Bern, baby, Burn
March 11, 2016
This has been a hyper-intensive week in terms of news of all sorts, from all over. On the economic/ financial front, the key and highly-anticipated event of the week was yesterday’s (Thursday) regular fortnightly meeting of the European Central Bank’s Council of Governors. President Mario Draghi had promised that he and his colleagues would take measures to break the deflationary spiral looming in the Eurozone — and they certainly sought to deliver on those promises. However, the markets were apparently unimpressed– not at all the response that the ECB was looking for.
But the signal event of the past week occurred in the US, on Main Street rather than Wall Street, in the course of what is surely the most riveting election campaign in living memory — if not ever. The event to which I refer was not on the red side of the map and nation, which is where the media coverage has been concentrated – because the entertainment is better over there. Even the inability of the Republican party to put together a coherent bid that would be clearly defined as “No Trump” – important though that was – was not as important as Bernie Sander’s victory over Hilary Clinton in Michigan.
Although the mainstream media downplayed it – either because they are engaged in promoting the Clinton candidacy, or because they were too shocked — nothing on the Republican side can compare to the meshugaas in Michigan. Throughout the campaign there, but especially in the run-up to the Democratic primary, Clinton was ahead of Sanders — not just slightly or occasionally, but far ahead. The two candidates had just clashed in a debate held in Michigan — in Flint, of poisoned water fame — and Sanders was judged not to have done well in that debate.
Nevertheless, when the polls closed Clinton’s supposed landslide in Michigan had evaporated. Sanders actually beat her, with some 50% of the vote versus Hilary’s 48%. This is phenomenal, even in the context of a sporting clash — which is how the infantile American mainstream media and the dumbed-down American public treat the primaries, and the real elections too. But the Michigan Democratic primary of 2016 was much more than mere sport or drama. It may justifiably expect to be looked back on as an historic event, because it marks perhaps the most important milestone to date in the path being taken by the socio-political upheaval now underway in America.
Sanders, no less than Trump, is more a symbol than a bona fide candidate in the traditional sense. Indeed, there is nothing easier than listing all the reasons why neither man is suitable to be president. But that is just the point. The reason that they have both been so successful, is because they have none of the attributes that would, in normal times, make a politician electable. This has been especially obvious in the crowded Republican field, where every man (or woman) with certifiable experience in leadership or management, everyone who talked anything sounding like commonsense, was rapidly and unceremoniously bundled out of the race.
On the Democratic side there were only two candidates, so the choice was stark. So was the divide between their supporters: Sanders was attracting young, idealistic voters who were in agreement with his message that nothing less than a total reset of the political system would do. Clinton, who carries more baggage from past scandals than the entire Israeli Cabinet, is the Establishment candidate par excellence. She talks the anti-Wall Street talk and pretends to be the representative of the middle class, but she is seen as the puppet of the monied class, which she would faithfully serve, as had her husband before her.
Nevertheless, it was widely assumed that the Democratic rank and file, including all the groups that found Sanders unattractive – because he is old, white, liberal-socialist, oh yes and Jewish – would hold their collective nose and vote for Hilary, especially in a scenario in which Clinton would be opposed by an extremist such as Cruz, or the unpalatable Trump.
But the orthodox thinking came unstuck this Tuesday in Michigan, where not just the crazy college kids, but also the white working class voted for Sanders – which is to say that they voted against Hilary, against Bill, against their local and national party leadership. That was an amazing and shocking thing, which had never happened – at least on anywhere near that scale – in any other primary to date.
But it is unlikely to derail the Clinton train – unless similarly amazing things happen in the other Midwestern states next week, in New York and ultimately, California. The assumption must still be that Clinton will win the delegates she needs to emerge from the convention as the candidate. She will then face Trump – who this week routed the Republican Establishment’s effort to destroy him.
At that point, the full implications of Michigan will emerge. The Democrats who voted for Sanders in Michigan and elsewhere will not automatically vote for the Democratic candidate – namely Hilary. They voted against her by supporting Sanders, because he was the only anti-Establishment, non-Clinton candidate available – and they will do the same for Trump. The white working and middle class is in revolt and they do not feel bound by obsolete party labels. They see only Establishment and anti-Establishment candidates and the American system, with only two candidates in the election, will make their choice very easy for them.