The Iowan Democrat caucus photo finish reveals a major fault line in the US political consensus, reports Mark Dee Smith
Hilary Clinton gained a 49.86% majority this Monday but the victor in every sense other than technical was self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. This represents a breakthrough in US electoral politics.
Many commentators will say that this result it is impossible to maintain, but these are the same commentators who said it was impossible in the first place.
These are still early days for the Sanders phenomena. What is happening can be seen as a conjuncture of the still acute anti-Wall Street sentiment felt all across the US, and the more global affront to mainstream politics that finds echoes in Syriza, and the ascendancies of Jeremy Corbyn and the Scottish Nationalists. Like Corbyn, the mainstream media’s absolute derision towards him – overwhelmingly due to his politics but also his age – has had the net result of attracting the young in droves. In Iowa, he gained 85% of the youth vote.
“Socialism” has for generations been a taboo word in the US political mainstream yet today, 43% of Iowan Democrats define themselves as socialist and 68% say that a socialist US president is viable.
Notwithstanding the usual caveats about the Democrats and electoral politics in general, this represents an astonishing opportunity that all socialists should embrace and maximise. Most of the action will be away from the stump, and that can be to the left’s benefit but only if it engages.
As Sanders himself told voters last August:
“Let me tell you something that no other candidate for president will tell you. No matter who is elected to be president, that person will not be able to address the enormous problems facing the working families of our country.
They will not be able to succeed because the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of campaign donors is so great that no president alone can stand up to them. That is the truth.
People may be uncomfortable about hearing it, but that is the reality. And that is why what this campaign is about is saying loudly and clearly: it is not just about electing Bernie Sanders for president, it is about creating a grassroots political movement in this country.”