sábado, 11 de agosto de 2018

It’s Bernie’s Party Now


A voice crying in the wilderness is supposed to be ignored, not rewarded with accolades and growing influence.

Bernie Sanders is the prophet with honor in his own party. The former socialist gadfly is now the socialist trendsetter. At the moment, he has to be counted among the most successful ideological leaders in a generation in terms of moving the terms of the American political debate and putting previously discounted ideas on the agenda.

This doesn’t mean that he’ll be the next Democratic nominee for president, or even run. It doesn’t mean that his ideas are good (I personally consider them godawful), or that they will make for a salable platform for the Democratic Party (which I very much doubt).

It does mean that when it comes to domestic policy on the left, it’s Bernie’s world and the rest of the Democrats live in it.

It’s impossible to imagine a more successful protest campaign for president than his in 2016 (except for Donald Trump’s).

Sanders was an irrelevance for a couple of decades in Congress. He ran to get a higher profile, and succeeded not merely in that, but in seriously challenging Hillary Clinton. He is now is a pacesetter in the party while she rues what might have been.

To be sure, much of this was inevitable. Whatever brake on the left Barack Obama represented was going to be released once he went home, especially if Democrats couldn’t hold the White House. The advent of President Donald Trump pressed the accelerator on the party’s radicalization.

Moreover, the bar for being a refreshing voice in the party when Sanders emerged in 2016 wasn’t particularly high. All he had to do was say something new and sincere compared to Hillary Clinton, who represented a Clintonism shorn of the freshness and life it had when her husband first entered the national stage in 1992.

In 2016, though, Sanders embodied the first real political expression of a post-Obama left, disappointed by his alleged incrementalism and determined to move beyond it.

His success represents a version of what has happened to center-left parties around the West, as they have collapsed or been eclipsed by new forces. The two-party system is a durable feature of the American system, so the Democrats aren’t going anywhere, but Sanders is an interloper. As Hillary Clinton complains, he’s “not even a Democrat.”

This is not a cutting attack. Indeed, it doesn’t matter in the least to the Democrats in good standing who are vacuuming up Bernie’s ideas. You can hardly be a U.S. senator who hopes to run for president if you aren’t co-sponsoring pillars of the Sanders agenda such as Medicare for All, free college and the $15 minimum wage.

“Just a few short years ago,” Sanders crowed last year, “we were told that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was ‘radical.’” Indeed, he was told that, and for good reason. But he had five co-sponsors for a $15 bill in 2015 and has a majority of Senate Democrats now.

The Sanders policies are tangible and substantive (if misbegotten). Compare the period of Republican ferment when the party was out of power under Obama.

The Tea Party, for better or worse, didn’t have big, signature policy initiatives. It wanted to eliminate earmarks, a relatively trifling matter. It opposed amnesty, although the Republican base always had this position. It hated the debt, which led to some serious proposals for entitlement reform but also much posturing to little effect.

Tea Party candidates usually defined themselves by their tactical maximalism and their style, especially a contemptuous attitude toward the establishment. This is why it slid so easily into Trumpism.

In contrast, it’s difficult to how to see how serious Democratic candidates for president are going to avoid endorsing Bernie’s ideas.

This will be good for Bernie’s project, but his own future is cloudy. If he runs again, he will get more scrutiny as a plausible contender rather than a guerrilla candidate. He won’t have Clinton as a foil, but numerous contenders who want to ape his substance as younger, less quirky, more polished candidates.

Significantly, Sanders is a laggard when it comes to identity politics, which is becoming even more important to Democrats in reaction to Trump. A 76-year-old male from the whitest state in the union, who has devoted his life to a rigorously class-based politics, can do his best to play along but will never be a natural.

The voters, in the Democratic primaries and the next presidential election, will obviously have a say, and they can upset expectations.

A few years ago, Rand Paul was having a moment in the Republican Party before the influence of libertarianism was obliterated in the GOP by the rise of Trumpism. Paul Ryan developed a thorough, coherent approach to the debt that seemed to define the future of Republican policy, before Trump blew right through that, too. Few would have guessed it at the time, but events were about to make Pat Buchanan and Jeff Sessions look like the GOP prophets. Who knows how it shakes out for Bernie Sanders two or three years from now? What we do know is that he’s out of the wilderness

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