by Steve Early
While the former “First Lady” remains an unannounced candidate to succeed Barack Obama, she’s been hearing footsteps from a one-time Senatorial colleague who is threatening to run to the left of her. Clinton’s potential challenger is Bernie Sanders, who has, for nearly 25 years, represented Vermont in Congress, first as a member of the House of Representatives and, since 2006, the Senate. Vermont is a small, rural northeastern state with a largely white population of just 640,000.
In ten straight federal races, the 73-year old Sanders has campaigned as an anti-corporate independent, defeating both conservative Republicans and Clinton-like centrist Democrats. Sanders also has the distinction of being the only socialist on Capitol Hill and one of its most ardent supporters of collective bargaining, Social Security, and tax-financed health insurance for all Americans.
As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sanders just helped win $15 billion in much-needed new funding for publicly-funded hospitals serving veterans of past U.S. wars, several of which—the disastrous interventions in Vietnam and Iraq–he strongly opposed. In 2007, his office helped facilitate the delivery of discounted home heating oil to hundreds of low-income families and (free of charge) to homeless shelters in Vermont, a humanitarian gesture made possible by Venezuelan-owned CITGO Petroleum.
Recently, Sanders has been barnstorming around the U.S., making stops in Iowa, Wisconsin, and several southern states. There, he has held “town meetings” with potential presidential election voters and given media interviews critical of Democrats like Clinton who favor job-killing “free trade” deals and other Wall Street-friendly policies. This has raised hopes, on the left, that the Vermont senator may enter the 2016 presidential race and liven up the debate about key foreign and domestic policy questions where the difference between Democrats and Republicans can be hard to find.