No joke. The Daily Beast’s Michael Moynihan has dug up comments Bernie Sanders (then mayor of Burlington, Vermont) made in the 1980s, in which he praised countries where “people line up for food”, agreed that “bread lines are a sign of economic health”, and threw his unwavering support behind dictatorships in Cuba and Nicaragua.
While the now-presidential candidate has toned down his adoration for totalitarian regimes on the campaign trail, he remains no less radical in other areas. His calls for the take-down of Wall Street, the end of free trade agreements, and significantly higher taxes on the working and middle class would usually be considered unpalatable even on the far-left in America, let alone by the moderate wing of the Democratic party.
But what success the Sanders campaign has had. While everyone was fixated on the Republican contest – and waited with baited breath for Donald Trump’s next controversial statement – Sanders turned out big victories in the last four states to vote, winning all the caucuses in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington on 26 March, and then beating Clinton in a competitive primary in Wisconsin this past Tuesday.
Sanders is closing the gap, and now trails Clinton by just 150 delegates. And although she continues to hold a comfortable lead if you factor in the hundreds of super-delegates (typically Democratic Party insiders) who plan to support her at the convention, there’s no doubt those super-delegates will have some serious soul-searching to do if, come July, a vote for Clinton is a vote against the mandate of the party’s voters.
But remaining competitive in the race is not Sanders’s only victory. Ideologically, he has managed to blow up large flagships of the Clinton campaign, while driving her further to the left – and also up the wall.
Clinton has been caught on camera multiple times now engaged in hostile moments with rally-goers and protestors who have criticised her campaign. Most recently, she responded to a climate change activist who accused her of taking money from fossil fuel interests by placing the blame back on her competition:
“I am so sick, I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it.”
Indeed, the Clinton team seems to be past the shock of the Sanders revolution and is now experiencing full-on frustration and anger about his success.
Campaign funding has become a sore spot for Clinton, as she does indeed benefit from support from Super PACs and money from Wall Street – something neither Sanders nor Trump claim to have accepted. And in this explosive, anti-establishment era of politics, issues of funding, paid-for-policies and authenticity have become incredibly meaningful to voters (which is perhaps why, in part, they overlook Bernie’s food rationing days), and in turn has proven very unlucky for the establishment, Democratic frontrunner. Clinton picked the worst time in history to be the best connected person in politics.
Even if Clinton secures the nomination outright by pulling off wins in New York and California over the next few months, she won’t easily shake the allegations that have been made against her this primary season. Indeed, any sizzle or spark she launched her campaign with seems to have completely evaporated, leaving her outshone by her competitors, left and right.
Sanders has soaked up all the enthusiasm, while Trump has soaked up all the intrigue. That doesn’t leave much for Clinton: just some establishment branding and the backing of billionaires – both of which have proven to be much less helpful than originally thought.