Why you should care
Because he started a movement that some say isn’t nearly finished.
You need not be Isaac Newton to see that Hillary Clinton’s delegate math adds up real nice. Bernie Sanders, the independent/socialist/Democrat, probably won’t turn out to be the establishment spoiler his supporters hoped. But he did give all those galvanized by Occupy Wall Street and ruffled by Citizens United a voice in the election — and a modicum of hope. Perhaps, the thinking goes, by 2020, the prospect of a lefty, self-proclaimed anti-establishment candidate won’t be so far-fetched.
And as it turns out, there are a few Bernies in the making, poised perhaps to make a run in 2020, 2024 or beyond. You already know about Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but there are other, less obvious heirs apparent to Sanders and his enviable bloc of independents, millennials and would-be revolutionaries.
Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.)
Back in October — before Iowa, before New Hampshire — Ellison became the second congressman to declare that he was feeling the Bern. The fifth-term representative, who is Black and a Muslim, has long been willing to speak out against those in the Democratic establishment, even when it might seem risky. To wit: He dug into Hillary early and bitingly with an accusation that she was running a “No, you can’t” campaign. When we saw him speak at Stanford University, he criticized even the NAACP for its tepidness.
Ellison speaks with a preacher’s cadence and manages to incite simultaneous laughter and head shaking on issues such as Islamophobia. Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Ellison has ranked as one of the most liberal Congress members. Had he a national platform, expect him to advocate for racial justice, civil liberties and government transparency.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii)
Unlike Bernie, an oft-rumpled 74, Gabbard is a 30-something, um, hottie who last year met our reporter on an Oahu beach. The Army National Guard veteran — she is still in the Reserves and served two tours in the Middle East — has better foreign policy cred than Sanders; she sat on the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security committees, and she is almost certainly a better surfer.
But otherwise? Gabbard and Sanders share an abrasive, critical edge, and neither has qualms about diverging from the party line. For example, last year she took to television to call out the Obama administration’s stance on Iraq and terrorism. Gabbard endorsed Bernie a couple months back, and we could see her making presidential waves in 2020.
Larry Cohen, Unionist and Adviser
Back when Bernie Sanders was just that messy-haired grandpa you sometimes saw ranting on C-SPAN, Larry Cohen saw the potential of the Vermont senator’s presidential run. The labor leader had just stepped down as the longtime president of the Communications Workers of America, and signed up to be a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign. Even though he hasn’t held public office, the 66-year-old Cohen has served in the campaign trenches with Sanders and could arguably make a bid for Bernie’s blessing, should he want it. Like Sanders, Cohen opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and brings a class-based, establishment critique that evokes the pox-on-both-parties rhetoric that Sanders has embraced. “We’re not a rubber stamp for the Democratic Party,” Cohen said in 2015, “and certainly not for corporate Democrats.”
Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)
An original Saturday Night Live screenwriter who parlayed his celebrity into an unlikely senatorial career, Franken could easily run for president. After all, he already has the requisite campaign memoir, Why Not Me?, though it’s a farcical account of his fictional jaunt to the White House. While Franken’s frankness — improper jokes from his comedic days — would typically preclude him from a serious presidential run, his indecency pales in comparison to the loose lips and random fire of Donald Trump this election.
If you’re by chance a Minnesotan, you might remember ads such as “Rigged,” in which an old-man-progressive rails against surreptitious “Wall Street banks.” That’s from Al Franken’s 2014 re-election campaign. And if you think Bernie can rile up the Internet, just wait and see what a liberal comedian can do in our meme-and-viral-video-obsessed age. It’s like if Jon Stewart ran for prez.