San­ders’ cam­paign mes­sage the real win­ner

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - MATTHEW TURNER Con­tact the writer at matthew­turner@chi­nadai­lyusa.com.

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.

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