BERNIE SANDERS WINS AT THE END
Why the election campaign of the US socialist did not end with a defeat
By Robert D. Meyer
Bernie Sanders supports Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House. He should not be accused of treachery or betrayal.
[This article published on 7/14/2016 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.neues-deutschland.de.]
Maybe Bernie Sanders thought of Ralph Nader. Maybe the leftist senator from Vermont came to the point where he decided not to make the same politically disastrous decision as the civil rights lawyer made during the 2000 presidential election. Many democrats today are firmly convinced Nader was the reason why their candidate Al Gore lost to the republicans and the later two-term president George W. Bush (translator's note: Gore even lost his home state Tennessee). This strategic reflection is not false. Nader tipped the scales in Florida known as a "swing state." Polls predicted an extremely tight race between Gore and Bush. Therefore the democrats tried to persuade Nader of a deal, either not run in Florida or convince at least part of his supporters to vote for Gore. In a countermove, people could vote for Nader in smaller campaigns in states secure for democrats.
However the US left supported by the Green Party did not enter into that strategic barter. Gore lost Florida by 600 votes and as a result the race for the White House. The election outcome in 2000 was a heavy blow for the US left. It began a continuing debate to what extent strategic decisions should be more important than holding onto principles. So the leftist US filmmaker Michael Moore who supported Nader in the election campaign later asked retrospectively whether his decision was right in light of Bush's eight-year era. From the beginning, it was clear Nader could win a respect or esteem victory. At the end he won three million votes nationwide. However the winner-takes-all principle counts in the American electoral system.
Sanders faced a similar situation. Different from Nader, the socialist took on a 15-month Democratic primary campaign and inspired 23 states and 13 million voters - including disproportionally many young- and floating voters - with his vision. From the beginning, the 74-year old emphasized issues were central, not his person. One of his campaign slogans "Not me. Us" embodied this attitude. Unlike other professional or career politicians who like to speak of a "we," Sanders has one quality that gives him an advantage in the US election campaign that is largely based on sympathies: authenticity.
Although Sanders' election campaign in the last 15 months experienced an increasing professionalization, many of his appearances at the start of his campaign showed his embodiment of the honest broker... If Sanders were a scholar at a US university, his lectures would often be overcrowded since he has so little in common with the entirely staged teleprompter election campaign of Hillary Clinton.
From this perspective, we could say his election program is more important to him than his own person or some mandate. Because he holds firmly to his candidacy, he could put significant political pressure on democrats and ultimately move them to the left. The demand to double the nationwide minimum wage to $15, further development of universal health care and free access to state universities are now on the election program of the party. These demands should be regarded as a victory for the US left in a country where republicans castigated Obama's ultimately correct but timid health care reform as the way to authoritarian socialism according to the 20th century model.
The democrats' relation to Sanders is marked by contradictions as was clear at the "Left Forum" in New York in May 2016.  Sanders is considered too adapted or conformist to the political mainstream for supporters of the most different small leftist parties like the Greens. However there are also many Sanders' supporters who want a political alternative to the left of the Democratic Party. Sanders knows how to do the splits. Months ago he began passionately campaigning on one hand for reforming democrats from within and on the other hand motivating the grassroots movement arising around him to become active in the communities and states beyond the presidential election. Ultimately Sanders only took up an attitude deeply rooted in the US that success depends on individuals.
Instead of promoting the rat-race or dog-eat-dog mentality, the logical consequence from "Not Me. Us" is the exact opposite. The individual fights for improvement of social conditions, not for himself and his personal success. Sanders convinced 13 million voters of this change of awareness. That was a huge success for a candidate only known one-and-a-half years ago outside Vermont to persons intensely interested in politics.
That Sanders now supports Clinton should not be misinterpreted as betrayal of the idea. The attitude of the leftist senator was clear when he appeared with the former US Secretary of State at a joint election campaign event on Tuesday in New Hampshire. He began his speech with the symbolically important words that Clinton was the best female candidate in the race for the White House. But his following statements stressed the vision that he embodied in his election campaign... At the beginning, Clinton was declared the only possible and logical winner... In the case of the republicans, the whole media landscape was completely incoherent and Donald Trump had no chance at all. No hasty headlines should be written for the election in November.
It became quieter around Sanders in the following months... The political approaches of Sanders and Clinton are very different. Although he had the support of many followers and thus a base, Sanders excluded early on jumping in the presidential election campaign as an independent if his campaign with the democrats did not go off well.
Sanders is not a power-seeker. But he does not want to be a Nader who maneuvers his ideals in a cul-de-sac that at the end splits the candidacy of the left camp and thus brings a President Trump. Sanders' project goes beyond the current election campaign. Therefore Sanders and his issues will win at the end.
David Niose, "This is one weak nominee: Hillary Clinton's problem isn't Bernie Sanders. Its Hillary Clinton," Salon.com, 5/14/2016
link to www.salon.com
Nathan Robinson, "The Democrats Are Making A Suicidal Mistake," Current Affairs.org, 5/26/2016
Nathan Robinson, "Unless The Democrats Run Sanders, a Trump Nomination Means a Trump Presidency," Current Affairs, 2/23/2016
link to static.currentaffairs.org
Nathan Robinson, "Why Leftists Should Have No Problem Voting for Hillary Clinton," Current Affairs.org, 7/12/2016