Reprinted from The Nation
Joe Biden understands something about the Democratic Party and its future that his fellow partisans would do well to consider. "I don't think any Democrat's ever won saying, 'We can't think that big -- we ought to really downsize here because it's not realistic,'" the vice president told The New York Times in April. "C'mon man, this is the Democratic Party! I'm not part of the party that says, 'Well, we can't do it.'" Mocking Hillary Clinton's criticism of Bernie Sanders for proposing bold reforms, Biden dismissed the politics of lowered expectations. "I like the idea of saying, 'We can do much more,' because we can," he declared, leading the Times to observe that, while Biden wasn't making an endorsement, "He'll take Mr. Sanders's aspirational approach over Mrs. Clinton's caution any day."
What Sanders is proposing is a necessary quest -- and a realistic one. Already, he is better positioned than any recent insurgent challenger to engage in rules and platform debates, as well as in dialogues about everything from the vice-presidential nomination to the character of the fall campaign. As veteran political analyst Rhodes Cook noted in a survey prepared for The Atlantic, by mid-April, Sanders had exceeded the overall vote totals and percentages of Howard Dean in 2004, Jesse Jackson in 1988, Gary Hart in 1984, and Ted Kennedy in 1980, among others. (While Barack Obama's 2008 challenge to Clinton began as something of an insurgency, he eventually ran with the solid support of key party leaders like Kennedy.) By the time the District of Columbia votes on June 14, Sanders will have more pledged delegates than any challenger seeking to influence a national convention and its nominee since the party began to democratize its nominating process following the disastrous, boss-dominated convention of 1968.