May 30th 2016

The Sanders Phenomenon

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute


"I believe that should he win in California, Sanders can make a strong case urging the party's super-delegates to support his candidacy."

 

There is a Sanders phenomenon. It is real and the factors that have prompted its emergence need to addressed and understood.

When this year's presidential primary began, many dismissed the Democratic Party contest as a "done deal". It was assumed that Secretary Clinton would be the inevitable nominee—with the primaries and caucuses being a bothersome but required pro forma affair that Clinton would have to endure, until she had accumulated enough delegates to be declared the nominee.

One year ago, Clinton was leading the rest of the Democratic field by between 50 to 60 points with none of her opponents believed to be serious challengers—especially the 74 year old socialist Senator from Vermont. Back then, Sanders support came largely from a core group of progressive activists who were driving his campaign. A year later, much has changed with the gap between Clinton and Sanders, among Democrats, having been narrowed to single digits. When the preferences of all voters (Democrats, Republicans, and Independents) are considered and Clinton and Sanders are matched separately against the GOP's nominee, Donald Trump, a very different picture emerges. The average of this month's polls show Trump beating Clinton by slightly less than 1 point. The same polls averages show Sanders beating Trump by about 11 points. And polls in key battleground states show much the same—with Clinton and Trump running neck and neck and Sanders beating Trump in every state.

That's what happened, but the question that needs to be answered is why? Several factors point the way.

Part of Secretary Clinton's problem is that she is running for president in a year when voter distrust of and even anger at the political and economic establishments has come to define the national mood. Many voters do not believe that politicians and corporate leaders consider the public's wellbeing in their decision-making. Given this setting, Clinton's claim of experience and her long-standing ties to Wall Street investors have become liabilities.

In the contest between Clinton, the ultimate "insider", and Sanders, the ultimate "outsider", Sanders has a decided edge.

Then there are the matters of authenticity and trust. Polls demonstrate that voters, especially the young and the growing number of those who declare no affiliation with either party, are drawn to Sanders because they see him as authentic and they trust him. Among voters under 45, Sanders beats Clinton by a margin of 2 to 1. And when all voters are asked who they trust more, Sanders wins by 3 to 1.

These two factors, distrust of the establishment and the yearning for a leader who is authentic and can be trusted, form the underpinnings of the Sanders' phenomenon. The "meat on the bones" are the issues he has championed.

America is, without a doubt, a wealthy nation. The GDP and the performance of the stock market, despite an occasional dip, appear to suggest a healthy economy. But in spite of this, real incomes for the middle class have been stagnant for decades leaving most Americans struggling to make ends meet.

When Sanders points out that the top 1% in the US control more of the nation's wealth than the bottom 90% and when he notes that the American middle class controls a smaller percentage of our nation's wealth than the middle class in any other industrialized country, that message resonates. As does his broader message of economic justice and a reordering of political/economic priorities. While Sanders' calls for "health care for all", tuition-free higher education, and his proposal to pay for these programs by imposing stiffer taxes on the wealthiest 1% are dismissed as unworkable and "socialist", they have been embraced by young and working class voters who are hungry for change. And when he criticizes the corrupting influence of "big money" in our politics, voters respond in agreement.

As this election is entering its final round, it is clear that the Sanders phenomenon must be taken seriously. Despite the view of media pundits and the Democratic establishment that the contest is over (a form of voter suppression) and calls that Sanders should withdraw from the race, he continues to demonstrate electoral strength—winning 2 out of the last 3 and 12 out of the last 20 states.

At this point, Sanders can legitimately claim the support of about one-half of the Democratic Party's base. This cannot be dismissed. Nor can his observation that he outperforms Clinton with Independents and fares better against the GOP in national and battleground state polls.

Democrats would be making a mistake to ignore both the "meta issues" of distrust of the establishment and the voters' desire to have a candidate they can trust, as well as Sanders' far-reaching agenda for political and economic reform.

I believe that should he win in California, Sanders can make a strong case urging the party's super-delegates to support his candidacy. It is this group—many of whom had endorsed Clinton before this election had even begun—that have made her margin over Sanders appear to be insurmountable. But even if he does not win, what he represents cannot be dismissed or reduced to any single issue, as many of the press reports on his platform picks attempted to do this past week. What Sanders represents and the far-reaching change in domestic and foreign policy he has advocated and that many voters have endorsed should not be ignored.

Responding to voters deeply felt needs, Sanders has given birth to a true progressive movement that, if understood, embraced, and, most importantly, sustained, can, as he has noted, bring revolutionary change to America. It is a phenomenon.    

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Sep 11th 2021
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Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Is it not extraordinary that in a country that claims to be as enlightened and advanced as ours, the combined wealth of three individuals – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett – exceeds the total wealth of the bottom half of Americans? One has to return to the days of the pharaohs of Egypt to find a parallel to the extreme wealth inequality that we see in in America today." ...... "The top tax rate remained above 90 percent through the 1950s and did not dip below 70 percent until 1981. At no point during the decades that saw America’s greatest economic growth did the tax on the wealthy drop below 70 percent. Today it is somewhere around 37 percent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would increase the top tax rate to 39.6 percent – a fairly modest alteration, albeit in the right direction. It is true that there was a time when the top marginal tax was even lower than it is today: in the years leading up to the Great Depression it hovered around 25 percent."
Sep 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "But Biden can’t be blamed for the rise of the Taliban, or the fragile state of a country that has seen far too many wars and invasions. The US should not have been there in the first place, but that is a lesson that great powers never seem to learn."
Sep 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century." ----- "AI will reorganize the world and change the course of human history. The democratic world must lead that process."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Although the Fed is considering tapering its quantitative easing (QE), it will likely remain dovish and behind the curve overall. Like most central banks, it has been lured into a “debt trap” by the surge in private and public liabilities (as a share of GDP) in recent years. Even if inflation stays higher than targeted, exiting QE too soon could cause bond, credit, and stock markets to crash. That would subject the economy to a hard landing, potentially forcing the Fed to reverse itself and resume QE." ---- "After all, that is what happened between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, following the Fed’s previous attempt to raise rates and roll back QE."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Today’s economic challenges are certainly solvable, and there is no reason why inflation should have to spike."
Aug 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, they have focused on their agenda, which is totally misguided—not by our own account but by the account of the majority of the American population, who view the Republican party as one that has lost its moral footing to the detriment of America’s future generations, who must now inherit the ugly consequences of a party that ran asunder."
Aug 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "Now that so many sad truths about Afghanistan are being spoken aloud, even in the major media – let me add one more: The war, from start to finish, was about politics, not in Afghanistan but in the United States. Afghanistan was always a sideshow."--- "....the 2001 invasion was fast and apparently decisive. And so it rescued George W. Bush’s tainted presidency,..." --- "Bush’s approval shot up to 90% and then steadily declined,..."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Taliban’s virtually uncontested takeover over Afghanistan raises obvious questions about the wisdom of US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US and coalition forces from the country. Paradoxically, however, the rapidity and ease of the Taliban’s advance only reaffirms that Biden made the right decision – and that he should not reverse course. ...... The ineffectiveness and collapse of Afghanistan’s military and governing institutions largely substantiates Biden’s skepticism that US-led efforts to prop up the government in Kabul would ever enable it to stand on its own feet. The international community has spent nearly 20 years, many thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars to do good by Afghanistan – taking down al-Qaeda; beating back the Taliban; supporting, advising, training, and equipping the Afghan military; bolstering governing institutions; and investing in the country’s civil society. .... Significant progress was made, but not enough." ....... "That is because the mission was fatally flawed from the outset. It was a fool’s errand to try to turn Afghanistan into a centralized, unitary state. "
Aug 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "But even in the US, which is more lenient than most countries, the principle cannot be absolute. Inciting imminent violence is not permitted. Donald Trump’s speech on January 6, urging the mob to storm the US Capitol, certainly came close to overstepping this boundary. It was a clear demonstration that language can be dangerous. What the internet media has done is raise the stakes; “fighting words” are spread around much faster and more widely than ever before. This will require a great deal of vigilance, to protect our freedom to express ourselves, while observing the social and legal bounds that stop words from turning into actual fighting. "
Jul 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "When it comes to the Chinese economy, I have been a congenital optimist for over 25 years. But now I have serious doubts. The Chinese government has taken dead aim at its dynamic technology sector, the engine of China’s New Economy. Its recent actions are symptomatic of a deeper problem: the state’s efforts to control the energy of animal spirits." ---- "... the Chinese economy, no less than others, still requires a foundation of trust – trust in the consistency of leadership priorities, in transparent governance, and in wise regulatory oversight – to flourish. --- Modern China lacks this foundation of trust ."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "It seems that they are, as the last 18 months have seen a remarkable expansion of the central banks’ fields of activity, largely driven by their own ambitions. So they have moved into the climate change arena, arguing that financial stability may be put at risk by rising temperatures, and that central banks, as bond purchasers and as banking supervisors, can and should be proactive in raising the cost of credit for corporations without a credible transition plan. That is a promising new line of business, which is likely to grow. ---- Central banks are also trying to move into social engineering, specifically the policy response to rising income and wealth inequality, another hot button topic with high political salience."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "The EU’s ambitious unilateral climate strategy will transform Europe into a trade fortress, encourage green protectionism worldwide, and give other regions the opportunity to develop using cheaper energy. And without China, India, and the United States on board, other countries will be careful not to follow the EU in its self-appointed role as the world’s green guinea pig. If Europe is not careful, it will risk finding itself in a climate club of one. "
Jul 9th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... ruminants belch and fart methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. As a result, rearing beef cattle brings about, on average, six times the contribution to global warming as non-ruminant animals (for example, pigs) producing the same quantity of protein. ..... if projected to 2050 [beef production], would use 87% of the total quantity of emissions that is compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s objective of staying below a 2° Celsius increase in temperature."
Jul 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " .... while China’s leaders never mention it, they are just as embittered over Russia’s theft of Chinese territory in the nineteenth century as they are over the West’s imperial predations. With Western imperialism having been largely rolled back, it is Russia’s continued occupation of historic Chinese territory that stands out the most to ordinary Chinese observers. For example, the city of Vladivostok, with its vast naval base, has been a part of Russia only since 1860, when the tsars built a military harbor there. Before that, the city was known by the Manchu name of Haishenwai." ---- "There is also a demographic argument for Putin to consider: the six million Russians spread along the Siberian border face 90 million Chinese on the other side. And many of these Chinese regularly cross the border into Russia to trade (and a good number to stay)."
Jul 7th 2021
EXTRACTS: "According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone." ----- "After clandestinely supporting the Taliban as a means to undermine the US war effort, Russia now fears broader destabilization in Central Asia and beyond." ---- "Similarly, after having made nice with the Taliban, China also now fears the greater regional instability that the US withdrawal may incite. In addition to disrupting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Eurasia-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, a revitalized Taliban could re-energize the Islamist extremist threat in China’s western Xinjiang province."
Jul 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "When former Fed Chair Paul Volcker hiked rates to tackle inflation in 1980-82, the result was a severe double-dip recession in the United States and a debt crisis and lost decade for Latin America. But now that global debt ratios are almost three times higher than in the early 1970s, any anti-inflationary policy would lead to a depression, rather than a severe recession. ---- Under these conditions, central banks will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and many governments will be semi-insolvent and thus unable to bail out banks, corporations, and households. The doom loop of sovereigns and banks in the eurozone after the global financial crisis will be repeated worldwide, sucking in households, corporations, and shadow banks as well. ---- As matters stand, this slow-motion train wreck looks unavoidable."
Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "