Saturday 5 March 2016

Is Bernie Sanders a ‘rubber lion’? (Pakistan Observer)

SUPER Tuesday was a disappointment for Senator Bernie Sanders, who is seeking to wrest the Democratic Party nomination in the November US Presidential elections from a formidable opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The lady has a well-funded campaign and has several times over past years shown her ruthlessness and determination to achieve personal objectives. It is difficult, for example, to forget the exultation in her voice and on her face when informed of the way in which Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi was butchered by a mob that included Special Forces from a key EU member-state. The bloodied, tortured visage of the man who had ruled his country for three decades was not enough to generate a twinge of shock in Hillary Clinton. She had wanted Kadhafi to die, now he was dead, and she was delighted.

During the ongoing campaign for her party’s nomination — a contest she lost to Barack Obama in 2008 – Hillary has been reticent in the number of ways she has attacked Senator Sanders, mainly mocking him for being a “single issue” candidate, that of opposing Wall Street. And certainly the Senator’s repeated references to Wall Street (whose toxicity is more known within college campuses than on the streets where voters live) have given the Clinton campaign a handle to belittle the program of their opponent, ignoring the fact that Sanders has a comprehensive economic plan. Of course, that plan would severely curb the power of the ultra rich donors to the Clinton campaign, which is why they are in a generous mood so that Hillary and not Sanders emerges as the Democratic Party nominee.

Had he chosen to, there are multiple ways in which Senator Sanders could have damaged Hillary Clinton. An example is the fact that as Secretary of State, she used unsecured email servers to send and receive sensitive messages relating to US policy. Several of these were sent through the Clinton Foundation servers. Now, the Foundation has multiple foreign donors, several of whose policies conflict with the interests of the people of the US. By sending emails on sensitive matters through these servers, Hillary Clinton potentially allowed such donors – through Clinton Foundation staff — access to top secret US policy positions, a factor that would have gladdened them sufficiently to make even more generous donations to the Foundation than they have. This is a clear conflict of interest as Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea are in effect employees of the Foundation (besides controlling the entity). Hillary Clinton ought to have given it a wide berth rather than allow it potential access to emails sent by her in the line of duty as Secretary of State of the United States. Had Bernie Sanders pointed this out, he may have secured far more votes in the Democratic primary elections than he has thus far.

However, inexplicably, he has dismissed the email controversy as of no consequence. Why he has handed over to his rival such an advantage is not explained, except by the inference that Senator Sanders is less a Dooer than a Talker. That while he gives speech after speech on the need to rein in the few who by their greed are destroying the US middle class and sending tens of millions in that country into poverty, all this is only talk. The mild way in which he has gone about challenging Hillary Clinton has given rise to the suspicion among his backers that Bernie Sanders is a “rubber lion”, and that despite the fiery talk, he is harmless to his foes.

A few days ago, Bernie Sanders secured an important endorsement. This was Tulsi Gabbard, the personable US House of Representatives member from Hawaii, who is the only believer of the ancient faith of Sanatan Dharma in the US Congress. According to Sanatan Dharma, there may be several paths, but the destination is the same, and all such paths lead to salvation. This is opposed to faiths that offer a unique path to salvation and make clear that no other way is permissible. Tulsi Gabbard is of South Pacific islander ethnicity, and in a context where non-white voters are overwhelmingly favouring Hillary Clinton, this fact could be used with advantage by Sanders.

As President of the US, Bill Clinton was responsible for many of the policies that have in later years proved to be a disaster. This includes the free pass he gave to uncontrolled greed in Wall Street, leading to the 2008 financial collapse under President George W Bush, who continued several of Clinton’s policies towards Wall Street. Bill Clinton was also responsible for measures which led to a huge increase in the prison population of the US, with a disproportionate number of inmates being from the African American community. However, despite all this, African Americans are flocking to the Clinton standard on a scale that, in the view of some observers, resembles the Indentured Labour groups of the past. A President Sanders is likely to do far more for African.

Americans (a talented community that has been repeatedly short changed in their own country) than another President Clinton, but because of the “rubber lion” approach of Senator Sanders towards Hillary Clinton, this fact is unknown to the electorate, which is being fed on a daily basis by slogans designed by highly paid executives in the Clinton campaign, of which there is no shortage Bernie Sanders could point to the fact that it was Bill Clinton who assisted the Taliban to come to power in Afghanistan, or who ensured through his policies that China rose to the level of a serious challenger of US primacy in Asia. He could point to the chain of disasters that have been the outcome of decisions taken by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, including in Egypt, Libya and Syria, where the stand taken by the Democratic Party front runner has been the same as that of key donors to the Clinton Foundation.

Senator Sanders could have dusted off and highlighted the years of work he put in as a young campaigner for racial justice in the US while Hillary Clinton was flirting with rightwing groups and causes. Thus far, he has done very little to illustrate the chasm between himself and Hillary Clinton, which is why Democratic Party voters need to be forgiven for believing that Hillary better represents them than Bernie Sanders. The US Senator from Vermont has very little time left to convert himself from a “rubber lion” into the real thing, and unless he does so, by next month it may all be over for his campaign. The causes that Senator Sanders has for so long championed in a selfless manner deserve a better, a more pugnacious, fight than what is being offered during the Democratic Party primaries by Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

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