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Commentary :: Politics
Who is the Radical? Bernie Sanders
03 Feb 2016
Bernie Sanders is the candidate of young voters and sparks a movement in the social media. Sanders is the man of the people and Clinton is the woman of big money. Clinton compares Putin with Hitler. Sanders urges a diplomatic solution of problems. Who is the radical?

By Jens Berger

[This article published on January 29, 2016 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

If the “wrong” candidates should prevail in the US presidential election campaigns beginning February 1, 2016, the billionaire Michael Bloomberg will jump in the race as an independent candidate. His goal is “to keep the US from radicals of the right and the left” – and these radicals are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. This is printed in Spiegel Online. The message is clear: America and the western world will be saved when a “moderate” candidate competes in the showdown. This can obviously only be the inevitable Hillary Clinton in the momentary mishmash. According to this, Hillary Clinton is “moderate.” Is her only serious rival Bernie Sanders who calls himself a socialist a “radical”? It is time to readjust our political compass.

According to traditional election campaign knowledge, Bernie Sanders is the most unlikely top-candidate of recent political history. Sanders is 74 years old and wears very reasonable suits. However the anachronism works. Bernie is cool! Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders is the candidate of young voters and sparks a movement in the social networks. By the New Year, Sanders had mobilized more than $72 million in election campaign donations from more than a million small contributors. The latter is a record that eclipses Obama’s famous 2008 campaign. But have you ever read anything about the Sanders’ campaign in a German newspaper? In 2007/2008 Obama was omnipresent. Only Hillary Clinton among the democrats could mobilize more donations than Sanders – from big businesses and lobby groups, the so-called “political action committees” and certainly not from small contributors. Even if it sounds a little tactless, Sanders is the man of the people and Clinton is the woman of big money.


Bernie Sanders is a political bedrock. From 1991 to 2007, Sanders sat in the US House of Representatives. Since then, he represented his state Vermont that has half as many residents as the Bronx district in New York City. In the Senate, Sanders is a leftist according to European perspectives which is a very unusual characteristic for a US politician. Even if he describes himself as a socialist, the predicate “old social democrat” would suit him better. Hillary Clinton is a “modern social democrat” but doesn’t agree with much of social democracy.

Politicians who change their positions all the time are mocked in the US as “flip-floppers.” If Bernie Sanders cannot be reproached for one thing, it is that he is not a flip-flopper. Rather the positions Sanders defends today he has represented for an eternity – probably since his birth. This is an absolutely unique characteristic in the US where it is common for top politicians to adjust their positions according to polls and tactical voter analyses. Sanders is authentic and does not act as though were authentic. That is also his secret of success for his fans and supporters.


Sanders’ central election campaign theme is the income- and wealth inequality that becomes ever more absurd. Sanders wants to keep a tighter rein on Wall Street, raise the minimum wage to at least $15, redistribute from top to bottom through the tax system, make the health and social system more just and abolish university tuitions. Thus Bernie Sanders wants (almost) everything to change. Hillary Clinton wants everything to remain as it is. “You are doing fine!” No wonder big businesses pay the incomes of the Clinton family and not only their election campaigns.

The pair of Clinton politicians pocketed more than $35 million for addresses from banks and financial providers in the last years. Since her retirement from the State Department three years ago, Mrs. Clinton took in $2.9 million for twelve speeches at big banks – including $675,000 from Goldman Sachs and $485,000 from Deutsche Bank. Clinton’s connections to Wall Street are open and identifiable. We could ask how credible can her social-, economic- and financial program be. Nevertheless Sanders is regularly presented as “radical” or even as a “lunatic,” not Clinton. Is this because he represents the 99% and Clinton the 1%?


The difference between Sanders and Clinton in the area of foreign- and security policy is tremendous. Former Congressperson Joe Scarborough described the notion that she could be a presidential candidate as follows: “This is fascinating. If she decides to compete and is nominated, she will be the greater saber-rattler and the more convincing neoconservative than her republican rival. Isn’t that true? In the last 20 years, there was hardly a US military engagement that Hillary did not support.” Scarborough is doubtlessly right on this point. Hillary Clinton was either for or initiated herself all the wars of the last years, all foreign policy adventures as for example the American intervention in the Syrian civil war. Sanders pleads to bring US soldiers home and not to instigate wars worldwide. Clinton compares Putin with Hitler. Sanders urges a diplomatic solution of problems. Who is mad or totally confused here? Who is radical?


That Hillary Clinton has an adversary worth mentioning in the primaries is a real surprise. Internally she has long had the nickname “The Inevitable.” The 2016 candidacy was reserved for her after her narrow 2008 defeat to Obama. Until late summer 2015, she single-handedly dominated the polls.

Then the Bernie hype began in the net and Clinton’s lead in the polls fell from more than 60% to around 15% today. This is till an enormous number. Sanders picks up points beyond the net and the social networks. In the TV debates, he simply had the better arguments.

Nevertheless with all the enthusiasm, Sanders is a real cultural shock for many Americans. A genuine leftist presidential candidate represents a challenge in a country where “socialist” is still a swearword in many places. The leftist candidate Sanders would never have been possible without the arch-conservative Tea Party. For years the “tea-baggers” railed against “those above” and against “the establishment” at their events, marches, radio shows and Internet appearances. The republican political establishment is now discredited and the democratic political establishment is shaken. No one represents the establishment as well as Hillary Clinton. Sanders is a kind of “anti-Clinton,” a Mr. Clean who first joined the Democratic Party in 2015.

That Bernie Sanders is a “radical” for a man like Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire, mayor of New York for eleven years, a basic component of the establishment, is understandable. But German media adopting this assessment is anything but understandable. On closer view, it is not clear why a large part of the German media desires a president Hillary Clinton directly or indirectly. With the question of war and peace elementary for Germans, a president Clinton would be the worst possible alternative in the Oval Office while a president Sanders would be a true glimmer of hope,

Admittedly a few polls do not make a candidate and much imagination is needed to think a genuine leftist who wants to put Wall Street and the military-industrial complex in chains could enter the Oval office. This would be a dream more than a nightmare. We should finally stop being deluded by a few selfish billionaires and journalists who tell us who or what is radical. One thing is clear. The politicians who are sold to us as “moderate” not only in the US are more radical in many points than the politicians sold to us as “radical.” Radicalism is a question of perspective. Whoever is considered radical for the one percent need not be radical for the bottom 99%.
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