By Bob Gaydos
Having been dragged into the 2016 presidential debate a year early by the unexpected candidacy of George Pataki, I feel obliged to acknowledge the presidential ambitions of another "New Yorker," Hillary Clinton.
Unlike Pataki, a Republican who carries the baggage of a man looking for a political party to support his aspirations, Clinton has long worn the cloak of inevitability as the Democrats' likely candidate in 2016. She may not want to get too comfortable with this bit of political apparel.
History suggests why. In 2008, the so-called conventional wisdom made Clinton a heavy favorite to capture her party's nomination. All she had to do, it was suggested, was relax and let nature takes its course. After all, she had a well-respected Bill by her side in a reversal of roles, all the money they had amassed since he left the White House, a long list of wealthy Democratic donors and she had even won an election to become New York's junior senator.
What more did she need?
As it turned out, a few things: 1.) a populist message with which voters could identify; 2.) a campaign persona that projected sincerity, clarity, energy and the possibility of real change; 3.) a little warmth; and 4.) a way to defeat Barack Obama, who, it turns out, had plenty of the first three.
In 2008, the inevitable was overcome by the unexpected.
Enter Bernie Sanders, 2015. The conventional wisdom -- and even major news media, who should know better -- are writing him off as an eccentric, under-funded, liberal -- socialist even -- senator from a small, New England state.
All of which is true, except for the eccentric part.
Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, is running for the Democratic nomination for president. Unlike most of the Republican presidential candidates, he is no crackpot. He has a dedicated -- and rapidly growing -- constituency, fueled by the most synergistic form of communication yet created by man -- social media.
In 2008, Barack Obama had it. In 2015, Bernie Sanders has it in spades. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites offer a non-stop, 24/7 recitation of Sanders' positions on issues that resonate with so-called average Americans:
Protect Social Security and Medicare. Don't raise the retirement age. Raise the minimum wage. Decrease the wealth gap by taxing the rich more. Overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allows the super-rich to control elections. Fight global warming. Make college affordable, not a road to lifelong debt. Rebuild the nation's infrastructure.
Furthermore, Sanders recently introduced legislation that strikes at the heart of Republicans' so-called dedication to family values. His Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act would guarantee 10 paid days of vacation for employees who have worked for an employer for at least a year. Sanders is also co-sponsoring, with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, The FAMILY Act, which allows 12 weeks of universal paid family and medical leave. This could be used to take care of a newborn, a seriously ill family member or to deal with serious medical conditions. Republicans are nowhere on this.