The US Turns Left

Donald Trump feels class warfare is more important than religion. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton talks about social equality and a bright future for America. The thanks for that should mainly go to Bernie Sanders.

The U.S. primaries have been decided. Democrat Hillary Clinton has thus far bested her opponent Bernie Sanders so convincingly that she is now the de facto nominee. And on the Republican side, no one has yet emerged as a threat to Donald Trump. The billionaire and reality TV star may not win an absolute majority of delegates at this summer’s Republican Convention, but at present, he is so far in the lead, and no one can realistically contest his nomination.

The paradox of the outcome of these primaries is that liberals and left-wingers are rejoicing. It couldn’t possibly be going any better for them even if their candidate won’t be the nominee and despite the fact that a more moderate Republican candidate is nowhere in sight. The remainder of the election campaign will move the United States a bit to the left and will influence political discourse there for the foreseeable future.

How is that possible? First and foremost, it came about mainly thanks to Bernie Sanders. The senator made social concerns the focus of his campaign, successfully placing Hillary Clinton under pressure. At first, she was more of an economic liberal, much like her husband Bill Clinton, who, as the protagonist of the “New Democrats” in the 1990s, concluded the NAFTA trade agreement that resulted in the loss of many factory jobs. In addition, he cut social programs and deregulated financial markets, which helped lead to the speculative excesses that contributed to the 2008 global financial and economic crises.

Bill Clinton’s policies alienated many former Democratic voters, above all young people, ethnic minority individuals and laborers. Obama was the first to successfully run against the New Democrats, notably against Hillary Clinton in 2008. He won the primary election not only because in contrast to Hillary Clinton, he had opposed American military involvement in Iraq, but also because he sharply criticized her cozy relationship with large banks and corporations.

Sanders reminded her of that almost every day as he characterized her as being friendly with Wall Street and large corporations. Under that pressure, Clinton distanced herself from her husband’s policies and shifted more to the left. She has since disavowed further free trade agreements and now engages more energetically in promoting social justice than she did in recent months. She cannot detour fundamentally from that road in her battle with Donald Trump beginning this summer.

The billionaire’s success is surprisingly also due to the social aspect. Unlike all the other Republican candidates, Trump isn’t running on a “smaller government” platform — i.e. a philosophy that insists that government should stay out of people’s private lives altogether. On the contrary, while he rejects Obamacare, he advocates keeping and even expanding Social Security and Medicare based on the European models, which he says are cheaper and more effective — until now, this position has been totally alien to Republicans. And besides, who should build the wall on the Mexican border, which would be the ultimate job creation program? The answer is the government.

These not strikingly mature ideas would be celebrated by Trump’s followers and ensure him the support of laborers and craftsmen. They already almost euphorically welcome his anti-Wall Street and Washington positions. Even religious fundamentalists with limited incomes support Trump because of how he approaches social issues: Class warfare is more important to Trump than religion. The billionaire recognized that was the road to certain success right from the beginning.

That’s a complete catastrophe for Republicans. Trump’s anti-establishment campaign hits the party elite full force — the elite who have promoted social division for decades. The Republicans have fallen victim to their own propaganda. The fact that they are the establishment has suddenly dawned on their followers, and the anger of their base is directed less at Obama than it is at congressional Republicans and their business world buddies. Many of them will pay for it during the upcoming congressional elections.

On the other hand, a left-leaning Hillary Clinton will certainly have an easy time inspiring Democrats and moderates to support her journey toward social justice and equal opportunity: not a bad outlook for America as long as it doesn’t turn out to be just a lot of campaign promises.

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