The US political establishment is a little less cocky now that Bernie Sanders is surging in the polls. The latest polls show him ahead in the New Hampshire primary race and the Iowa caucuses.
Previously the commentariat laughed at the prospect of a self-declared “socialist” ending up the Democratic Party candidate, let alone becoming President. Hillary Clinton, the establishment candidate, was pronounced a shoo-in.
What all these “experts” forgot about was the people, and their attraction to progressive policies such as free health and education, paid for with more taxation on the rich. The media pundits didn’t learn anything from the Jeremy Corbyn’s successful campaign for the British Labour leadership, which was based on similar progressive policies. When Corbyn entered the race the pundits gave him no chance.
Glenn Greenwald explains in the Intercept the “seven stages of the establishment backlash” against Corbyn, which is now being transferred to Sanders.
Stage 1 is polite condescension (“its really wonderful that your views are being aired”).
Stage 2 is light casual mockery (“no dears, a left-wing extremist will not win, but it’s nice to see you excited”).
Stage 3 sees angry etiquette lectures directed at supporters of the left-wing candidate as on-line support for him or her grows.
Stage 4 is the beginning of putdowns trying to marginalise the candidate as old, white, male or too far-left.
Stage 5 is the beginning of a more open right-wing political offensive accusing the candidate as weak on terrorism, associating with bad people, etc.
Stage 6 is grave warnings of the damage it will do to the party, maybe lasting years, if they reject the establishment candidate.
Stage 7, is a full-scale attack, launched when the progressive candidate shows they have a real chance of winning. The candidate’s message is twisted, dirt dug up from their past, supposed links with extremists exposed, and there are threats to withdraw support from the party if the candidate wins.
If Sanders wins Iowa and New Hampshire Greenwald thinks Stage 7 will begin in earnest. However, with the polls showing Sanders in the lead in those two states, it may be that we are already entering Stage 7. This week Sanders has been the subject of multiple attacks for using the “S” word (“socialism”) which his critics portray as not much different from “communism”.
Maybe these attacks will make it harder for Sanders. But at present their unfairness seems to be increasing his vote.
One thing the right-wing commentariat doesn’t talk about too much is that Sanders has a better chance of beating Donald Trump (and other Republican hopefuls like Ted Cruz) than does Hillary Clinton. Averaging the polls, Bernie Sanders leads Donald Trump by 11%, where Hillary Clinton is only 4% ahead of the Republican front-runner. Sanders also has a bigger lead than Clinton over Ted Cruz.