It was interesting to read reports of the recent back-and-forth between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton as to who is a real progressive, with both claiming the label. It was not long ago that Republicans had managed to so damage the label of even the perfectly honorable political tradition of liberalism that leaders of the Democratic party shied away from it, and veered into the so-called ‘third way’ neoliberalism policies that they would describe as centrism or moderate or some such euphemism.
The fact that the Democrats have now zipped past liberalism and embraced progressivism and are even edging towards socialism is a welcome step. Although Sanders has long and proudly declared himself to be a democratic socialist, I don’t think that he can take credit for this change in the zeitgeist. I would say that grass-roots movements such as the anti-WTO rallies, the anti-war movements in the wake of the Afghanistan/Iraq/Libya/Syria debacles, and the Occupy movement all laid the foundations of this shift. But Sanders has to be given credit for being the first among major politicians for recognizing that change was in the air and that the time had come when his views were entering the mainstream. Young people, who are in the vanguard of those grass roots movements, have naturally flocked to him. Sanders crushed Clinton by a whopping margin of 84%-14% among Iowa voters in the 17-29 age group.
Good evidence of the impact that this has had on the debate is how the head of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein has come out of the shadows and is openly warning about the danger that Sanders poses, calling it a “dangerous moment” in American politics. No doubt he fears a resurgence of earlier periods of popular anger at the oligarchy. These people patronize young people as brainless, ill-informed and naïve.
For people who so very pleased with themselves for ostensibly being so much smarter than everyone else, people like Blankfein are oddly uncreative when it comes to deflecting criticism.
The people who don’t like them are always overemotional communists. All those young people who are flocking to the Sanders campaign? Dupes, misled by dumb professors who’ve never been to Cuba.
And their anger toward Wall Street? Causeless and random, just a bunch of folks riding an emotional pendulum that brainlessly swings back and forth. Don’t take it personally, people are just moody that way.
The fact that Sanders and his young following scare people like Blankfein is a good reason to vote for him.
Clinton, along with her husband, is a fully paid up member of the neoliberal movement and has raked in huge sums of money by giving speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banks and corporations, getting $675,000 from that bank alone. She realizes that she cannot plausibly claim to be more progressive than Sanders, however much she now pivots to embrace the label. So she describes herself as a ‘progressive who gets results’, which is a wink and a nod to those opposed to progressivism that she will sell progressives down the river to placate the oligarchs.
But her responses as to why she took so much money from the banks have been awkward to say the least. Defending the payments she got from the financial sector, she challenges critics to identify a single vote that she has changed because of the money she received. Elizabeth Warren has actually provided one instance of that.
But Clinton is being deliberately obtuse to think that is the only way that money works. The oligarch’s preferred method is to identify people who are already sympathetic to them and will do what they want and then help them get into office. Such people are more reliable agents for serving their agenda than those who have to be bribed to change their views. And they have clearly identified her as one of them and have been nurturing her progress for a long time. I suspect that they would prefer her to even Donald Trump because what they really want are people who are liberal on social issues because then the liberal/progressive wing of the Democratic party will be quiet when they advance policies that favor the oligarchy. They succeeded with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton would slip right into that groove. That is the reason why Blankfein warns people against Sanders but not against her, even though she claims the same progressive mantle as Sanders.