Bernie Sanders is a phenomenon now in the United States of America’s Presidential elections campaign. Like the UK’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Sanders has emerged all of a sudden from obscurity and has now taken the centre stage in the US presidential campaign as a Democratic Party candidate fighting primaries against formidable Hillary Clinton. To the seasoned observers of the US presidential elections through the years, Sanders has brought about a real political revolution in the mindset of the ordinary Americans and never before the issue of inequality was so forcefully put in the election agenda by any presidential candidate.
Sanders has declared himself as a socialist – a democratic socialist but his economic and social agenda fully reflects the concerns of a genuine leftist which he is. Like his British counterpart Jeremy Corbyn, Sanders is unscathing in his attacks on money power, against the bankers and the billionaires who have been ruling the USA for decades.
The 2016 US presidential elections have given the Democratic Party a wake-up call and the unprecedented response being received by Bernie Sanders from the young, women and the white collar workers, have unnerved the Democratic Party establishment and Hillary has been forced to adopt some of the programmes of Sanders to give the impression that she is not just a candidate of the moneyed class, she represents all and she cares for the America of which Sanders is talking. The Democratic presidential candidate race is now limited to only two Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as against four of the Republicans led by that arch conservative Donald Trump but the Democratic Party campaign in the primaries has reached such an emotional height as a result of Sanders campaign that more and more Americans who were cynical about the Presidential elections because their lives never changed for the better, are taking a new look and participating in Sanders campaign with the hope that there is a future.
As of now, in the primaries, Sanders has won New Hampshire by a big margin and narrowly lost in Iowa and Nevada but the momentum is in favour of Sanders and in the coming days, especially on March 1, on Super Tuesday when elections will be held in eleven states, Sanders is expected to give a good show.
The Democratic Party’s national convention is scheduled in July this year and the final candidate will be elected at that convention on the basis of the votes of the delegates elected from the primaries. But for an outsider and professed socialist like Sanders who has challenged the moneybags who have big influence on the Democratic National Committee, the final winning will be a tough task even if he wins in the primaries.
There are a total of 4,763 delegates at the Democratic National Convention in July this year and this includes 712 superdelegates. The Democratic Party constitution is such that these 712 superdelegates can vote for Hillary Clinton en bloc to get her win even if she is defeated by Sanders in primaries. Estimates show that even if Hillary wins 42 per cent of the votes in primaries and caucuses, she can defeat Sanders with the votes of all superdelegates.
But this votes of the superdelegates also can turn in favour of the winning candidate if they find that there has been an allround resurgence of support in favour of Sanders. Right now, the way the new voters are rallying around Sanders is giving indication that the Democratic Party leadership may not altogether ignore Sanders when the time for nomination comes.
Whatever be the final verdict at the Democratic convention in July this year, one thing is clear, the Democratic programme has undergone a radical change and Hillary has no other option but to vigorously pursue this to protect her base and popularity. For example at the end of the last televised debate of the Democratic Party contenders, Hillary delivered a powerful closing statement calling for universal healthcare, expansion of social security benefits reining in Wall Street, reducing the students debts and raising the minimum wage.
Sanders has been in the forefront of demanding $15 an hour minimum wage as against $10 now. This has been strongly opposed by the companies as also the Republican candidates. Hillary initially was hesitant but as the campaign got momentum and there was big response to this demand, Hillary agreed and to combat Sanders, she said that she is no less progressive but while Sanders only talks, she will do what she is saying. This is a major victory for the Democratic left.
What President Obama could not do during his campaign in 2008 presidential elections when Hillary was his contestant, sanders has done this time and it is difficult for Hillary to opt out of this if she becomes the President.
For the US left who may be small in number but intellectually very influential, this is a golden opportunity to reach out to the younger people and the underprivileged with the idea of socialism.US Communist leader Sam Webb has advised that even if Sanders loses finally in the Presidential race, all Sanders supporters as also the new recruits are part of the present political revolution and they should wholeheartedly support Hillary to ensure that no Republican can occupy the White House again.
What President Obama has done within the constraints, can be carried forward more vigorously if Sanders wins but even Hillary in White House will be compelled to implement a pro-people agenda due to the churning that has taken place in the support base of the Democratic Party.
From Jesse Jackson to Howard Dean, lot of peoples champions have made a splash in the history of Democratic Party’s presidential elections but none has been able to galvanise American people on an anti-capitalist agenda as Sanders has done.
His straightforward class based politics is a measure of how the American people, are responding to the call for struggle for equality after undergoing harrowing days of financial crisis. As one commentator explained quoting the Italian Marxist Gramsci, in US, the old order no longer works but the new order has not yet been born and Sanders with his new deal politics and giving hopes to a humane America, is striking chord with American masses.
As the leading global thinker Thomas Picketty says the Vermont senator’s success so far demonstrates the end of the politico ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections. He points out Sanders success today shows that much of America is tired of rising in equality and intends to revive both a progressive agenda and the American tradition of egalitarianism. Hillary Clinton who fought to the left of Obama in 2008 on topics such as health insurance, appears today as if she is defending the status quo, just another heiress of the Reagan-Clinton era.
The political revolution in American society, as Sanders calls it, has to continue irrespective of whether Sanders wins or not. New forms of political mobilisation and crowdfunding without depending on the moneybags have come to the fore. This was never seen in the Democratic Party’s campaign. America has moved into a new political cycle. The end of history as Fukuyama predicted has reversed its course.
American mainstream is talking of end of capitalism and Marx. On the other side of Atlantic, another old man Jeremy Cobryn is preparing to take Britain out of capitalism in 2020. Brighter days are ahead in the west.