Written by Hannah Dunleavy

In The News

Donkeys and Elephants

I’m sorry? The UK is taking a turn to the left and the US might be too? WTF people, are we becoming caring or what? Hannah Dunleavy on how a socialist is taking the Democratic primary by storm.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders illustration by Louise Boulter.

So, check out the older fella, coming from the far left and years of obscurity to unexpectedly take the lead in the biggest election of his career.

No, I’m not talking about Jeremy Corbyn, although the stories are very similar, I’m talking Bernie Sanders. The Vermont Senator, long considered a political outsider (he’s actually an Independent not a Democrat), entered a race which it seemed clear he couldn’t win, simply and purely to widen the debate as to what the party wanted from a leader. And now in some polls he’s ahead of Hillary Clinton – double digits ahead – in two of the key election battlegrounds: New Hampshire and Iowa. I have a friend who as a local reporter got sent to cover a zorbing championship, was invited to join in and won. I’d imagine he knows a bit of what Sanders is feeling right now.*

Like the turn of events on this side of the Atlantic, which has seen the unthinkable happen – the admirably mouthy Dennis Skinner back in the fold – Sanders’ current situation proves that when you ask the people what they want, you don’t always get the answer you were expecting.

It would be easy to write this off as a kickback against Clinton, still haunted by those emails and Benghazi, and bearing the brunt of the attack from all 16 entrants in the Republican race. Indeed, the fact that Vice President Joe Biden is polling third and he hasn’t even confirmed he’ll be running, suggests some people would still rather vote for ‘that guy who hangs around the bottle bank with the stain on his trousers that is probably pee’ than tick the box marked Clinton.

“You only need to look at the Republican race, where Trump is ahead and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson is in second place, to see that political experience is not always rated high on America’s wish list.”

But Sanders is working hard for it. The 74-year-old is out on the road, picking up support and getting the crowd genuinely excited about things like giving a shit about other human beings, paying them a decent wage and protecting the environment. The dangerous radical.

He might also be benefitting from a reaction to the Republican primary, which is seeing the worst inclinations of the far right manifested in the loose tongue of Donald Trump. While leadership elections generally favour the centre of the political seesaw, as Corbyn’s new spot in the Commons proves, sometimes the best place to be on the seesaw is the opposite end. (Top tip: it’s also the same with actual seesaws.)

Sanders is also an outsider. And there’s also no doubt that since Sarah Palin positioned being a political outsider as a prime asset – of which she had few, outside of her comedy potential – America has been proper enamoured with the outsider. It’s a tactic Nigel Farage borrowed, along with Palin’s other strategy of being a complete and utter tool.

You only need to look at the Republican race, where Trump is ahead and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson is in second place, to see that political experience is not always rated high on America’s wish list.

Carly Fiorina, the third entrant in the Elephants’ primary to have no real political experience whatsoever, is polling in single figures but is far from the bottom of the huge pile. While she’s not a clear threat to Trump, her presence in the race means yet another entrant playing the ‘I’m not one of those guys’ card. Which may be why he said she hasn’t got good enough looks to be a President. Or, you know, it might be because he hates women. Probably a bit of both.

All of that said, Sanders has a long way to go. Black Lives Matter activists interrupted him at the event over the summer and, although he seems to have a good personal and political record for supporting minorities, he’s been criticised for not addressing racial issues enough. If he’s to win, he needs to do well in among African Americans in South Carolina, where few seem to know who he is and where Clinton is already popular, if for nothing else than for being Bill’s wife.

“Sanders is out on the road, picking up support and getting the crowd genuinely excited about things like giving a shit about other human beings, paying them a decent wage and protecting the environment. The dangerous radical.”

Also not ‘feeling the Bern’ are the Christians, unsurprisingly, although Sanders did recently speak at an evangelical university, which won him a lot of good PR, if no actual support. The event, which was compulsory for students to attend, was at the ironically named Liberty College. (Although, given that at liberal universities there’s been stifling of the debate over the stifling of debate, maybe that’s a good thing.)

And the Clinton camp’s response to all of this? Well, there’s still more than three weeks to go until the first Democrat debate (in Vegas), and it’s all been a bit quiet.

Although Correct the Record, a Super PAC backing Clinton, did make a clumsy attempt to use some of the more provocative statements attributed to Corbyn to paint his US counterpart as a dangerous, terrorist-loving hippy, a move that seems to have backfired.

Finally – the Donkeys are getting interesting. Donald who?

*I can’t stop thinking about Corbyn zorbing now.

@funnypunts

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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.