Bernie Sanders can win in 2020, but he has to make a critical choice right now

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., walks out to speak at a rally in Washington, DC on Thursday June 09, 2016.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., walks out to speak at a rally in Washington, DC on Thursday June 09, 2016.

In my Cub Scout journalist days, I thought Barack Obama would be a historic figure beyond his obvious perch as the first African American president.

His words soared as if he could part the seas; his talk about a post-partisan America gave hope to a real draining of the swamp—the type Donald Trump conned millions into thinking he would deliver on.

But as the years went on, it became painfully clear the president was not the progressive he convinced millions of Americans into believing he was.

And, along with the Democrats running the most bought-off, tone-deaf, inauthentic candidate in history, Obama's fundamental choice to not fight for progressive legislation, and instead, preach incrementalism—aka, more corporate welfare with crumbs for working people—is one of the major reasons a circus act, con-artist like Donald Trump will be our next president.

Did Obama have an extremist Republican party and other obstacles few presidents ever faced in his way?

He sure did.

But, as with anything in life, politics is about fundamental choices. Obama chose to play nice with extremists and tweak around the edges instead of recognizing the best opportunity since Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency to enact real progressive change.

So, as he bids "farewell" Tuesday, Bernie Sanders must realize it's time to make a fundamental choice: Work within a bought-off, completely in-denial Democratic Party, which, after losing to the most unpopular candidate in the history of America, still refuses to sever its ties with Wall Street, big oil, and big pharma, OR, backed by millions of politically reinvigorated working class people, and millennials politically energized for the first time, fight both the corrupt, corporate Democrats and extremist Republicans.

"Sanders must realize something he chose to rise above during the Democratic Primary: you can't go to a knife fight holding a spoon."

Choosing the former will result in the Democratic establishment still calling the shots—when they no longer have a right to even have a seat at the table—and another corporate, milk-toast Democratic presidential candidate to face the con-man-in-chief in 2020.

For Sanders, choosing the latter means defying the odds once again. Despite what the "experts" and pundits say—you know, all the people that were dead wrong about every aspect of the 2016 election—Sanders will not be too old to run or win in 2020.

Sanders would be 79 on Election Day while Trump would be 74. Barring any unforeseen health issues, and considering how active Sanders will remain at rallies and events across the country over the next few years, most Americans won't view the five year difference between two elderly candidates as a deal breaker.

But more important than age, Sanders must realize something he chose to rise above during the Democratic Primary: you can't go to a knife fight holding a spoon.

Sanders cannot—and will not—change the fact that Chuck Schumer is a bought-off, faux liberal; or that Nancy Pelosi is far detached from what working people are dealing with; or that the Democratic Party, as a whole, is catering to special interests too entrenched in their DNA to actually change.

If he wants to build on the momentum, and movement, he created in 2016, he needs to publicly come out against faux progressives. Instead of standing with the likes of Schumer against Trump, he must publicly fight against these folks—who will still be holding fundraisers with Wall Street and pushing "bipartisan compromises" with Republicans that sell out working people—in the same breath that he fights Trump and extremist Republicans trying to reincarnate Ayn Rand in the halls of Congress.

Doing this will unite his 13+ million voters while creating millions more. It'll also cross over a large swath of soon-to-be disillusioned Trump supporters who realize Trump only pretended to care about their struggles.

But Sanders must choose one road and start driving now; after all, you can't overthrow the corporate establishment on either side of the aisle while simultaneously playing nice with them.

To be clear: life, and politics, isn't black and white. Sanders will have to compromise and make political calculations to some degree.

But there's compromising and calculating around the edges to help foster real change for working people—and then there's just working within a corrupt system and accepting small victories.

Ask Hillary Clinton how that worked out.

The future of the Democratic Party will be carved in progressive stone because millennials and emboldened working class people— who've been trampled on for 30 years—won't have it any other way.

So, for Sanders, the choice is simple.

Fight, clearly, against the corporate, establishment status quo on both sides and create strong odds of becoming the next president of the United States.

Or, fool yourself into thinking you must work within the system to seriously change it.

It's a no-brainer.

Commentary by Jordan Chariton, a political reporter for The Young Turks, reporting on the presidential campaign trail. He can be seen on TYT Politics. Before TYT, Jordan was a reporter for TheWrap and TVNewser. Follow him on Twitter @JordanChariton.

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