Bernie Sanders Is Barry Goldwater

by Bob Schwartz

Bernie Sanders for the Democrats is what Barry Goldwater was for the Republicans.

In the short run that might make the current generation of Democrats unhappy. In the long run, they should ask the Republicans how that turned out.

This is how it turned out. An unlikely, marginalized, and idealistic candidate tried to remind a party of its deepest philosophical roots. He won the party’s nomination for President, against all odds and against the wishes of many in the party, who believed he would lead them to total and inglorious defeat. Which he did.

Barry Goldwater also won. It is understandable that the Republican Party lionizes Ronald Reagan as its hero, model and godfather, since Reagan went on to serve two inspiring terms as President. But it was Goldwater, that embarrassment to some in 1964, who inspired Reagan himself and that first young generation of modern Republican conservatives (including Hillary Clinton, who began her political involvement as a Goldwater Girl).

We don’t know how the Bernie Sanders adventure turns out, either in the upcoming caucuses and primaries or at the convention. He is just as unlikely, marginalized and idealistic as Goldwater, and maybe less likely to win the nomination.

But in the long run, progressives who have been sidelined by the siren song of unwavering pragmatism—politics as the art of the possible—may be the winners. A new generation of genuine and fearless progressives may be born, even as the unlikely messenger is pushed aside.

In the words of Barry Goldwater, and as Bernie Sanders might also say:

“And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

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