I’ve been watching Bernie Sanders’ run at the Democratic nomination from across the Pacific for some months now and am gobsmacked at just how big he’s become. Perhaps I’ve been out of the country for too long, but I confess to viewing his candidacy through a bloodshot, jaundiced eye. Of course I support him and most everything he stands for, but I found it beyond the frontiers of credulity that a gesticulating, wild-haired, raving Jewish socialist could break out of say, the two percentage range, polling wise. I figured he’d electrify the patchouli and drum circle set, but in the end be relegated to the sad confines of Ralph Nader Land.
So far I’ve been wrong, and let’s just say I’m fucking stoked.
This week saw Bern Nation presented with some very good news: The grumpy senator from Vermont has pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton in Iowa, according to a major poll. He already leads in New Hampshire–which is no surprise, since it’s basically his back yard–but Sanders busting out in Iowa is huge. These are the first two states to pick the lead horse and if Sanders takes them both it would cripple Hillary’s already bleeding campaign. I wrote last week how she’s becoming toxic and it’s just getting worse. We all know that she carries stacks of baggage, only now they’re emitting Chernobyl-like levels of radiation. The public senses this, and each day more presumed Hillary supporters are tearing away and joining Bernie’s posse. I never thought I’d say it, but he’s beginning to look like a winner. Most of my political discussions with folks back home happen on Facebook, and I can only count ONE person out of over 1,500 friends who openly and enthusiastically backs Hillary Clinton. That’s it. As General Zod (played by the brilliant Terence Stamp) bellows out in Superman 2: “IS THERE NO ONE???”
Not only is Bernie surfing atop these polls, but he also picked up the endorsement of MoveOn, one of the the biggest lefty organisations in America. According to the statement, 78.6 percent of its membership in an online vote of more than 340,000 members cast their lot for Mr. Sanders. Hillary netted a paltry 14.6. While this endorsement is no surprise, it shows just how solid and deep his support is among American progressives.
What is surprising however, is the praise that Bernie is picking up from other quarters. Just yesterday Vice President Joe Biden threw some serious accolades Bernie’s way, commending him for his persistent fight against inequality, while criticizing Hillary as a Johnny-come-lately to the issue. Not only is Joe Biden a heartbeat away from the Oval Office, he’s a major Democratic power broker, and despite his reputation for a freewheeling tongue, he knows that every word he says will be recorded and analyzed; his bestowing of favor upon Sanders marks a distinct shifting of the winds in the Democratic Party.
That said, Hillary still has caverns filled with cash, battalions of muckraking minions, along with the corporate ogres on her side, who are the real gatekeepers to power. She still leads massively in South Carolina (along with the rest of Dixie), though early defeats could shake up those numbers in a jiffy. Her campaign has also kept its distance from Sanders up until now, treating him as an amusing, half-senile uncle that is not to be taken seriously. But now she’s beginning to co-opt his issues that play well (no doubt triple focus group engineered) while at the same time digging up dirt and flinging shit.
Will Bernie steal Iowa and New Hampshire right out of the gate? We have a little over two weeks until things kick off, but the mood online, at least, gives him the edge. This may be the year where actual democracy triumphs in the race for the Democratic nomination, where substance, issues, and integrity win out over dynasty, money, and raw power.
The general election is a whole other movie, however. If Bernie Sanders does manage to snag the nod from the Democratic Party, he will face a sulfurous Hellmouth of fear-mongering, smears, and red-baiting from a moneyed class so determined to keep him out of the White House that their zeal will resemble blood lust. It will be ugly, and worst of all, it could work.