With so many candidates running in 2016, you’d expect Politico Magazine’s annual list of “the thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2015” to consist of at least three or four different presidential candidates, but that isn’t the case. The 2015 edition of Politico 50 contains only one individual running for president, and no, it isn’t Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It’s Bernie Sanders. And the Vermont Senator has earned a respectable fifth place, just behind Pope Francis.
Politico’s list contains a wide variety of liberal and conservative figures. Conservative-leaning Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ranks at #1. David Bossie and Charlie Spies tied for second-place, and #BlackLivesMatter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi took the third spot. But Bernie Sanders stands as the only 2016 presidential candidate to make the cut.
Why Sanders? Politico points out that with all of the odds stacked against him, armed only with a populist message focused on identifying the issues America faces, and without the support of super PACs, Sanders has been rocketing through the polls and is challenging Hillary Clinton for the nomination, a feat few imagined would be possible when Sanders announced his candidacy in April.
Politico also notes that not only is Sanders catching up in the polls, but he’s also drawing far bigger crowds than any other presidential candidate, from either party. A massive event this November has more than 119k RSVP’d supporters planning on attending. To accomplish that without the tremendous funding other candidates have is no small feat by any means.
Sanders is inarguably the most progressive candidate running in 2016. Whereas Hillary Clinton openly embraces her “moderate” label, Sanders is focusing his campaign on ideas that many progressives hold dear, such as implementing real universal healthcare, fixing America’s failing infrastructure, making vast improvements to education, and breaking up the banks that are “too big to fail.” These ideas not only resonate strongly with liberals, but also with a majority of Americans in general.
Other noteworthy liberals to make the list include Elizabeth Warren, a figure that many hope will be America’s first woman president in the future, and former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver, whose HBO program Last Week Tonight is considered by many to be the spiritual successor of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, despite that program returning later this month with new host Trevor Noah.
If you’re a conservative who thinks Politico’s list must surely be bias, think again. Many right-leaning figures have also made the Politico 50 this year, including Charles Koch, Matt Drudge, Nikki Haley, and Paul Ryan, amongst others.
For a publication as noteworthy as Politico to name Bernie Sanders as the most influential 2016 presidential candidate of them all is, as Joe Biden might phrase it, “a big f–king deal,” especially given the lackluster coverage Sanders’ campaign has received, and the amount of negativity hurled his way in general. But we’re starting to reach that point in the race where the tides are beginning to turn, and Sanders’ coverage is more accurately reflecting his momentum. And once more publications join Politico in acknowledging the rise of Bernie Sanders, this election is going to get really, really interesting.