Sanders leads change in party

Bernie Sanders could be the 2016 version of Barry Goldwater for Democrats

The 2016 Democratic primary just got a lot less interesting this week. Two candidates who participated in the first debate, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, dropped out of the race, and Vice President Joe Biden announced he would not be running for the presidency. Along with a moderately well-handled appearance before the House Committee investigating the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, these events seem to have made Hillary Clinton’s nomination all the more inevitable.

democrats — Bernie Sanders led the Democrat’s shift to the left. Google Images

Democrats — Bernie Sanders led the Democrat’s shift to the left. Google Images

Clinton’s only real competition at this point is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who continues to shock and entertain with his extreme socialist positions. Many, including The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, have compared Sanders and his campaign to that of Sen. Gene McCarthy in 1968. McCarthy, who like Sanders was virtually unknown coming into the primaries, challenged sitting President Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination and did so well, specifically in New Hampshire, that the president was forced to withdraw from the race. Yet, as Sanders’ poll numbers and appeal continue to slip, it seems as though he will not have the same effect on Clinton as McCarthy had on Johnson.

A more apt historical comparison that I would like to put forward is between Sanders and former Sen. Barry Goldwater. Yes, Goldwater did win the Republican nomination in 1964, and Sanders most likely will not win the Democratic nomination this election cycle. However, when one looks at a deeper level, there are a number of things these two campaigns have in common. Both have been labeled as crazy firebrands with outlandish ideas that would bring America to its knees if they were instituted.

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is not vice,” Goldwater said in his now infamous nomination acceptance speech. “And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is not virtue.”

“Extremism” is a term used often to describe the policies these two men put forward.

However, while Goldwater went on to lose by a massive margin to Johnson in the general election, his influence on the future of the Republican Party was profound. His small-government principles built the foundation for Ronald Reagan’s policies in his presidential run and are still ingrained in the party’s platform today.

“Goldwater’s nomination 16 years earlier (than Reagan’s victory in 1980) had been a leading indicator — and one cause — of the country’s ideological sorting out,” writes George Will in the Washington Post. “Today, conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans are comparably sparce.”

It could be projected that Sanders will have a similar effect on the Democrats. Even now, you can see his impact on the race as he pulls Clinton farther and farther left every week. Sen. Marco Rubio, in an interview with Sean Hannity this week, stated, “If you saw the (Democratic) debate last week, what you’re basically seeing is a Democratic Party that’s being taken over by a radical left wing element within that party.”

In the not-so-distant future, Sanders may be viewed as the standard bearer for a new Democratic Party that reflects his European socialist policies. What is viewed as bizarre and destructive today may very well be normal and everyday in 10-15 years. As Goldwater is viewed as the “Father of Modern Conservatism” today, so Sanders may be viewed as the “Father of Modern Liberalism” for Democrats in the years to come.

Sutherland is the opinion editor.

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