Viewed From Up North

It is always enlightening to get the take on this country from the perspective of another. In this case, Gerald Caplan writes in Canada’s Globe and Mail about Bernie Sanders and about America’s mangled political system — and how out of touch we are with the rest of the world. It is worth a read:

Across the rich world, only in the United States is Bernie Sanders seen as some kind of extremist of the left. It shows just how dangerously far to the radical right America’s political culture has moved.
Sanders situates himself four-square within the tradition of American reformers like Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the view of many historians, F.D.R., president through most of the Great Depression of the 1930s, saved American capitalism from its capitalists.
Nor does Sanders embrace such once-classic, now-abandoned left-wing nostrums as the nationalization of industries. “I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production,” he told students at Georgetown University. “But I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down.” Throw in a couple of “hard-workings” here and there, and Comrade Bernie could jump right into the middle of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party.
Nowhere are the absurd limits of American politics better exposed than when Sanders is bitterly pummelled for supporting something really far-out, even near-Bolshevik – a Canadian-style public health system.
Last October, a voter challenged Bernie. “I come from a generation where [socialism] is a pretty radical term – we think of socialism [with] communism. Can you explain to us exactly what that is?” Bernie: “If we go to some countries, what they will have is health care for all as a right. I believe in that. They will have paid family and medical leave. I believe in that. They will have a much stronger childcare system than we have, which is affordable for working families. I believe in that.”
“What I mean by democratic socialism,” Bernie explained, “is looking at countries in Scandinavia that have much lower rates of child poverty, that have a fairer tax system that guarantees basic necessities of life to working people. Essentially what I mean by that is creating a government that works for working families, rather than the kind of government we have today, which is largely owned and controlled by wealthy individuals and large corporations.”
Whatever you call Bernie’s vision, bring it on! It’s what every civilized society should provide its citizens as a right. It’s what the NDP has long stood for.

But, as Mr. Caplan goes on to explain, Sanders has almost no chance of winning the American presidency. And if he were to somehow pull it off, Caplan predicts, “he will be gone within a month.” I’m not sure what he means by the latter statement, but it is clear to me that the American electorate is not sophisticated enough to elect a man who is regarded as an “extremist.” Their ignorance is exemplified here by the question Sanders is asked by “a voter” who doesn’t know the difference between communism and socialism. Nor is it that Sanders is going to be able to effect any real change in this country until or unless the Congress is totally separated from the corporations that at present elect them to public office and pull their collective strings. That seems to me to be most unlikely.



8 thoughts on “Viewed From Up North

  1. P.S. To make matters worse, apparently the Democratic Party is going to make every effort possible to thwart Sanders’ campaign and make sure Hillary is the Democratic candidate.

  2. It’s hard not to like Sanders’ idealism and energy, and the way he’s brought the youth into the election process. There are some similarities to McCarthy’s campaign in 1968. But in a realpolitik view, he doesn’t have a chance to win and much of what he proposes is impractical. Wonderful, but impractical.

    He’s right in that the middle class is being flushed out of existence, but he’s not quite right when he looks to the Scandinavian countries as models to follow. It’s not apples to oranges. The populations of those countries is so minute — Minnesota alone has a larger population than either Norway or Finland — and minimally diverse. It’s easier to implement and operate many of the programs that work well there than it would be in the much larger and more diversely populated U.S., and its very large geographic spread.

    Obviously something HAS to be done here. Sanders, and Trump as well, are tapping into a great vein of frustration that first showed in Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, and that is only going to worsen if there are not changes to how our economy runs. But putting a man in office with whom the (likely) controlling parties in both houses of Congress will absolutely not work with isn’t going to bring progress.

    • That’s exactly right, sad to say. I also recall the euphoria surrounding Obama’s election and look how that worked out! The president simply cannot be effective without the Congress behind him or her. Clinton knows where the skeletons are buried and she can always call on Bill to help her find some more. more. She would almost certainly be more effective — which may be why the DNC is pushing her from behind. But she’s still a corporate toady and that’s the real problem.

  3. Good perspective. I agree that America is not smart enough to elect Bernie and I pray that we are not stupid enough to elect Trump. Bernie speaks plainly about issues, while Trump’s campaign is “I am a winner and everyone else is stupid,” and the former is deemed too radical?

    • I honestly don’t think either of them will win the nomination. The parties simply don’t want anyone they regard as “extreme.” But, as Caplan says, it just shows how skewed our political perspective is in this country.

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