Sanders set to crush rivals on Super Tuesday

Record: He would be the first US commander-in-chief to call himself a “democratic socialist”. © Getty

Is left-wing politics back? Tomorrow, as 14 American states go to the polls, Bernie Sanders could take a huge step towards the world’s most powerful job. Is this part of a wider trend?

By the end of tomorrow, Bernie Sanders could have emerged as the undisputed frontrunner to become the Democratic Party’s candidate for the US presidential election on 3 November.

Fourteen states, from Alabama to Virginia, containing 40% of America’s population, will vote on who they want to stand against Donald Trump later this year.

To the astonishment of many – and the horror of some – Bernie Sanders is leading the pack.

He would be the most left-wing candidate ever to be nominated, the first self-described “socialist” to appear on the ballot paper.

But what, exactly, does that mean?

The key focus of Sanders’s message is the creation of an economy that works for everyone, not just the extremely rich.

He advocates free education, free access to healthcare for all and the “Green New Deal” (a set of proposals to tackle the climate crisis whilst improving the lives of ordinary Americans).

These ideas would be expensive, and Sanders’s plans to raise taxes to fund them are a target for right-wing commentators and politicians.

For them, tax hikes help make the state too powerful – a criticism levelled at other Sanders policies too, such as doubling the minimum wage, cracking down on gun ownership, and breaking up the monopoly of tech firms like Amazon, Facebook and Google.

In 2016, when Sanders lost the Democratic nomination to Hilary Clinton, many of his plans were seen as far-left – too extreme for the Democratic Party. More moderate ideas won out, along with a candidate – Clinton – more friendly to political and business elites.

But since then, inequality has continued to rise. The climate crisis has intensified.

People across the world crave governments that will step in to spread wealth more fairly and protect the environment. Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s 2018 victory in Mexico is proof. So is Sanders’s popularity.

Elsewhere, however, left-wing surges have faltered – take Syriza in Greece or Spain’s Podemos. Right-wingers Jair Bolsonaro and Narendra Modi have won big victories in Brazil and India.

So, the question remains: is left-wing politics really coming back?

Turning left?

One view would be that it is impossible to say either way. We are living in an age of extremes. Populism is the norm but this can be right-wing, as with Trump, Bolsonaro, and Modi, or left-wing, as with Sanders. The resurgence of strong socialist ideas in politics may even have peaked – just look at Jeremy Corbyn’s defeat to Boris Johnson in the UK, or the failure of Syriza in Greece.

On the other hand, there is a huge appetite for these ideas. Voters are sick of complacent businesses making fortunes at the expense of workers, but they have also had enough of the right-wing populism that whips up hatred and mistrust in response. Support for socialist ideas is especially high among the young, so – even if Sanders doesn’t clinch the nomination – it is reasonable to argue that a left-wing wave is on its way.

You Decide

  1. Do you think education and healthcare should be free, even if it means an increase in taxes?
  2. If you were a politician, would you champion ordinary people or political and business elites?

Activities

  1. Imagine you are running for president. Choose the three most vital things you would make happen if elected and make a poster promoting them.
  2. Research the history of socialism in the USA during the 20th Century. Write one side of paper explaining why you think many Americans are suspicious of it.

Some People Say...

“Nothing will change unless we have the guts to take on Wall Street, the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the military-industrial complex, and the fossil fuel industry.”

Bernie Sanders, US senator from Vermont

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Sanders is leading the race so far, having won the popular vote in the first three primaries (Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada), and picked up the most delegates (45). He is forecast to do very well tomorrow, but things won’t be finally decided until the Democratic National Convention in July. Although Sanders’s policies are resonating with voters, his left-wing agenda is already attracting significant hostility from the centrist and right-wing media. This will intensify as the race goes on.
What do we not know?
The polling website FiveThirtyEight emphasises that it is very hard to be certain about exactly what will happen on tomorrow – there are many factors in play and, because rival Pete Buttigieg has dropped out, candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Michael Bloomberg could do better. If Sanders were to win the nomination and beat Trump to become US president, it’s a much bigger unknown as to whether he could actually implement his socialist policies. In Greece, Syriza wholly failed to deliver on its left-wing programme.

Word Watch

Undisputed
Something everyone agrees about.
Advocates
To argue in favour of.
Tax hikes
An increase in taxes.
State
A nation seen from the point of view of its political administration.
Monopoly
Total control of business by one company, so that competition is not possible.
Faltered
Lost strength or momentum.
Populism
A political approach which claims to defend ordinary people’s interests against a greedy establishment elite.
Complacent
Not thinking or caring about things.

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