Bernie Sanders Has Already Won

tags: political history, Bernie Sanders

Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown and a co-editor of Dissent, is writing a history of the Democratic Party.

Despite his victory Tuesday night in the New Hampshire primary, Bernie Sanders still faces an uphill climb to win the Democratic nomination and if successful could well lose to President Trump this fall. Yet even in defeat, the first self-declared socialist in American history to have a realistic chance at both prizes is likely to achieve a different kind of victory, one few actual presidents ever have: transforming the ideology and program of a major party.

In fact, those candidates who manage to shift the party decisively are often not the ones who win the White House itself.

In 1896, William Jennings Bryan, running as a Democrat against William McKinley, traveled the nation denouncing “the money power” and defending the rights of labor. Despite his loss that year, and in two subsequent races, his party embraced the pro-regulation, antimonopoly, pro-union stand of this eloquent politician called “the Great Commoner.” The resulting policies did much to elect Woodrow Wilson to the White House twice (with Bryan as his secretary of state from 1913 to 1915) and Franklin Roosevelt four times.

In 1972, Senator George McGovern suffered a landslide drubbing in his attempt to persuade voters who detested the war in Vietnam to unseat Richard Nixon. Yet since then, most activist Democrats have effectively echoed McGovern’s plea to “Come Home, America.” Like him, they oppose nearly every armed intervention overseas and advocate shrinking the military budget.

Read entire article at NY Times

comments powered by Disqus