Volume 8, Issue 5
We are not Americans, and so we have even less influence in determining US federal policy than those 90% of Americans who have none. But we are all in this world together, we all equally belong to that world. If you have friends in the United States, you must make them aware of the divide that is coming with the 2016 Federal Election. There are two heralds of possibility at either end of the political spectrum; two messiahs, if you will. For democratic socialists, we have Bernie Sanders. For free-market fundamentalists, we have Donald Trump. Let us consider these two men on their merits.
Bernie Sanders has been politically active since 1962. He is a proud socialist; participating in the civil rights movement and even being arrested for organising a campus sit-in for racial equality at the University of Chicago in 1963. He followed Martin Luther King Jr. in the March on Washington in 1963 and was present for the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
He served four terms as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont from 1981-1989. In his final run in 1987, he defeated Paul Lafayette, the Democrat candidate endorsed by both parties. In 1990, Sanders was elected to the House of Representatives (HoR) for the State of Vermont; the first independent elected to the HoR in 40 years. He was a consistent critic of the Hawkish policies of the Bush administration, cuts to social services, the PATRIOT Act, and Alan Greenspan during his tenure as Federal Reserve Chairman.
In 2007, Sanders left the HoR to join the Senate, winning the election in Vermont with 66% of the popular vote and remaining an independent[i]. He won again in 2012 with 71%[ii]. In the Senate, he delivered an 8½ hour-long[iii] speech against Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s proposed bailout bills for the Banks in the wake of 2007 Subprime crisis, and was one of the few who voted against appointing Timothy Geithner, widely recognised as a contributor to the aforementioned crisis, as Paulson’s successor.
Sander’s announced his candidacy for the democratic nomination in April, and launched his campaign on 26 May at the waterfront in Burlington, Vermont. His by-line was thus: "I don't believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process." He has stated he will not pursue funding through a Super-PAC, and indeed would return any and all political contributions made to him by corporations or institutions[iv]. Only individual donations would be accepted; and indeed, he raised $15 million from 250,000 donations, an average of $60 per donation, by June 2nd 2015.
In a week, Sanders had gained more support than Obama had received in the first three months of his 2008 campaign. He has had the largest attendance at his political events of any candidate for the 2016 election thus far, drawing 10,000 in Wisconsin and 11,000 in Arizona in July, 15,000 in Seattle; 28,000 in Oregon and 27,500 in Los Angeles in August. The strength of his campaign is growing day by day.
We turn now to Donald Trump. Trump attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, widely renowned as the principal school for investment banking and real-estate management in the United States. In 1969, Trump joined his father’s real-estate business on completing his college education, and proceeded with a number of construction projects in Manhattan, among many other locations through the United States. He nearly faced bankruptcy in 1991, but filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection in order to restructure his debt. His companies filed for bankruptcy again in 1992, 2004 and 2009[v].
Trump’s solution in all these cases has been to severely dilute his holdings. Despite this, he has successfully completed a number of hotel and casino projects, the most prominent of which is perhaps Trump World Tower – directly across the road from UN Headquarters in New York. Trump has owned the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants since 1996. I will leave you to ponder what it means when an old white male owns two organisations that supposedly determine the standard for female beauty.
In addition, he was the executive producer for the NBC reality show, The Apprentice, in which contestants compete for a high-level management jobs at one of his many enterprises. He patented his catch-phrase ‘you’re fired’ in 2004, and has been paid a total of $213,606,575[vi] by NBC for his 14 seasons of hosting the show. One wonders what such a sum translates into as an hourly rate.
Politically, Trump has made contributions almost equally to both the Republicans and the Democrats since 1985, his most endorsed candidate being Republican John McCain[vii]. He endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012[viii], and was an earlier supporter of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and has recycled Reagan’s slogan ‘Let’s make America great again’[ix].
Trump was the single largest contributor to the ‘Birther’ campaign to embarrass Barack Obama[x] (who responded brilliantly by releasing his ‘birth video’ at the 2010 Whitehouse Correspondents Dinner, https://youtu.be/2bqEn8AXzJ4, watch it now.). He has made comments asserting the link between vaccinations and autism[xi]; which have been thoroughly discredited since the 1998 Lancet article by Andrew Wakefield was withdrawn.
He has also denied the link between anthropogenic carbon emissions and climate change[xii], even though the consensus of the scientific community is almost unanimously to the contrary throughout the entire world[xiii]. Trump launched his presidential campaign from his headquarters in Trump Tower on June 16th.
Since then, he has accused most Mexican immigrants of being criminals, rapists and drug-runners[xiv], used images of Nazi soldiers (World War 2 re-enactors, but the point remains) in his re-election posters[xv], had his senior counsel Michael Cohen claim that rape isn’t a crime inside a marriage[xvi]; and most incredibly, used Megyn Kelly’s womanhood against her when she asked him if he was waging a ‘war against women’, per the Clinton Campaign’s claims[xvii]. He is indeed, pro-life and anti-planned parenthood[xviii]. Political and Business endorsements for Trump have fallen by the wayside, and his latest claim is that he will ‘whine and whine until he wins’[xix].
I have only presented a small amount of the total information there is to be gleamed about these political candidates, and thus I encourage you to do your own research. It is my hope, however, that I have made you think about the differences between those who hold society above capital, and those who hold capital above society.
This is the dichotomy I have aimed to present that currently exists in the United States: a man with no political experience whatsoever, and a man who has sought to serve the people for almost his entire adult life. Zero years of public service, next to thirty-four years. A net worth of approximately $4.5 billion[xx], next to a net worth of $330,507[xxi]. A man who seeks to re-establish a strong and politically active middle-class, and one who seeks to sound its death-knell. This is the real war: between the financially destitute majority and the morally bankrupt minority.
Some commentators claim that Sanders has no chance of winning, and thus he should be ignored entirely. Such comments only serve to propagate a self-fulfilling myth: if Sander’s growing support is ignored, if he continues to be derided as an impossible choice, he will lose. By the same token, some commentators claim that Trump is guaranteed to win. The same logic applies, only in reverse in this case, as political PR seeks to tap crowd psychology to ensure their own victory. Are we to doom ourselves to continue the trajectory of corporate slavery, or is it time to see a new dawn rise over the political environment of the Western world? Neoliberalism has failed us, and the primacy of capital must end. Only a man as committed to public service as Sanders can start such a project, and begin to reverse decades of damage done to the US political system.
Consider Margaret Thatcher’s claim in 1987 that ‘there is no such thing as society’[xxii]. While it was part of a popular rhetoric at the time to cut social services, encourage greater personal responsibility and stimulate the growth of the individualist movement – all of that was bound together as part of Neoliberalism. Thatcher created a self-fulfilling prophecy, and her and Reagan started the projects to destroy the societies they were supposed to lead, where now the rich do as they will and the poor suffer as they must.
Even now, the National Health Service in the UK is facing gradual privatisation[xxiii], moving closer to the abysmal model of the United States. Let us turn to our own former leader, Tony Abbott, and ask: is this what is to become of us? Linda Tirado recently said on QandA that Australia is ’15 years behind’ America on cutting, privatisation and austerity[xxiv]. In the context of what I have presented, is that really the direction we should be heading in? Society is you and me: society is all of us. Thatcher was lying through her teeth.
For the wretched of the Earth,
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end,
And the sun will rise.[xxv]
Mitchell Holman is a first-year JD student
[iii] http://www.salon.com/2011/10/25/bernie_sanders_war_on_the_banks/; http://articles.latimes.com/print/2010/dec/10/news/la-pn-sanders-filibuster-20101211;
[xi] http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/donald-trump-anti-vaccine-crank/; http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/28/trump-weighs-in-on-vaccine-autism-controversy/
[xxv] From Les Misérables by Victor Hugo; the English libretto by Herbert Kretzmer