... the media has mostly presented Sanders as a non-serious kook....But his campaign announcement today drew a good crowd and his speech is making a lot of points that progressives want made. He's not just polling respectably in New Hampshire, a neighboring state -- Public Policy Pollling has him at 24% in Washington State among Democratic voters, admittedly well behind Hillary Clinton (at 57%), but far ahead of Martin O'Malley (4%), Jim Webb (2%), and Lincoln Chafee (1%).
Indeed, if anything Sanders is more credible than the likes of [Rand] Paul and [Ted] Cruz. He has risen markedly in the polls of late, where his support has about tripled since the end of last year. He's doing particularly well in New Hampshire, where a recent poll put him in second place at 18 percent support. As an opponent of the Iraq War and a longtime advocate for more progressive policy, he has a natural constituency in the liberal left, where he is genuinely admired.
... But more to the point, it is simply inappropriate for powerful media figures to consistently bookend any mention of Sanders with comments about his inevitable electoral demise.
... Bernie Sanders is a sitting United States senator who could easily finish second in the Democratic presidential primary. It is conceivable that he could even end up as Clinton's running mate. The fact that he is utterly fearless in advocating for Scandinavian-style democratic socialism is no reason to treat him like a kook.
So I think he's going to be the top alternative to Clinton in 2016. He may not really have a serious chance at the nomination, but he'll be heard.
One reason he'll be heard: The press wants to see Hillary Clinton knocked around a bit. The mainstream press wants a battle rather than a coronation. And the right-wing press is extremely eager to see Clinton damaged.
Hillary Clinton was treated with surprising warmth on Fox News for much of the first half of 2008, after Barack Obama took a lead in the primaries, and Fox really might develop a surprising fondness for Bernie Sanders in the next few months. I'm not guaranteeing it -- Sanders said in his speech today that he doesn't want to engage in personal attacks, and unlike, say, Ralph Nader, he seems smart enough to know when the right-wing press is trying to make him into a useful idiot. Sanders is making very specific complaints about the concentration of wealth in this country, and it's going to be hard for Fox to edit that sort of thing down to a wingnut-friendly attack on Hillary. But if he ever talks in generalities about, say, "crony capitalism," Fox will happily run with that.
I defend Hillary Clinton because we have a horrible electoral system in which billions will be spent against the Democratic presidential candidate, so billions will be needed to keep the Supreme Court from being restocked with four fortysomething Scalias. I think she's all that's standing in the way of that. But I like what Bernie Sanders says. I can't imagine him becoming president in the same country where the 2014 elections gave us the greatest Republican dominance of Congress and state governments in eighty years, but I want him heard. Don't worry -- for good and bad reasons, he will be.