Merkley is probably best known for being the only colleague of Sanders to endorse the Vermont senator last year.
.. He has no campaign staff, and has raised no money. But he seems to be hoping that the credibility he has with progressive activists and the wild new world of lefty politics will change all that. So he’s starting early, even if the odds don’t look great right now.
.. He’s the right age and would be 72 by 2028, if another Democrat beats Donald Trump in 2020 and then has a lock on the nomination for 2024.
.. he’s not immune to the sense going around many Democrats these days that if Trump can win, maybe anyone can, and there’s certainly no harm in trying.
.. Whether there’s actually an appetite for pulling the party further to the left is a different question.
.. support for individual issues Merkley supports, from health care changes to free college to universal basic income, all at under 40 percent.
.. inside Washington, he is very much a player, having quietly brought together leading groups on the left for what’s become a regular series of pragmatic, action-focused meetings.
.. Every other Thursday, around the table in his conference room (or sometimes over the phone), top staffers from leading progressive groups MoveOn.org, Ultraviolet, Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Daily Kos, Credo and Indivisible join him to plot strategy and share information. If there is a nerve center of the vast left-wing conspiracy, this is it.
.. Merkley circulates invitations among senators. Among the regulars: Warren, Hawaii’s Brian Schatz, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Minnesota’s Al Franken. A rotating cast of others, including New Jersey’s Cory Booker, Connecticut’s Chris Murphy and California’s Kamala Harris, have been known to stop by. Sanders is always invited, but he never comes, instead sending a staffer and people from his Our Revolution group.
.. In recent months, a staffer from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has started joining.
.. The meetings began as strategy sessions for how to push a presumed President Hillary Clinton to the left on Cabinet picks and abruptly transformed into a lefty war council, bringing together battered progressives and minority senators looking to amplify a voice that’s much further from power than they’d been prepared for.
.. Some who know Merkley suspect he regrets not running for president last year—he could have been the progressive magnet pulling Clinton to the left, but without doing the damage that Sanders did to her that she blames in part for her loss.
.. In fact, he insists, Clinton ought to thank Sanders for running. “There was a tremendous amount of grass-roots energy
.. As for Trump, Merkley likes his position on trade, and that’s about it. He calls the president a “mystery,” because he ran as a populist but is governing more like a movement conservative.
.. “It was a surprise that he was able to campaign on one vision, and implement a completely different vision.
He attacked Hillary for being too close to Wall Street. Well, he wakes up every day seeing what he can do for Wall Street, how he can tear down consumer protections.”
.. living “his whole life stepping on others. He was raised to step on others.”
.. That language reinforced the argument that Kim Jong Un is making to his own population, which is that the U.S. wants to destroy North Korea, that they have to put all their resources into the military side, that they have to have nuclear weapons in order to deter America from bombing them,” Merkley says
.. official rollout of his Medicare for All plan.