Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn


Over here, we have the Bernie Sanders phenomenon. Sanders, a “self-avowed” democratic socialist, has somehow managed to make a pact with the Democratic party, which has allowed him to operate in an inside-outside strategy and gain seniority and clout in the U.S. Senate. This was a  feat in and of itself. Now he is making a bid for the Presidency, and the Democrats are accepting him as a party insider. Probably when it all started, the leadership thought he hadn’t much of a chance, and since he had kept his part of the bargain and only troubled the Republicans, why not let a rumpled, but vaguely charismatic septuagenarian have one last fling?
Over there, they have the Jeremy Corbyn conundrum. It’s a little different, but Corbyn, too, flies the red banner, though his party, the British Labour Party, originally and nominally socialist, said to take it down back in the mid-1990s. When Corbyn announced on June 3 that he was going to make a bid for the party leadership in the wake of Labour’s disastrous showing in the last general election, I expect the party leadership was bemused, maybe amused, but not threatened. After all, who was Jeremy Corbyn? “The loony left” is the term they fall back on. Why not let an obscure, yet outspoken sexagenarian have one nostalgic moment of semi-glory?
In June and early July, British pundits laughed and assured the public that Corbyn was “unelectable” as leader. Now that he’s the clear frontrunner, they assure the public, in tones of sheer panic, that he will make all of Labour unelectable if he becomes leader. Through June and early July, American pundits prefaced every analysis of the burgeoning support for Bernie Sanders with the formula “of course, he can’t win,” meaning the nomination. In early August, he pulled ahead of Hilary Clinton in the polls of likely New Hampshire primary voters. How long will it be before the nawabs of neoliberalism assure us that if Sanders takes the Democratic party by a landslide, it will lead inexorably to a Republican victory? By which I assume they will mean a Donald Trump victory. Trump, who commands the support of a whopping 12 to 20% of the ever-shrinking Republican electorate. What kind of math are they using, and where do they buy those drugs?
A friend of mine once observed, way back in the 1990s, that the conservative philosophy was no longer a philosophy at all, but more like some kind of psychopathology. This gets truer by the year. Jeremy Corbyn has won the endorsement of nearly every union in the UK, and sells out every fundraiser he appears at (and he has them nearly daily) and has been frontrunner for the leadership election by a growing margin for nearly a month. But no mainstream media are endorsing him, even the supposedly left-leaning. The Observer did print (for pay) a full-page endorsement from over 40 leading economists under the name of Economists for Corbyn. Here is a brief part of their statement:
His opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF [International Monetary Fund] … Despite the barrage of media coverage to the contrary, it is the current government’s policy and its objectives which are extreme.
Bernie Sanders is, as much as is possible in such a different political environment, in a similar irony in the U.S. We don’t call what the Republicans advocate, and by stealth the neoliberals in the Democratic party (which is most of them), “austerity,” but it’s the same thing. It amounts to a race to the bottom, trying to slash our way out of recession, and heaping scorn on those who would spend our way out of recession, blithely ignoring that all reality-tested economic theory prescribes exactly that. One of the big differences over here, what I mainly meant by the different political environment, is the insanely long nature of a presidential race, which may take even more of a toll than the enormous costs (and of course, the two are related) and the stranglehold of our electoral system.
The Labour leadership race, by contrast, began in May, and voting started Aug. 14 and will close on Sept. 10, with results announced Sept. 12. If Corbyn wins, and it could happen, it will have a big impact on the Bernie Sanders campaign, as long as people in the U.S. are paying attention to what’s happening in the wider world and understand the message. One part of the message is: Just because powerful major media say someone is an ultra-left unelectable, that don’t necessarily mean it’s so.

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