Donald Trump’s administration.
Sanders has been working closely with figures who are close to the party establishment he’s long railed against, like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. And he’s been meeting with international affairs experts such as Bill Perry, a defense secretary in the administration of President Bill Clinton, around a series of speeches designed to define his international vision, one year after running a campaign heavy on domestic policy and light on the rest of the world.
The Vermont independent hasn’t decided whether to run for president again in 2020. To his closest allies, his efforts represent a natural next step in his role as “outreach chairman” for Senate Democrats, a new position created for him late last year by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
Yet the maneuvers could form an important part of a Sanders 2020 effort, a dozen of those allies acknowledged to POLITICO — one that looks markedly different from his surprise 2016 bid, which often suffered from a lack of mainstream political support.
Newsweek looked at a poll written up by The Hill that showed Sanders leading a large field of Democrats…
How Dem insiders rank the 2020 contenders
Democrats predict that as many as 30 candidates will compete in their party’s presidential primary in 2020.
And while it’s still too early to say who might come out on top, buzz is building around some potential candidates, even as other hopefuls fade to the background.
A year after a devastating 2016 defeat, Democrats are craving new faces with fresh ideas. Yet many of their leading contenders for the White House in 2020 are politicians who have been around for decades.
There’s also no clear standout in the potential field. …
The Hill interviewed nearly a dozen prominent Democrats to find out who has captured the party’s attention in recent months and who has fallen out of favor.
Here’s how they see the field stacking up right now.
1. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Advisers to the senator are telegraphing that Sanders is eyeing a 2020 run — and his network is already ready to go, with supporters convinced that he was the candidate who would have beaten President Trump in 2016.
“His people have never gone away,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “And he has a loyal core following out there that will be with him come hell or high water.”
Also working in Sanders’s favor, Bannon said, is the leftward shift of the Democratic Party.
“The Sanders wing is becoming the dominant wing of the party,” he said.
Still, strategists note that Sanders would be 79 in 2020, which could work against him at a time when Democrats are hungry for change.
…and wrote it up for their readers with this headline:
Bernie Sanders will Face Donald Trump in 2020 Election, Democrats Say
If nothing else, there’s media interest in promoting such a contest, and I strongly suspect there’s great public interest as well. Don’t be surprised if he enters the race. In fact, be surprised if he doesn’t, barring a unforeseen derailment.
If Sanders Runs, How Will He Be Treated?
This brings us to the second part of our consideration — What will be his treatment if he runs? I offer these questions, something to keep in mind in that eventuality.
In the primary:
• Will he be delegitimized by the Democratic Party, as he was in 2016?
• Will he be ignored or delegitimized by the media — even and especially MSNBC — as he was in 2016?
• Will lower level Party officials commit what would be treated by Democrats — even and especially at MSNBC — as election fraud if it were done by Republicans, in order to advantage other, more mainstream candidates?
If he reaches the general election:
• Would Bernie Sanders get the Al Gore Treatment by the media (“What a goof. He claims he invented the Internet!”) — even if his opponent were Donald Trump?
• Would the mainstream leaders of the Democratic Party give Sanders, their unpreferred candidate, the same full support in 2020 that they gave their preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, in 2016? Or would some of them sabotage him — even if his opponent were Donald Trump?
• Would “left-leaning” members of the prominent press, Rachel Maddow for example, pull out every stop to delegitimize the Republican (as they’re doing now)? Or would they take a more “on the one hand, on the other hand” approach to a race with a Sanders’ candidacy — even if his opponent were Donald Trump, or a lesser, far more dangerous light like Mike Pence?
If Sanders Is Elected, How Will He Be Treated?
Finally, let’s look briefly at how he would be treated as president. Any Democratic president will certainly get The Treatment by Republicans (acting as though he’s not the real president, or that he doesn’t deserve the office), just as Trump is getting The Treatment now (“He’s not really president. He cheated to win.”) by many in the “Trump-Russia!” crowd.
Remember, if we think it right to withhold judgment on which laws were broken in the Al Franken case until an investigation is completed (I do), we should also withhold judgment on Trump until his current investigation is completed. Nevertheless, in Trump’s case the Democratic media’s fevered speculation started almost the day he took office and before any evidence was in.
In that light, what would happen to a President Sanders? Remember, Sanders’ policy proposals are likely to be as anti-Establishment as Trump’s were during his own campaign. It’s those anti-Establishment positions that would get him elected in our ongoing popular rebellion against Rule by the Rich.
Sanders would, in effect, be “Trump on the Left,” but far more meaningfully, since he’d actually be sincere about his policy promises.
If Sanders were president:
• Sanders will certainly get the Bill Clinton version of The Treatment — endless investigations by elected officials and private investigators — by Republicans. Will Sanders get the Donald Trump version of The Treatment — leaks and complicity by current and former members of the national security establishment — as well?
• If the national security establishment joins an attack on the second elected president in a row, will mainstream Democratic leaders denounce those attacks and defend him — even as Sanders is proposing policies more like Jeremy Corbin’s (“For the many, not the few”) than anything supported by mainstream Democratic leaders in decades?
• And finally, if Sanders is elected president, and mainstream Democrats, subtly or not, join with Republicans and the corporate media in taking him down or rendering him ineffective — will there be any reason at all to engage in politics in the 10 years that follow in America?
Because, keep in mind, when it comes to climate, slow Democratic Party-style “winning” is as deadly as losing, and by the mid 2020s, that horse will have certainly left the barn for good.
Plus, when it comes to the real Resistance against Rule by the Rich, our “rolling civil war” — the one where people give up on elections and the two sides just go to battle — keeps getting closer and closer. What will be the state of relations between the “muscular” security state and the Real Resistance at that point? Will elections have any meaning at all after the State and its mainstream, Establishment defenders have closed ranks for good?
Over to you, Democratic Party and your media enablers. What will you do if Sanders is your candidate?