More Unites Corbyn and Sanders than the Word "Socialism"
I’m no socialist, and I don’t live in the USA, but I have been following Bernie Sanders with intrigue since he announced his candidacy for Democrat nominee. I suppose it was the ‘socialist’ part that caught my attention; a “Commie” was in the race for the Oval office. However, his socialism is exactly why I, arguably naively, dismissed him. I mean seriously, how could someone even slightly socialist be in with a shot at the White House? We are indeed talking about the same place where half of the electorate would prefer a leader who speaks bluntly about Islamic extremists even if what they say is belittling of Islam as a whole. Sander’s performance at the Iowa caucus however, forced me to re-examine my pre-emptive rejection of him, and I came to realise how his sudden emergence is strikingly similar to Corbyn’s.
Whilst Corbyn and Sanders don’t share much on policy, there are other parallels that can be drawn, the most obvious of which is that both are the ‘extreme left’ of their respective political spectrums. Whilst a lot of Sanders’ socialism is widely accepted as standard policy in Europe, it is radical in the USA. Corbyn on the other hand is radical for the UK and would arguably never enjoy the same spotlight in the USA as he enjoys here, before being charged for treason. This obvious similarity makes them both surprising people to be so prominent in politics. Both are seemingly unelectable, with Corbyn’s ratings stooping to new lows, yet they manage to attract a large grassroots support base.
Being on the left-wing, both are on a crusade for greater equality in their countries. Corbyn is proposing a nationalised economy very similar to the post-war economies of Europe and whilst Sanders is also driving forward a European-style economy, he is looking to the current Scandinavian capitalist economies for inspiration. He wants free healthcare in the USA, and rightly so, but despite this being standard in Europe, it is a radical “looney-left” policy across the pond.
Both are veterans of their Houses. Corbyn has been an elected politician for the last 33 years and Sanders has been serving in public office for the last 34. They have both been gaining experience in politics since David Cameron was 15 years old and George Osborne was 10.
In those three decades, both have been against war and intervention. Corbyn is vocally against any intervention, having formed the Stop the War coalition in 2001. This “one-size-fits-all” approach is one that can be constricting at times and one that Sanders has not adopted. Whilst Bernie is, according to a campaign website Feel the Bern, “generally anti-war”, he did vote for military action in Kosovo but decided not to support NATO intervention in Libya. Both are against intervention although Sanders is slightly more flexible on the issue than the rigid Mr Corbyn
Moreover, both Sanders and Corbyn have emerged as a result of public distrust of the establishment. This support stems mainly from young people who feel Corbyn and Sanders are “in touch with ordinary people”. These people feel that whilst the USA is the richest country on the face of the Earth, many aren’t feeling it and although Hillary is also a Democrat with a lot of experience, voters feel she is part of the very establishment that “ordinary Americans” want a candidate to take on. Corbyn’s support in the UK comes from people with similar attitudes towards the establishment as those “ordinary Americans” and whilst he doesn’t enjoy the same scale of positive support in the polls as his American counterpart, he does have fans for the same reasons as Sanders. This anti-establishment feeling has emerged in several other countries; just look at Marine Le Pen’s support in France as she takes on the system, or even closer to home with Farage. The recent emergence of anti-mainstream left-wing parties like Podemos in Spain is another example of the dissatisfaction many people have of the ruling elite today. Whilst Sanders and Corbyn may not have the same electoral prospects as other more conventional leaders, they embody an attitude of distrust and disgust that a sizeable chunk of the electorate has towards the establishment in the wake of the 2008 crash.
So although Sanders isn’t a socialist in the same way as Corbyn is, they are both radical in their respective political spheres; a beacon of hope for some, warning lights for others. It will be interesting to see how they both fare - if they will gain even more momentum, or ‘Bern out’.