Sanders’ campaign message the real winner
The most remarkable aspect of this election has not been controversies surrounding Trump or Clinton, nor even their election, but the popularity of Democratic primary candidate Senator Bernie Sanders’ message.
Sanders is possibly the only major presidential candidate to offer a radical vision of economic change since FDR, who in a 1936 speech attacked “economic royalists”. While the Republican mantra of “less taxes” is matched by the Democratic Party’s voter triangulation, Sanders stumped on the redistribution of wealth as well as disruption of staid political hierarchies.
Wealth redistribution, a nearlytaboo term in the American political sphere, took center stage during Sanders’ campaign to become the Democratic nominee. Although Trump talked about “Washington elites” and Clinton about broadening economic opportunity, Sanders’ critiques were not endorsed by either the moneyed class personified by Trump nor the political class embodied by Clinton.
So few, in the end, were surprised that Sanders did not win the Democrats’ nomination — whether or not you believe the election is “rigged”, as Trump has repeatedly stated. Self-described democratic socialist Sanders was a square peg in a round hole.
During and after the primary campaign, Trump and most Republicans said that Obama’s entire presidency was a disaster. Clinton and many Democrats took the opposite tack.
One of Sanders’ central messages was that despite certain gains in the Obama administration, over the last eight years the rich have done much better than everyone else financially.
“This country is a lot better as a result of Obama and he had to do that against fierce opposition. On the other hand, the great issue of our time is ... the power of the billionaire class to own the politics of this country,” Sanders told New York magazine in October.
Sanders’ popularity is partially the culmination of a popular discontent that would have been unimaginable eight years ago. But during that time, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and other movements for social justice emerged and gained endorsements from public figures. The successes and publicity of those movements enabled Sanders’ message.
Although many find this election cycle depressing, or feel like their actions have few consequences in the larger political sphere, the popularity of Sanders and his message has shown that there is a popular model for change that is critical of entrenched positions of economic power.
Regardless of the president, the new message of economic justice is the real winner.
Self-described democratic socialist Sanders was a square peg in a round hole.