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Commentary :: DNC : Politics : Radical Culture
Bernie's SOTU Response: An Indictment Of Trumpism Informed By History
07 Feb 2019
Sander's response to asserted socialism as the sole foil to Trump's neoliberalism and, far more than Abrams's, captured the winds of change.
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Bernie Sanders's response to Donald Trump's state of the union was brilliant. Touching on all of his major themes, it was posed as a direct rebuttal to Donald Trump on the key points of his racially-tinged nationalist rant.

The economy? Good only for the few. Health care? Needed for the many. The tyranny of socialism? Climate Change? You didn't even mention it at the same time you exasperate it. Privatisation has been a failure "everywhere," and no-one can be free in penury.

The only disappointing aspects to Sanders's speech were his delivery (somewhat halting and without the confidence of a Jeremy Corbyn) and the fact that few people saw or will ever see it.

Nonetheless, for a speech they will never watch, his address drew bile from centrists and Democratic Party loyalists. Chris Cillizza, a right-winger at CNN, said claimed in an editorial that the speech would decrease the Vermont Senator's chance of victory in 2020:

"There is some leftover ill will toward Sanders for his role in the 2016 campaign and lingering doubts as to the firmness of his commitment to the Democratic Party.

Given that, why, why, why would you choose to deliver your OWN SOTU response? Why not just let Abrams handle it? Why put yourself out as special and different from the party you want to lead in 2020 — especially when you know people in that party already have doubts about how firmly committed you are to it?

What Sanders is doing by giving his very own SOTU response is sending a very clear sign that he’s different than the rest of the Democrats running for office. I’m in my own party and I’ll give my own State of the Union response!"

We should respond - that's exactly the point. By delivering his rebuttal, Sanders marks himself as an equal to Trump, a leader of the opposition in a country without a parliamentary system. At the same time, it marks him as the "third man" apart from the establishment Democratic Party.

Who on the left can seriously admire "loyalty" to an organisation that has lined up behind war, austerity, social cuts, welfare reform, private health insurance, and tax cuts? Why would this be an admirable trait among anyone who isn't a slavish devotee of the neoconservative, anti-socialist MSNBC and the Daily Kos?

Some claimed that Sanders's response detracted from the "historic" nature of the speech by Stacy Abrams, who lost her race for governor running on a cautious platform designed to appeal to Georgia's far-right social norms.

Identity politics aside, however, it was clear who had the force of history behind him: Sanders's message, delivered as a sharp indictment of global neoliberal polices since the 1970s, attacking point-by-point this noxious ideology, and establishing a real counter-hegemony.

By contrast, Abrams's speech was void of policy and served as a call to bipartisanship in the abstract sense: not around policies but around tone, style and rhetoric. With references to Reaganism and national unity against "foreign and domestic enemies," the speech had more than a whiff of Trumpism.

At the end of the day Sanders's barb against Trump's identitarianism serves as a subtle critique of this kind of politics. Though far to the right of most Indymedia readers, he forged himself last night into the weapon against neoliberalism that may yet be wielded by the public to finish off today's economic Frankenstein.

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