Four years ago, this presidential candidate’s positions on a $15 minimum wage, Medicare For All, climate change and ending needless wars were seen as fringe and radical.

Today, the major Democratic candidates are touting these as mainstream policies.

What separates Sen. Bernie Sanders from the pack, however, is his unique ability to energize people.

And despite resistance from mainstream Democrats and the media, he sits on or near the top of polls, attracts the biggest crowds and has raised the most money to date — mainly from small donors.

So instead of fearing Sanders as a candidate on the fringe, we encourage voters to embrace the notion that he is the standard-bearer of today’s progressive movement and to join us in supporting him to be the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.

We hear ad nauseam about the split between the moderates and progressives. True enough, but we feel that the more important divide is between the insiders and outsiders, a driving force in both parties, as evidenced by the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

For Democrats, the field of insurgent candidates is chock-full. Billionaire businessmen Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer are spending hundreds of millions to spread their anti-Washington messages. There’s Andrew Yang, whose ideas, like Universal Basic Income, are way, way outside Democratic orthodoxy; yet he’s attracted enough money and followers to qualify for the next debate. Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawaii, has crafted her outsider reputation by picking fights with Hillary Clinton, still the de facto head of the Democratic establishment.

The outsider movement extends to popular media. Podcaster Joe Rogan is the most celebrated of the new breed of news hosts. He regularly attracts twice as many listeners/viewers as either Rachel Maddow on MSNBC or Tucker Carlson on Fox. In fact, Yang credits his interview with Rogan in early 2019 as the breakout event that put him on the national stage.

There are many moderates in the party: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado.

Despite it being such a crowded field, however, this is a voting lane so wide that renowned political consultant James Carville said if Bennet, who barely registers in

the polls, were to win the nomination, he’d beat Trump in a landslide.

While mainstream Republicans have coalesced — some might say collapsed — around Trump, the Democratic rift between moderates and progressives runs so deep that The New York Times endorsed two candidates (for the first time): Klobuchar and progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Voters don’t get the luxury of making two choices at the ballot box. That being said, if we had a second choice, it would be Klobuchar. She is a smart, accomplished Midwestern antidote to the toxicity of the Trump presidency.

Coming back to Bernie: It’s not a new observation, but he and Donald Trump represent different sides of the same leadership coin: Both appeal to those who feel displaced and left out, and want Washington upended.

Sanders’ goals are as aspirational as Trump’s are. Did anyone actually believe the promise that Mexico would pay for a wall? Or that Trump would revitalize the coal industry? It’s the same with Sanders. With 150 million people on private health plans, including millions of municipal workers, Medicare For All is, at least in the near term, a pipe dream. What Sanders would more likely accomplish is basically what any other candidate would be able to do, tinker with Obamacare.

But Sanders’ most compelling quality is his gift to connect with people, particularly young voters, with whom he enjoys enormous support. As one local thirty-something told the Sun, “He is honest and speaks to me.”

In 2016, Sanders got the lion’s share of New Hampshire Primary voters, and then the Clinton machine crushed him, and Trump won.

This time around, unless voters open their minds and hearts and listen like a 30-year old, Trump could win again.

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