KUMAR: Leftist populism continues falling flat
Column: The Transatlantic Perspective
Earlier this week Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) officially ended his bid for presidency after a long drawn out campaign that saw him vying unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination alongside former Vice President Joe Biden, who is now the clear favorite to face off against President Donald J. Trump in November.
After reading this news, I could not help but draw comparisons between Sanders and British Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn, who was the former leader of the Labour Party after stepping down following a devastating loss in the U.K. election last December, which saw Boris Johnson's Conservative Party emerge victorious after winning by a decisive landslide.
The lack of political success that these two career politicians have had is a clear indicator that the Leftist populist ideologies that they embody will never truly have a place in modern politics due to its increasing irrelevancy in the field.
The similarities between Corbyn and Sanders are uncanny to say the least. Both are experienced politicians who have become firebrand advocates for the far-Left movement in their respective home countries. Despite both being in their 70s, they have managed to galvanize a legion of 20 somethings to join their “socialist revolution” as they have consistently maintained immense popularity among the much sought-after political demographic.
Even their origins have striking similarities, with both Sanders and Corbyn having alleged ties to fringe extreme Leftist parties earlier in their careers and both being viewed as a trouble making outliers that threaten the very establishment of the parties they represent, namely the Democratic Party in the United States and the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.
Despite a loyal band of followers with almost cultish overtones, which made them household names and propelled them to the upper echelons of the political world, reaching the apex of the political pyramid was and will always remain nothing more than a fanciful pipe dream.
The 2019 U.K. election served as a prescient warning to Sanders supporters, who perhaps for a fleeting moment hoped that he would have a shot at sitting in the Oval Office come 2020, following the humiliating defeat of the Corbyn's Labour party and his subsequent resignation from the position of party leader which he had held for more than four years.
This defeat came just two years after the U.K. snap election of 2017, wherein the Labour Party performance far exceeded expectations, securing more than 40 percent of the vote and forcing the Conservative Party to form a minority government.
Many anticipated that the party could have built on this momentum to become a credible threat to the Conservative Party, which has been a dominant force in British politics for the better half of approximately a decade. But alas Corbyn, much like Sanders, could not translate his radical Leftist populist views into a formidable platform that could lead to mainstream political success.
It is all well and good to be seen as the harbinger of a social revolution by your devout followers as both Sanders and Corbyn are, but if you cannot convince the masses, or even your own party of this so called “revolution,” then a shot at the top position is still very much outside the realm of possibility.
After an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2016, many doubted the prospect of Sanders faring any better in his 2020 campaign. After all, it was highly unlikely that Sanders was going to change his approach, seeing that he has largely remained vehemently committed to his political positions for the past 50 years or so. To the delight of his loyal supporters and perhaps the chagrin of the Democrats, Sanders began to emerge as the frontrunner in the presidential nominee race after winning several key states.
His immense popularity among younger generations, especially millennials, is undeniable as many have latched onto his impassioned rhetoric laden with far Leftist ideology by turning out in droves to support him. Even if it was, for just a moment, the prospect of seeing Sanders in the White House was slowly materializing despite the disastrous repercussions that would come with having such an unabashedly Leftist leader in power.
This transient moment of euphoria all came tumbling down quickly when the rest of the nation began to reject the Sanders political machine, opting instead for the far more moderate candidate in the form of Biden. The Democratic Party had been saved from the nightmarish scenario of placing a historically unpopular candidate directly in the cross hairs of the Republican party.
Leftist populism has seen an alarming resurgence in the political landscape on both sides of the Atlantic, which have coalesced around Sanders in the United States and Corbyn in the United Kingdom. This may be a direct response to the recent rise in Right-wing populism which we have witnessed across the globe, but the best way to balance out this rise is to not support such leaders who harbor such divisive ideologies, but rather opt for more moderate candidates on the Left that have a better chance of winning elections.
Shubhrant Kumar is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, "The Transatlantic Perspective," runs on alternate Mondays.
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