At the same time, it is probably also true that only a few qualified Democrats who hold those views and values also have the personal passion and eloquence needed to articulate them persuasively. The first name that comes to my own mind is in fact not even a Democrat. It is that of Bernie Sanders, a nominal Independent and self-identified socialist whose heroic eight-hour speech on the Senate floor against the Obama/Republican tax agreement in late 2010 made him a progressive hero to many. Sanders's party non-affiliation, however, does seem a fatal drawback. Because he is not a Democrat, he could run against the President only in the general election, not in the Democratic primaries. That would of course open the possibility that, like Ralph Nader against Al Gore in 2000, he could take votes away from the Democratic nominee in the general election. Moreover, although Sanders's policy views generally accord with most thinkers and activists on the progressive left, his "socialist" orientation may be a problem. He tends to look at things not from the point of view of a moral commitment to the common good, but of a class conflict in which those who hold the short end of the stick are in a continual struggle with those on the other end to get a more equal grip. That perspective undoubtedly reflects a true state of affairs, but it is probably not the right one from which to get strongly individualistic and anti-government Americans to consider progressive views.
Among possible Democratic candidates, Dennis Kucinich is in my own opinion the one who best combines moral awareness with a progressive politics committed to the common good. This is evidenced by his consistent support of goals that include public financing of federal elections, economic fairness, strategic investments in public infrastructure, corporate social responsibility, caring for the environment, peaceful conflict resolution, and a foreign policy based on cooperation rather than domination. In addition, Kucinich is an experienced political warrior, personally courageous and intelligent, and a passionate, articulate voice for the values he holds.
Regrettably, Kucinich has already publicly discounted any chance that he might run against the President in 2012. It is just possible, however, that he might be selfless and idealistic enough to be willing to challenge Obama for the principal purpose of raising the political consciousness of his countrymen. Perhaps an activist group like MoveOn, The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), or Americans for Democratic Action could persuade him to run on that basis -- then follow up by launching an Obama-like fundraising effort that would provide him the resources needed to maintain his campaign for an extended period.
If Kucinich remains unavailable, possibly another committed progressive Democrat could be persuaded to run for the same purpose and with the same support. As I've tried to argue here, such a candidacy could be the progressive community's best hope to lay a foundation for bringing progressives to power -- a shift that is becoming increasingly vital with every passing year. It is only progressives who can meet the needs of our time by driving the transformative political change that is essential to achieving true democracy, economic fairness, a flourishing commons, corporate responsibility, a healthy environment, international cooperation, and peace for ourselves and our fellow humans around the world.