Magazine article Canadian Dimension

The Bernie Effect

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

The Bernie Effect

Article excerpt

WHEN BERNARD SANDERS, the independent Senator from Vermont, entered the race for the American presidency, it was the ultimate long shot: not only was he without support from the Democratic Party establishment, but he was also mostly unknown to the American public outside of Vermont and adjoining states such as New Hampshire and New York. Of course, progressive forces in the 50 states knew of him, but progressives are a minority. There were countless obstacles facing a Bernard Sanders candidacy, and yet America, and many on the global left, have had to sit up and taken notice of the "Bernie Effect." There are clearly lessons to be learned from his campaign.

The enthusiastic crowds (upwards of 20,000) that have followed him throughout his trek across the country have show that his message of free tuition in state universities, equal pay for equal work and $15 minimum wage has resonated among the working class, the lower middle class, intellectuals, students, youth, women, rank and file union members, liberals (in the American sense) and socialists alike. Sanders comes out of the tradition of Eugene V. Debs, militant labour leader and founder of the Socialist Party of America. And we should not forget that there is also a tradition in the United States of declared socialists becoming mayors of major U.S. cities, the first one being Emil Seidel, who was mayor of Milwaukee from 1910-1912 and ran with Debs as the vice presidential candidate on the Socialist Party of America ticket in 1912.

Despite the cold shoulder from the Democratic Party press, and his rejection by the party establishment, Sanders has continued to make strides in the campaign. Receiving no money from Super PACS and relying only on individual and modest donations, he succeeded in getting Hilary Clinton to I start looking over her shoulder and forcing her to take positions that could be qualified as centre and even centre-left. She endorsed the 12$ an hour wage at the onset of the primaries. Now she is on board for the $15 minimum wage. A resident of the White House when her husband deregulated Wall Street, she now makes noises about regulating Wall Street. The Clinton machine knows very well that the left populism of Sanders discourse resonates very well with the poor and the working class who suffered from the financial crisis. The Bernie Sanders candidacy in this presidential election is a breath of fresh air.

By positioning himself up front as a socialist in all of his media interviews--even FOX News--since his arrival in Washington, Sanders has helped demystify the word while straight-talking with the American people.

The Progressive magazine holds an annual convention in Madison, Wisconsin, and in 2012, the question put to the delegates of the convention was, "Why not Socialism? …

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