On the surface, the battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders looks like a deep rift, one that threatens to splinter the Democratic Party. But viewed in the sweep of history, it is evidence of something far more positive for the party’s base and beyond: not a rift but a shift—the first tremors of a profound ideological realignment from which a transformative new politics could emerge.
Many of Bernie’s closest advisers—and perhaps even Bernie himself—never imagined the campaign would do so well. And yet it did. The U.S. left—and not some pale imitation of it—actually tasted electoral victory, in state after state after state. The campaign came so close to winning that many of us allowed ourselves to imagine, if only for a few, furtive moments, what the world would look like with a President Sanders.
Even writing those words seems crazy. After all, the working assumption for decades has been that genuinely redistributive policies are so unpopular in the U.S. that they could only be smuggled past the American public if they were wrapped in some sort of centrist disguise. “Fee and dividend” instead of a carbon tax. “Health care reform” instead of universal public health care.