If Bernie Sanders runs for president as a Democrat, he could have a similarly energizing effect for the left that another Vermonter had in 2003 and 2004. Of course, Howard Dean was a moderate Democrat and a WASP, not a 75 year-old socialist Jew with a Brooklyn accent. If the election of Barack Obama made a quarter of this country lose their damn minds, I imagine that nearly half would have a heart attack and bury their valuables if Bernie Sanders became our leader.

But that doesn’t really matter, because Sanders would never win the nomination, let alone the presidency. And I don’t think winning would really be the point of his campaign anyway, which can be liberating but also limits how much effort people are willing to put into the project. I know that I wouldn’t drop anything to help Sanders’ campaign, but I’d vote for him in a second.

Ideally, someone a little younger, whose personal biography doesn’t give half the country the urge to burn a cross and check their fluoridation levels, would emerge to offer a more viable alternative to Hillary Clinton. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio could be that guy. Maybe Sen. Tom Udall could take on that role.

A stronger challenge to Clinton would probably be helpful to her because two strong campaigns can register more voters than one. And because working for the nomination helps a candidate work out the kinks, make bad news “old news,” and hone their debating skills.

I read that Bernie Sanders visited Alabama not too long ago. I’d enjoy seeing a lot more of that. I think he’s a very persuasive person. But I don’t think a whole lot will come of this talk of him running for president, whether as a Democrat or as an independent.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com