Is Bernie Sanders Our Eugene McCarthy 2.0?
By Eugene Robinson
Is Bernie Sanders the political reincarnation of Eugene McCarthy? I doubt it, but let’s hope he makes the Democratic presidential race interesting.
I don’t know if front-runner Hillary Clinton shares my wish, but she ought to. I’m not of the school that believes competition for competition’s sake is always a good thing. But Sanders has an appeal for younger, more liberal, more idealistic Democrats that Clinton presently lacks. If she competes for these voters—and learns to connect with them—she will have a much better chance of winning the White House.
Sanders the Vermont independent and the only self-described socialist in the Senate, drew packed houses during a weekend barnstorming tour of Iowa. The 2,500 people who attended his rally in Council Bluffs were believed to be the largest crowd a candidate from either party has drawn in the state. This followed last week’s triumph in Madison, Wisconsin, where Sanders packed a 10,000-seat arena with cheering supporters—the biggest event anywhere thus far in the campaign.
At the same time, Sanders is rising in the polls. The latest Quinnipiac survey showed Clinton with a 19-point lead in Iowa, 52 percent to 33 percent. As recently as May, Clinton had a 45-point advantage.
Comparisons have been made to McCarthy, the Minnesota senator whose opposition to the Vietnam War galvanized support on college campuses and stunned the Democratic Party establishment. McCarthy’s showing in the 1968 New Hampshire primary—he received 42 percent of the vote—helped lead incumbent Lyndon Johnson to pull out of the race.
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