The right couldn't have invented a better candidate than
In Steffens' defense, he visited in 1919, two years after its founding and before most of the inconvenient mass murder and starvation. Sanders thought the
Of course, this isn't why most of Sanders' fans like him. He was on the right side of the civil rights movement when it really mattered. He's been a consistent advocate of what he calls democratic socialism here at home. And he's an unreconstructed enemy of the economic elites, particularly the hated "billionaire class."
Which brings us to
Bloomberg is a perfect stand-in for a completely different kind of liberalism, one that doesn't even like to call itself liberal. He headlined the launch of No Labels, an organization dedicated to getting ideology out of politics. A lifelong Democrat, Bloomberg switched labels to become a Republican to run for mayor in 2001. By his third term he was an independent. Now he's a Democrat because he's running for president.
As mayor of
"Ninety-five percent of murders, murderers and murder victims fit one
In a video from 2011 that's going around, Bloomberg offered a quasi-endorsement of "death panels."
"If you show up with prostate cancer, you're 95 years old, [we] should say go and enjoy, you've lived a long life, there's no cure. We can't do anything," Bloomberg said. "If you're a young person, we should do something about it. Society's not willing to do that yet."
This isn't why his fans like him. For a long time he was an icon of the credentialed upper class who saw ideological culture-war fights as so much boob bait. More recently, he's become the liberals' "
Both men represent strands of liberalism with very long pedigrees. Sanders can trace his lineage back to antiwar socialists and populists such as
Like Trump, both men are beneficiaries of our hollowed-out political parties, which are incapable of performing the gatekeeper function of the nomination process.
And that raises the stakes of their contest. Trump has transformed much of the
If either Sanders or Bloomberg wins the nomination, it will be interesting to see if the same thing happens to
Again, Democratic politicians normally straddle these two tendencies. There are, of course, other options for primary voters. But the choice between these two is zero-sum, and if either man wins, the Democratic Party could end up making a choice that will define it as much as Trump has come to define the
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