Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Sanders Phenomenon:
Birth of a True
James J Zogby
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, May 30, 2016
There is a Sanders phenomenon. It is real and the factors that have
prompted its emergence need to addressed and understood.
year's presidential primary began, many dismissed the Democratic Party
contest as a "done deal". It was assumed that Secretary Clinton would be
the inevitable nominee--with the primaries and caucuses being a bothersome
but required pro forma affair that Clinton would have to endure, until she
had accumulated enough delegates to be declared the nominee.
year ago, Clinton was leading the rest of the Democratic field by between
50 to 60 points with none of her opponents believed to be serious
challengers--especially the 74 year old socialist Senator from Vermont.
Back then, Sanders support came largely from a core group of progressive
activists who were driving his campaign. A year later, much has changed
with the gap between Clinton and Sanders, among Democrats, having been
narrowed to single digits. When the preferences of all voters (Democrats,
Republicans, and Independents) are considered and Clinton and Sanders are
matched separately against the GOP's nominee, Donald Trump, a very
different picture emerges. The average of this month's polls show Trump
beating Clinton by slightly less than 1 point. The same polls averages
show Sanders beating Trump by about 11 points. And polls in key
battleground states show much the same--with Clinton and Trump running
neck and neck and Sanders beating Trump in every state.
what happened, but the question that needs to be answered is why? Several
factors point the way.
Part of Secretary Clinton's problem is that
she is running for president in a year when voter distrust of and even
anger at the political and economic establishments has come to define the
national mood. Many voters do not believe that politicians and corporate
leaders consider the public's wellbeing in their decision-making. Given
this setting, Clinton's claim of experience and her long-standing ties to
Wall Street investors have become liabilities.
In the contest
between Clinton, the ultimate "insider", and Sanders, the ultimate
"outsider", Sanders has a decided edge.
Then there are the matters
of authenticity and trust. Polls demonstrate that voters, especially the
young and the growing number of those who declare no affiliation with
either party, are drawn to Sanders because they see him as authentic and
they trust him. Among voters under 45, Sanders beats Clinton by a margin
of 2 to 1. And when all voters are asked who they trust more, Sanders wins
by 3 to 1.
These two factors, distrust of the establishment and the
yearning for a leader who is authentic and can be trusted, form the
underpinnings of the Sanders' phenomenon. The "meat on the bones" are the
issues he has championed.
America is, without a doubt, a wealthy
nation. The GDP and the performance of the stock market, despite an
occasional dip, appear to suggest a healthy economy. But in spite of this,
real incomes for the middle class have been stagnant for decades leaving
most Americans struggling to make ends meet.
When Sanders points
out that the top 1% in the US control more of the nation's wealth than the
bottom 90% and when he notes that the American middle class controls a
smaller percentage of our nation's wealth than the middle class in any
other industrialized country, that message resonates. As does his broader
message of economic justice and a reordering of political/economic
priorities. While Sanders' calls for "health care for all", tuition-free
higher education, and his proposal to pay for these programs by imposing
stiffer taxes on the wealthiest 1% are dismissed as unworkable and
"socialist", they have been embraced by young and working class voters who
are hungry for change. And when he criticizes the corrupting influence of
"big money" in our politics, voters respond in agreement.
election is entering its final round, it is clear that the Sanders
phenomenon must be taken seriously. Despite the view of media pundits and
the Democratic establishment that the contest is over (a form of voter
suppression) and calls that Sanders should withdraw from the race, he
continues to demonstrate electoral strength--winning 2 out of the last 3
and 12 out of the last 20 states.
At this point, Sanders can
legitimately claim the support of about one-half of the Democratic Party's
base. This cannot be dismissed. Nor can his observation that he
outperforms Clinton with Independents and fares better against the GOP in
national and battleground state polls.
Democrats would be making a
mistake to ignore both the "meta issues" of distrust of the establishment
and the voters' desire to have a candidate they can trust, as well as
Sanders' far-reaching agenda for political and economic reform.
believe that should he win in California, Sanders can make a strong case
urging the party's super-delegates to support his candidacy. It is this
group--many of whom had endorsed Clinton before this election had even
begun--that have made her margin over Sanders appear to be insurmountable.
But even if he does not win, what he represents cannot be dismissed or
reduced to any single issue, as many of the press reports on his platform
picks attempted to do this past week. What Sanders represents and the
far-reaching change in domestic and foreign policy he has advocated and
that many voters have endorsed should not be ignored.
voters deeply felt needs, Sanders has given
birth to a true progressive movement that, if
understood, embraced, and, most importantly, sustained, can, as he has
noted, bring revolutionary change to America. It is a phenomenon.
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