Bernie Sanders surges amid fissures in the Democratic Party

By Samia Majid, MA History

Following the Democratic Debate in Nevada on February 19, 2020, the Trump re-election campaign accused the Democratic Party of having a ‘full-scale meltdown.’ This encapsulates the general disarray of the Democratic establishment, which favours a ‘moderate’ candidate over the self-identifying democratic-socialist, Bernie Sanders, who now has a double lead over his closest opponents. 

The Nevada debate marked the debut of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, whose recent increase in polling records qualified him for the debate, following an expenditure of over a quarter of a million dollars on multimedia ads. These new entry requirements have been criticised for allowing Bloomberg to effectively buy his way into politics, as they are based heavily on polling performance and online fundraising. Bloomberg’s presidential bid is further problematised by his record as mayor of New York City, which saw the proliferation of the controversial stop and frisk policy, disproportionately targeting the city’s black and Latinx population. Under Bloomberg’s authority, an extensive surveillance program infiltrated Muslim ‘hotspots’, baiting them to express controversial views regarding terrorism on record, without their knowledge. Despite a weak defence of these policies as not ‘racist’ or unconstitutional, and even a few belated apologies, not a single terrorist plot was foiled through them, nor a single criminal lead or piece of intelligence generated. 

Sanders’ campaign motto, ‘Not me. Us’ is apt, seeing as he has received more individual donations than any other candidate in history.

The origins of the current state of the Democratic Party can be traced back to the Clinton administration, under which the party transitioned from its roots as a labour and social movement, towards accommodating elite and corporate interests, allowing lobbyists to heavily influence policy. Senator Bernie Sanders’ vision of working-class solidarity includes policies such as Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and the abolishment of college tuition fees. Moreover, his stance against the ‘billionaire class’ puts him at odds with establishment figures, who are looking for a ‘unity’ centre-left candidate to unite dispersed voters. Critics argue that the party’s elite has become too complacent, benefitting from Trump’s tax breaks while also cashing in on anti-Trump sentiment through fundraising and empty posturing. Bloomberg is one of many candidates brandishing the ‘moderate’ mantle to win the Democratic nomination, along with former Vice President Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren.

But the Democratic establishment can no longer overlook Sanders’ grassroots social movement. His successes in Iowa and New Hampshire were followed by a landslide victory in Nevada, demonstrating his popular appeal in the first multiracial diverse state. The Sanders campaign consolidated the Latinx vote and won over all voters under the age of 65, excluding black voters – who mostly voted for Biden – also proving popular with college and non-college educated voters. Sanders claims he is creating a ‘multigenerational, multiracial coalition,’ leading with a 29% average in the national polls and more pledged delegates than any other candidate. If Sanders’ delegate lead becomes insurmountable, it could effectively end the Democratic primary race as early as 4 March 2020, or at least force other, less influential candidates to end their campaigns.

Sanders is the only candidate to pledge his support for whoever becomes the Democratic nominee in July, citing the overriding need to beat Trump in 2020. None of the other candidates have done so, despite the fact that no significant competitor has emerged against Sanders. Attempts to tarnish Bernie Sanders, especially those undertaken by the corporate media, have proven to be superficial; the ‘Bernie bros’ narrative which portrays his supporters as white, male, keyboard warriors erases the support of many people of colour and women for Bernie Sanders. The Vermont Senator stands apart from his competitors in rejecting funding from wealthy donors and super PACs, denouncing the corruptive influence of wealthy lobbyists in politics. His campaign motto, ‘Not me. Us’ is apt, seeing as he has received more individual donations than any other candidate in history. As far as electability arguments go, Bernie Sanders has established himself as the Democratic front-runner – his emphasis on increasing voter turnout in order to bolster his appeal has already proven true. 

Post Author: SOAS Spirit

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