USA Only Bernie Sanders can beat Trump. The establishment in his party opposes him, the media also
by Adam Baltner
[This article published on 2/20/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/radikal-gewinnt.]
The Democratic Party primaries are still far from being decided. But after Bernie Sanders' recent successes in the states of Iowa and New Hampshire, one thing is certain: more than ever, the socialist senator is in the favourite role in the battle for a nomination for the presidential run.
This is not only indicated by surveys and betting odds. Another indication is that the desperation of the democratic party establishment and its media allies is getting louder. According to liberal commentator Jonathan Chait, it would be an "act of madness" to set Sanders against Trump. Sanders would be too left. Similarly, Hillary Clinton. You need a "clear perspective on what it takes to win," instead of politicians who "promise the moon," she said on a talk show. That Clinton of all people - who was defeated by Trump in 2016 - is giving strategic advice is as impudent as it is ridiculous. In fact, the theorem advocated by her and Chait that a right-wing Democrat would have the best chances against Trump is far less plausible than it seems at first glance. Rather, a staunch supporter of the American working class like Sanders would do much better against Trump than a moderate candidate from the middle.
The equation of eligibility for election and ideological moderation, which is also popular in the German-language media, is based on two ideas that are rarely questioned: first, an idea of the electorate as a collection of people with coherent ideological confessions, standing on a linear spectrum running from left to right. Second, the idea that elections are contests for those voters who are located around the middle of this spectrum. The thesis is then: If candidates stand too far right or left, they lose these voters to more moderate opponents.
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These performances have always been questionable. But today it is particularly obvious that they do not correspond to reality. From growing inequality, to the increasing number of people seeking refuge worldwide, to the advancing climate catastrophe, a series of social and ecological crises have come to a head in recent years. Many are materially worse off than before the global economic crisis of 2007/2008, and many are less optimistic about the future than before. At the same time, the ruling moderate politicians have proved incapable of solving these crises. This has not only led to a massive loss of confidence in the supposedly reasonable middle ground. It has also made many voters open to more radical political approaches from the right and left.
Against the backdrop of this polarization, Donald Trump's promise of radical isolation ("Build the Wall!") has been well received. To defeat him in 2020, the Democrats should nominate Sanders. For with his promise of a dramatic expansion of the hardly existing US welfare state, he is the only candidate who offers at least as radical solutions as Trump. For many, everything else simply no longer seems trustworthy.
But for a democratic victory in the coming presidential election in November this year, a radical election program alone will not be enough. The party needs a candidate who appeals to voters on an emotional level. In the USA there is hardly anyone who can do this as well as Sanders.
What Chomsky says
Noam Chomsky is one of the most important US intellectuals and sharpest critics of the government, not only since Donald Trump. Chomsky, 91, finds clear words about the attacks on Bernie Sanders in an interview with truthout.org. Not only has he "for a long time been committed to the interests of the vast majority of the population and not to the top 0.1 percent". Sanders, his mass movement and his goals are an attack on the understanding of "good order" and "democracy", as many liberals have done since the 20th century. According to the report, an "intelligent minority" has the responsibility to cope with the seriousness of the situation. Meanwhile, they only allow "average people" to make a cross every four years because of their "stupidity". After that, they should "but return to their television chairs and video games". Chomsky also talks about climate change and parallels and differences between Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn.
Read the interview with Noam Chomsky in German translation on the net
The political center is crumbling because many people feel abandoned. As their living conditions deteriorate, they not only realize that the ruling politicians are doing little about it. Correctly, they also recognize that the established politicians are acting primarily in the interests of the powerful. This leads to an outrage that sometimes takes on reactionary forms. But this feeling can also be channeled in a progressive direction.
Similar to Trump, Sanders, through his passionate rhetoric, serves as a mouthpiece for the justified indignation felt by broad sections of the electorate. But Sanders does not direct it against Mexicans or Muslims, but against "the millionaires and billionaires" - that is, those who profit from the unjust economic system.
Hardly anyone else has profited from the unjust American economic system in such a way as Donald Trump. But in the end, the billionaire real estate magnate won in 2016 because he successfully positioned himself against the socio-economic elite of the USA. He did so partly through his radical criticism of global free trade, but more importantly, through his uncouth behavior that contradicted the officially accepted mores of the ruling class. Even though he never seriously questioned the material interests of this (his) class, Trump was thus able to stage himself as a friend of the "little man".
Against Wall Street's favorite candidate, Hillary Clinton, he easily succeeded in this. And against most of the Democratic candidates who are still in the race now, it should hardly be more difficult for him. Because almost everyone accepts large donations from billionaires like him. Only with Bernie Sanders this strategy can hardly work.
Sanders not only rejects donations from lobby groups and major donors. He has also spent his entire life fighting against elites such as those represented by Donald Trump. As a presidential candidate, he would be perfectly suited to expose Trump's "populism" as an outright fraud - and take over America's "country lord in chief".
It should therefore come as no surprise to anyone that Sanders has been ahead of Trump in polls for five years on a hypothetical choice between the two. Why do party officials and media personalities loyal to the party still claim that Bernie Sanders will lose to Donald Trump?
Do not believe the mainstream
In the case of high-ranking insiders of the party like Clinton, an explanation is obvious: they see themselves as part of the Democratic establishment attacked by Sanders, so they want to stop him in order to maintain their influence. Since a victory against Trump is the highest priority of Democratic regular voters, they play down Sanders' chances against Trump in order to harm him in the primary elections.
But it would be a mistake to think that Sanders' chances are simply being played down deliberately and against their better judgment. Because of their own privileged class position, many journalists in particular simply don't understand what appeals to people about Sanders. They themselves do not feel taken in by his class politics, they project this feeling onto the electorate. Their skepticism about Sanders' eligibility is based less on analytically differentiated arguments or empirical data than on this projection.
As observers of the US elections, we should be more self-critical than the mainstream opinion makers. For these are the same people who told us four years ago that a President Donald Trump was unthinkable.