By Daniel Margrain
There appears to be a pattern emerging within conventional democratic politics that seems set to break the neoliberal stranglehold that has dominated the said politics over the last few decades that is nothing short of revolutionary. Symptomatic of this radical shift as far as Europe is concerned has been the electoral successes of left parties in countries like Spain, Greece and Britain. Illustrative of the break with the traditional centre-right polity in America has been the ascendancy of Bernie Sanders who surged to victory beating Hillary Clinton resoundingly in the Democratic New Hampshire primary.
Whereas Clinton’s voter demographic is largely restricted to those people who are over the age of 65 and who have a family income of more than $200,000, Sanders carries majorities with nearly all demographic groups that include both men and women and those with and without college degrees. The popularity of Sanders reflects an upsurge in the grass roots opposition to the pro-war neoliberal consensus within the Democratic Party and their framing of a triangulation ideology that began under Bill Clinton and continues with Obama.
A Parallel can be drawn here with the phenomenal rise in grass roots Labour Party membership in Britain that elected Sanders’ equivalent, Jeremy Corbyn as leader on the back of a wave of apoplexy and disenchantment with both the self-interested careerist Blairite rump within the Parliamentary Labour Party and the elite political class in general. What we are witnessing on both sides of the Atlantic is the political and media establishment’s attempt to hold on to the levers of corrupt political and corporate media power and the privileges that come with them.
To this end, the strategy of the latter is to restrict the flow of dissenting information that conflicts in a fundamental way with these powerful interests. Set against this mutually reinforcing system of power and privilege undermining democracy, is a tidal wave of public anger and bitterness. Significantly, during his victory speech, Sanders briefly alluded to the kind of collusion between the media and political establishments’ described and their corrupting influence:
“The people of New Hampshire have sent a profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment.”
To my knowledge not a single mainstream media outlet has reported this part of Sanders’ speech. If one happens to be in any doubt that the liberal-left media in Britain is anything other than in thrall to the “feminist-progressive” and warmonger Clinton, than one need to look no further than the opinion pages of the Guardian. How the paper is able to reconcile its support for the neoconservative pro-Israeli hardliner predicated on her “feminism” can only be rationalized from the perspective of it’s usurpation to power.
As Craig Murray put it:
“The stream of “feminist” articles about why it would advance the cause of women to have a deeply corrupt right winger in the White House is steadily growing into a torrent. It is a perfect example of what I wrote of a month ago, the cause of feminism being hijacked to neo-conservative ends.”
In America last Sunday, CNN gave the Republican candidate, Donald Trump about half an hour of air time where he was able to call for waterboarding. He went on to state that he was in favour of much worse forms of illegal torture. Despite this, Trump’s comments went unchallenged by the CNN journalists whose role is clearly to promote him.
But as repugnant as the above is, it’s not the obvious differences between the right-wing extremism of Trump and other Republican’s compared to the democratic socialism of Sander’s that is the core issue voters are faced with in deciding whether to vote Democrat or Republican. Rather it’s the kind of cynical attempts of Clinton to disingenuously hitch on to the coat-tails of Sander’s for electoral gain depending on which way the prevailing wind is blowing, that contributes to left-wing voter fatigue that ultimately can only benefit the right.
Emphasizing the ideological distinction between himself and Clinton, Sanders said:
“What the American people are saying—and, by the way, I hear this not just from progressives, but from conservatives and from moderates—is that we can no longer continue to have a campaign finance system in which Wall Street and the billionaire class are able to buy elections. Americans—Americans, no matter what their political view may be, understand that that is not what democracy is about. That is what oligarchy is about. And we will not allow that to continue. I do not have a superPAC, and I do not want a super PAC.”
Former Democratic nominee, Arnie Arnesen, gives expression to this sentiment:
“What Bernie Sanders showed—and, to some extent, even Donald Trump has shown—is that this is no longer a time for establishment politics, that there is a problem. There is a disconnect between what they do and what they think and what the American people are feeling. Bernie tapped into that, not just in New Hampshire, but around the country.”
Fundamental to the popularity of Sanders has been his attack on the system that gave rise to the Wall Street banking scandal of which nothing short of a political revolution can resolve. He said that the problems in the United States stem from the fact that the country where mainly 62 American billionaires have the wealth of half the entire population of the world, is one of the most unequal and that he intends to do something about it:
“When the top one-tenth of 1% now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, that’s not fair. It is not fair when the 20 wealthiest people in this country now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people…. Together we are going to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1%. And, when millions of our people are working for starvation wages, yep, we’re going to raise the minimum wage to $15 bucks an hour. And, we are going to bring pay equity for women.
And, when we need the best educated workforce in the world, yes, we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free. And, for the millions of Americans struggling with horrendous levels of student debt, we are going to substantially ease that burden….The greed, the recklessness, and the illegal behavior drove our economy to its knees. The American people bailed out Wall Street, now it’s Wall Street’s time to help the middle class.”
Other progressive policy messages Sanders outlined in his speech on issues such as healthcare, climate change, foreign policy and minority rights, are similarly resonating within the Democratic Party and arguably further afield. In a desperate attempt to add some kind of (misguided) substance to her campaign, Hillary Clinton’s team called on former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. The “feminist” who, under Clinton’s husband during the Iraq debacle, asserted that U.S. policy objectives were worth the sacrifice of half a million Arab children, shamelessly invoked identity politics as a tactic intended to vilify women who voted for her Democrat opponent. “Women’s equality is not done”, she said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Almost certainly, what a significant amount of New Hampshire Democrats considered before they cast their votes was to evaluate both candidates’ voting record. Clinton’s record has been dogged by accusations of triangulating flip-flopping. This has been put sharply into focus by her sudden shift to the left on issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership soon after Sanders entered the race.
Certainly, her voting record on key issues, unlike that of her rival, has been less than stellar. From supporting the 2001 Patriot Act through to the Iraq and Syria interventions and many other issues there is very little, if anything, to distinguish her record from her Republican rivals.