It’s election year in the USA and, as has sadly become the norm, political differences are keeping the country polarized along party lines. An interesting development has taken place however, as the favorites to win the nominations for both the Democratic and Republican parties are candidates who actively oppose their respective establishments. While Donald Trump’s support was more than expected because he is running for reelection, Bernie Sanders’ incredible rise to become the main contender in the Democratic primaries has been quite surprising for many.
Bernie firmly places himself as the most left-wing alternative within the Democrats, proposing policies such as Medicare for All, the complete elimination of student debt, and taxing the wealth of those that are extremely well-off. However, it is worth highlighting that for most of his life Bernie has been an Independent rather than a Democrat, and he is very critical of what he sees are “corporate Democrats”, elite-favoring politicians that have helped maintain the status quo in the United States. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Bernie is probably one of the most consistent politicians of his time since he has stuck to the same economically populist and anti-war views for 30 years. His proposals have resonated quite deeply with plenty of Americans, particularly those on lower-income brackets and young voters, resulting in him surging in popularity during the last two election cycles.
Back in 2016, there was considerable outrage when Bernie lost the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton, in what was perceived as an attempt from the establishment to keep a dynamic force for change like Bernie away from the presidency. Today, Bernie comes out on top on almost every single poll pitting him against Trump in the run for the presidency. And while many are surprised at a socialist’s surge in the United States, the signs are all there to recognize why people feel left behind as they struggle to cope with their day-to-day problems.
I want to be extremely clear and say that I genuinely believe in the dangers of populism, having suffered it in Latin America, and it being a key element of our perpetual underdevelopment. Have no doubts, proposing to abolish private health care, forgive every single outstanding penny of student debt, nationalize key industries that are in the public interest, and tax the rich, is something only a populist can promise, especially when he can’t even justify how he is going to afford it. Additionally, Bernie has been recorded stating dangerously supportive words for dictatorial regimes such as Cuba and the USSR, increasing the fear of an inhumane ideological allegiance. That said, Bernie’s record of honesty and consistency are an important attractive feature for millions of people. Not to mention the fact that successive governments of the US have refused to provide adequate care for their citizens while spending TRILLIONS of dollars in pointless wars overseas and cutting taxes for corporations in the name of “austerity”. These corporations then use the money to repurchase their own shares and reward their executives with fat bonuses, widening the inequality gap. We are all old enough to remember the Great Financial Crisis and how failing banks were bailed out with taxpayers’ money, but millions of people who lost their homes had to start from zero.
In this landscape of “socialism for the rich”, Bernie has capitulated and effectively proposed socialism for those that need it the most, and unsurprisingly, people feel very attracted to such proposals. I have to say though, the fact that things have been managed appallingly before does not automatically mean that Bernie’s solutions will work, as well-intentioned as they might be. With that in mind, I think a Bernie presidency could end up being good for the citizens of the US, as long as Congress slightly tames his leftism and he drops some of his policies, such as eliminating student debt. For now he is still the favorite, but Michael Bloomberg is spending big money on advertisement and rising in the polls. If Joe Biden drops out of the race in time, the boost to Bloomberg would make him a serious contender. As much as I disagree with Bernie’s ideological allegiances, having a billionaire essentially buy an election would be disastrous for a country already grappling with the significant holes in its democracy. If you don’t believe me, go watch videos of how delegates during the primaries have been allocated with coin tosses or pulling cards. With a system like that, it’s obvious millions are calling for it to be drastically reformed. We will see what November brings.