Weisberg on Bernie Sanders & Neoliberalism
I have finally read something on Bernie Sanders that makes sense and captures Sanders’ appeal. It is called “How Old Man Sanders snared the youth vote.” It appeared in the Weekend Financial Times (one of the best of my weekly reads because of the arts section) and it was written by Reagan biographer and Slate Group chairman, Jacob Weisberg.
Weisberg, who begins by touching on the implosion of the Republican Party, explains carefully why Bernie Sanders has captured the youth vote and why nearly every other candidate, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, etc., are lost causes to the country’s rising youth electorate.
Weisberg notes that Sanders captured 84 percent of the youth vote in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, completly blowing away Hillary’s 14 percent of that voting group. In New Hampshire, the numbers were the same, according to Weisberg. These numbers, according to Weisberg exceed the numbers by Barack Obama in his famous 2008 run.
But while this is impressive statistical analysis, the real importance of Weisberg’s commentary is contained in his extended explanation as to why this is happening. Here is a list he sets out:
- “Corporate money has corrupted politics.”
- “. . . they are unexcited about finally electing the first woman President.”
- “. . . that their university debt burden is too heavy.”
- “. . . they do not believe Mrs. Clinton is quite honest.”
- “. . . they find Mr. Sanders authentic and sincere.”
Weisberg does not leave it to the specific either. He has an overall opinion of why Sanders has caught fire and why his views are the best views to move forward for the good of the country’s future. The young voters, the millennials, etc., according to Weinberg are rejecting “the current configuration of liberal capitalism as a system capable of producing a decent society.” More importantly, while these young voters are not socialists or Marxists, the term ‘socialist’ “does not alarm them as it did their parents.’ I could not have said it better. Imagine, the young don’t just think laissez faire capitalism is destructive; they know it is because they have been spectators watching it destroy lives but also burden their futures.
Weisberg points out that since 2008 capitalism has not done so well and the historical alternative to it — Communism — is virtually non-existent today. So, the young inquisitive voters are asking a hard question, according to Weinberg: is capitalism the only supportable economic system there is?
Weisberg also notes that the financial collapse of 2008 resulted in not only a strong reaction on the right with the Tea Party; the left erupted for awhile in to the Occupy Movement. While Occupy faded away, the disappointment was never satisfied. Young people watched as their parents and grandparents’ view of the world almost destroyed it. And then they have to bear the consequences. Perhaps, to these young voters, the Republicans and Hillary Clinton represent the laissez faire zealots who need to be sent a message.
Weisberg also notes the other major domestic issue of the day — mass incarceration and the racism of the criminal justice system — is also lost on all of the candidates except Sanders. The fact that he did not run from the issue is proof to these voters that Sanders is in touch and serious about these on the ground type issues.
But ultimately, according to Weisberg it all comes down to electability and the young voters, as they did with Obama in 2008, believe. Sanders, according to Weisberg, is “the best vehicle” for these young voters “to express their own anger toward ‘the system.’”
“. . .[T]he argument that” [Sanders] “is unelectable, and that if electd would be even more hamstrung than Mr. Obama has been, carries little weight with his supporters,” according to Weisberg.
Perhaps, this is most important. I personally remain skeptical that anyone remotely close to socialism can get elected President but that is a product of my exposure to the political system, not a result of me being knowledgeable of the voting habits of the average young voter. Seriously, I have no idea. I have watched takedown after takedown of left Presidential candidates in the last 30 or so years and it is not pretty.
Nate Silver of 538 Blog Fame has pointed out this year that young educated voters can win this election for a candidate if they get out and vote for that candidate. There is one candidate right now that we know has harnessed that vote. He is a Democratic Socialist Senator and Democratic Party candidate for President from the state of Vermont. If you think laissez faire is a troubling way to run a country, Sanders is the guy to vote for