In his campaign “launch” yesterday, Sen. Bernie Sanders presented one of the most succinct, easy-to-summarize policy agendas we’ve seen from a presidential candidate in a long time. More progressive taxes. Breaking up the big banks. A constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. A carbon tax. A single-payer health care system. Expanding Social Security. Universal pre-k. Free college tuition. A trillion-dollar infrastructure program. A $15 an hour minimum wage. And a reversal of international economic policies that promote/allow job exports.
The haziest part of Sanders’ speech was its foreign policy/national security section. I was a little surprised he didn’t go after the bipartisan coalition supporting higher defense spending. He did reject what he called “the endless war in the Middle East,” and suggested the coalition fighting IS needed to be Muslim-led.
In any event, for those who wanted Democrats in this race to “keep Hillary honest,” Sanders is providing a handy-dandy checklist of progressive policy desiderata against which she can be measured. And despite Clinton’s great strength, he’s also perhaps the most credible seriously lefty candidate in living memory. He’s no Dennis Kucinich, doomed to become a figure of fun. It will be interesting to see whether Martin O’Malley finds some distinctive policy space to occupy, or a clear rationale for candidacy.