The Real News Network hosted a discussion of Bernie Sanders' decision to declare his candidacy for President as a Democrat. Jacob Swenson-Lengyel of the National People's Action Campaign says that Sanders is "articulating things that certainly Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party in general doesn't talk about" and suggests that "the Democratic party can become a field of struggle as the new left works to become more powerful."
Meanwhile, Ashley Smith of the Center for Economic Research criticizes Sanders' decision because the Democratic Party "opposes everything he stands for, and has through history shown that it's incapable of being transformed by the left getting involved in the campaign... The left attempt to take over the Democratic party has failed for over a century... I think Hillary Clinton is overjoyed that Bernie Sanders is running in the Democratic party nomination, because it actually re-legitimizes a party that's lost all credibility in the eyes of the vast majority of working-class people. And people in general. Look at all the enthusiasm that Obama mobilized back in 2008, only to become the, really the third and fourth term of the Bush administration."
Smith is right. While it is probably true that Sanders will bring up issues that are important to liberal populists, his ideas will be dismissed as summarily as those of primary challengers like Kucinich and Ron Paul before him. Very few minds, and absolutely no policies, will be changed. A crucial point that Swenson-Lengyel is missing is that what candidates say in their campaigns, especially during the primaries, has little bearing on how the will govern. This is what Smith is alluding to in referring to Obama's 2008 campaign. Sanders' presence will only serve to bolster Clinton's candidacy and allow the Democratic Party to recapture the left.
Then Smith goes on to say, "we need a party of our own. We need to do what the Greek people have done in creating Syriza. To really challenge the political establishment as it exists. We need to do what the Spanish people are doing in creating a new political party called Podemos."
Now Smith is being naive. America does not have the same electoral system as these European countries. To suggest that a minor party can hope to be anything other than humiliated (and their ideas along with them) is to ignore the experiences of the Green and Libertarian Parties, the structural realities of our voting system, and the machinations of the major parties to keep the minor parties under wraps.
If you want to get a viable minor party, it's first necessary to have the voting system changed, and for that I believe the minor parties need to unite with protest voters, possibly under the banner of the Protest Party.