An incumbent President seeking re-election usually faces no opposition during their respective party's primaries, especially if the sitting President is still popular. And after a President's two consecutive terms, vice-presidents and others within an incumbent's administration sometimes also have this same advantage — if anything, because of their name recognition — and why (despite what she says) Hillary Clinton is really running for Bill Clinton's or Barack Obama's third term (by piggy-backing on the popularity of previous administrations).
As to Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — their races merely became pro forma for their respective political parties, because serious challengers are rare.
The first binding event, in which a candidate can secure their party's convention delegates, is traditionally by way of the Iowa caucus — and is followed by the New Hampshire primary, the first primary by tradition. In recent elections, the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have garnered over half the media attention given to the entire selection process. But the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have also produced a number of headline-making upsets in the past.
Regarding the 2016 general election, Democratic politicians and media pundits have expressed doubt about Senator Bernie Sanders's "electability" compared to Hillary Clinton's — even though polls have showed (as of November 10, 2015) Sanders winning in a general election by wider margins over Clinton against half of the GOP candidates.
And if someone such as Richard Trumka, President of America's largest labor union, the AFL-CIO (or the very popular Senator Elizabeth Warren) had come out with an early endorsement for Bernie Sanders, then other labor unions and other Democratic politicians/delegates may have followed suit — thereby increasing Bernie Sanders' so-called electability. (And probably giving him better early polling results.)
But instead, most labor unions and establishment Democrats have endorsed Bill Clinton's wife (Obama's former Secretary of State) to help perpetuate the political establishment's monopoly on American politics — and why Bernie Sanders says we desperately need a "political revolution". Sanders' Democratic nomination to run for POTUS may be the last chance in a very long time to change the establishment stranglehold on our corrupted two-party political system. Just the fact that Hillary Clinton is running is, in fact, an effort by the political elites to keep the corrupt political status quo.
If Hillary truly cared about the lifting more people into the middle-class (rather than just pursuing her own personal ambitions of becoming "the first woman president"), she would have bowed out of the race by now, allowing Bernie Sanders to run virtually unopposed — and then endorse Senator Bernie Sanders, who has just as good a chance of beating any Republican candidate in the 2016 general election (maybe even better, once the election process gears up, and more people get to know Bernie better — especially the African-American community).
Bernie Sanders is only running now because he saw no other viable alternative to fixing our corrupt political system. He may not have even ran had Elizabeth Warren thrown her hat into the ring. And vice president Joe Biden would not have been a viable alternative either, because just like Hillary, he would have also been running for Obama's third term. And uncle Joe knew that, and why he may have finally chosen not to run with Hillary in the race.
If we end up with a GOP President in 2016, we might have Hillary and her supporters to blame (some Republicans who would consider voting for Bernie would never vote for Hillary). Or if she wins the Presidency, and we end up with another 8 years of the "same ole, same ole", then we also have the DNC political machine and the media to blame. Either way, the American people will get screwed again.
But it doesn't always have to be this way going forward — because it hasn't always been this way in the past.
A very brief history of the current two-party U.S. political system
The Federalist party came into being as a national coalition of bankers and businessmen in support of Alexander Hamilton's fiscal policies. The Federalist Party was the first American political party and existed from the early 1790s to 1816.
The Democratic-Republican Party was the American political party in the 1790s of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, which was formed in opposition to the Federalist party. It came to power in 1800, and dominated national and state affairs until the 1820s, and then faded away. The Democratic-Republican Party (the first "Republican Party") was also known as the Jeffersonian Republicans, whose base was in the rural South.
After the 1824 election, separate factions developed in support of John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Adams' politicians, including most ex-Federalists (such as Daniel Webster and even Adams himself), would gradually evolve into the National Republican Party, and those politicians that supported Jackson would later help form the modern Democratic Party in 1828.
The Whig Party emerged in 1833–34 as a coalition of National Republicans, who were mostly disaffected Jacksonians and people whose last political activity was with the Federalists a decade before. Most Whig Party leaders eventually quit politics (as Abraham Lincoln did temporarily) or changed parties. The northern voter-base mostly gravitated to the new Republican Party. But by the 1856 presidential election, the Whig Party had become defunct.
The Constitutional Union Party enjoyed a moderate measure of success from conservative former Whigs (particularly in the Upper South) in the 1860 presidential election. In the South the party vanished, but Whig ideology persisted for decades and played a major role in shaping the modernizing policies of the state governments during Reconstruction from 1865 to 1877 following the Civil War.
The Democrats' philosophy of modern American liberalism advocates social and economic equality, along with the welfare state. It pursues a mixed economy by providing government intervention and regulation in the economy. These interventions, such as the introduction of social programs, support for labor unions, moves toward universal health care and equal opportunity, consumer protection, and environmental protection, form the core of the party's economic policy. (Well into the 20th century, the party had a conservative pro-business wing and was based in the major cities and included a populist-conservative and evangelical wing based in the rural South.)
Bernie and FDR
After Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was re-elected in the New York state election of 1912 and served as chairman of the Agriculture Committee, his success with farm and labor bills was a precursor to his New Deal policies twenty years later as President. By this time he had become more consistently progressive, in support of labor and social welfare programs for women and children (his cousin Theodore was of some influence on these issues*).
In May 1930, as FDR began his run for a second term as governor of New York, he reiterated his doctrine from the campaign two years before: "that progressive government by its very terms, must be a living and growing thing, that the battle for it is never ending and that if we let up for one single moment or one single year, not merely do we stand still but we fall back in the march of civilization." His Republican opponent could not overcome the public's criticism of the Republican Party for their economic distress during the Great Depression under Republican President Herbert Hoover, and so, Franklin D. Roosevelt Roosevelt was elected to a second term as governor of New York.
Today, U.S. presidents are limited to two terms. But beginning in 1932, FDR won four consecutive terms as President of the United States, and won each election by a landslide by running on progressive values (see the elections results on the left). FDR even won all the Southern States (which was before the Civil Rights movement had yet to become a national political issue, which later split the Democrats).
It should be noted that in essence, we already have a modern Progressive Party today. It was first founded in 1991 by U.S. Representatives Ron Dellums (D-CA), Lane Evans (D-IL), Thomas Andrews (D-ME), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Speaking at a town hall meeting in 2012, former Republican/Tea Party Representative Allen West (Florida) made the startling claim that many of his fellow members of the House were members of the Communist Party:
Moderator: "What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialist?"
West: "It's a good question. I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus." [There are 70 currently listed, and FYI: Senator Elizabeth Warren isn't on the list, despite the many progressive values she advocates.]
But by his own reckoning, Rep. Allen West was essentially saying that our former Presidents — Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson (as well as Senator Bernie Sanders today) — were all Communists (PolitiFact: "Pants on fire!" — Allen West's claims were a total lie.)
Senator Bernie Sanders, as a co-founder of the modern Congressional Progressive Caucus, is the Independent Senator of Vermont who calls himself a democratic socialist (although he may be more of a social democrat). But yet, either moniker may be just another terminology for describing a "progressive" ideology — a belief that FDR also advocated. And so, according to former Republican Representative Allen West, that makes FDR a Communist too.
But those within the Democratic and Republican political machines today (and the media) paint Bernie Sanders as Soviet or a Communist — which is totally untrue — and something that even the card-carrying Socialists and Communists deny. (Although, they may agree with many things on his agenda; but they don't believe he goes near left enough). Former Maryland governor Martin O'Mally recently said: "I am a Democrat. I’m a lifelong Democrat. I’m not a former independent. I’m not a former Republican. I believe in the party of Franklin Roosevelt."
Let's be perfectly clear: Martin O'Mally is no FDR — but Bernie Sanders could be. FDR was once a "moderate" Democrat, before morphing (evolving) into a "progressive" Democrat — but O'Mally is not a progressive either. And FDR didn't adopt progressive values (or the moniker) for political expediency, the way Hillary Clinton did. Within one month she went from being a self-proclaimed "moderate" to claiming to be a "progressive" — unlike Bernie Sanders, who has ALWAYS been progressive. Progressive groups such as the Roosevelt Institute and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee advocates the same values as Senator Sanders.
The establishment Democrats and Hillary Clinton (Neo-liberal Democrats, Third Way Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats, Moderate Democrats, Centrist Democrats, etc.), just like the establishment Republicans, wants to keep the current corrupted two-party system, which enslaves the voters and gives the political elitists all the power without any serious challenges to their hold on that absolute power.
The origins of today's Tea Party within the Republican Party
After 1932 and FDR's New Deal, the business wing of the Democratic Party had withered and, between the 1960s (because of the Civil Rights movement) and the 1990s, Southern whites and many European ethnics moved into the Republican Party.
Note: Today, the Democratic Party is composed mostly of progressives (like Bernie Sanders) and centrists (moderates like Hillary Clinton). And the Dixiecrats of yore are more like the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus within the Republican Party today.
When FDR died in 1945, Harry Truman (FDR's 4th-term VP) became the new President and established a highly visible President's Committee on Civil Rights and ordered an end to discrimination in the military in 1948. A group of Southern governors then met to consider the place of Southerners within the Democratic Party. After a tense meeting with the DNC chairman (and Truman confidant), the Southern governors agreed to convene their own convention in Alabama if Truman and civil rights supporters emerged victorious at the 1948 Democratic National Convention.
In July, the convention did in fact re-nominate Truman, and he adopted a plank proposed by Northern liberals calling for civil rights; and 35 Southern delegates walked out, and the move was on to remove Truman's name from the ballot in the South. This required a new party, which the Southern defectors chose to name the States' Rights Democratic Party — aka The Dixiecrats. (The term "Dixiecrat" is sometimes used by Northern Democrats to refer to conservative Southern Democrats from the 1940s on, regardless of where they stood in 1948.)
On election day in 1948, the Dixiecrats carried the previously solid Democratic states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, receiving 1,169,021 popular votes and 39 electoral votes. The Progressive Party nominee, Henry A. Wallace (FDR's third-term VP), drew a nearly equal number of popular votes (1,157,172) from the Democrats' left wing (although he did not carry any States with electoral votes.) The split in the Democratic Party in the 1948 election had been expected to produce a win by the GOP nominee Tom Dewey, but Harry Truman defeated Dewey in an upset victory.
As President Harry S. Truman had later said in 1952 (and he could have been speaking to Hillary Clinton today):
"I've seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing [a "moderate" Democrat — someone not like FDR], the people will choose the genuine article [like Bernie Sanders], every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don't want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign. But when a Democratic candidate goes out and explains what the New Deal and fair Deal really are — when he stands up like a man [or a woman] and puts the issues before the people [like Bernie Sanders does] — then Democrats can win, even in places where they have never won before. It has been proven time and again. We are getting a lot of suggestions to the effect that we ought to water down our platform and abandon parts of our program. These, my friends, are Trojan Horse suggestions. I have been in politics for over 30 years, and I know what I am talking about, and I believe I know something about the business. One thing I am sure of: Never, never throw away a winning program. This is so elementary that I suspect the people handing out this advice are not really well-wishers of the Democratic Party."
Can Bernie Sanders pull off a Harry Truman on the GOP?
If Bernie Sanders ran as an Independent, the split in the Democratic Party in the 2016 election might be expected to produce a victory by a GOP nominee; but if Bernie Sanders can defeat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders might be able to win an upset victory over any Republican candidate — the way Truman defeated Dewey.
Our corrupt two-party system has created a nation of oligarchs and plutocrats — and that's why Bernie Sanders is calling for a "political revolution" today. America has had many political revolutions in the past, and we will have many more in the future. But it's time for the next one in 2016. A vote for another establishment politician will only perpetuate the misery we've had in wage growth for the past 35 years, especially for the African-American community — who doesn't know Bernie near as well as they know Hillary. But they should, or we may not be able to have our political revolution.
Who has the longest and strongest history for advocating civil rights?
While at the University of Chicago, Bernie Sanders threw himself into activism for civil rights and economic justice by volunteering and organizing. He railed against the college’s housing segregation policy by participating in Chicago’s very first civil rights sit-in. He became a leader of an NAACP ally called the Congress of Racial Equality at a time when most civil rights activists were black. In 1962 he was arrested while demonstrating for desegregated public schools in Chicago. He once walked around Chicago putting up fliers protesting police brutality. Sanders had worked for a meatpackers union and marched for civil rights in Washington D.C. with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.
The following year, in 1964, Hillary Clinton had volunteered to campaign for the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in the U.S. presidential election. Goldwater was against FDR's New Deal, but fortunately (no thanks to Hillary), Goldwater lost to the Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson by one of the largest landslides in history.
As President, LBJ designed the "Great Society" legislation upholding civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, public services, and his "War on Poverty". Civil rights bills signed by Johnson banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing; and the Voting Rights Act banned certain requirements in southern states used to disenfranchise African Americans. With the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the country's immigration system was reformed and all national origin quotas were removed. During that time, Hillary Clinton served as president of the Wellesley Young Republicans.
Editor's note: I suspect many Black voters not only voted for Obama because he's a Democrat (who ran as a "progressive" — but who turned out to be another "moderate"), but also because he's Black — or they would have voted for Hillary. But for a similar reason, they shouldn't vote for Hillary just because she's a Democrat (but instead, IMOH, vote for Bernie.) And I also suspect that many of Hillary's supporters will also vote for Hillary, not because she's a Democrat, but also because she's a woman. I would hope that all these people would carefully compare the past histories of these candidates and look where they currently stand on the issues (Hillary vs. Bernie), and then vote for what's really in their own best interests.
Maybe we should all vote for "progressives" (including working-class Republicans) in all the presidential, congressional, state and local elections — because America really does need a political revolution. Please don't vote for more misplaced hope for any real meaningful change. We were promised that before in 2008, remember?
My Related posts:
Our Corrupt Political Duopoly Denies Voters Real Change
America's Two Party Political System is Rigged
Bernie Sanders is not Vladimir Lenin or Joseph Stalin
Democrats Moving Left, Not Center