ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont, should run for president as an unapologetic and independent socialist, which would allow him to tap into a wide vein of American political thought that has included anarchists, populist farmers, trade and industrial unionists, farm-labor coalitions, social democrats, communists and grassroots social movements in diverse aggregates.
Seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party would be suicide for the campaign because it would be proof to most Americans that Sanders does not represent an alternative worldview. His platform must be in service to the common good, not the welfare of the wealthiest, and that means, for starters, increased tax rates for corporations and the wealthy individuals, regulation of Wall Street and the financial industries, greater public ownership of mineral wealth and major utilities, aggressive reform of the military/industrial complex, a comprehensive health care plan, and a publicly assisted jobs program.
The Democrats, their Republican brethren, the mainstream news media, and the fire-breathing guardians of public morality would circle the wagons at the first sign of success, so a draft Sanders program should be one strategic effort in a broader movement to build a better society. That will require a common vision anchored in the presidential platform and built by activists in schools, workplaces, communities, churches and cyberhoods.
Democratic participation, when it is reduced to a trip to the voting booth every four years, is insufficient to build democracy, socialism or justice. A single election victory, even the White House at a cost in excess of $800 million, guarantees nothing. A Sanders presidential bid will be successful to the extent that it looks beyond 2012 and serves as a beacon of sane justice for a struggling nation.