The countdown seems to have begun for both Democrats and Republicans for the forthcoming US presidency elections. In the Democratic party the all-powerful former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is seen running way behind her fellow candidate Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a “democratic socialist”. Whether or not he indeed is a socialist remains to be seen, but that would be a difference making concern if only Sanders makes it to the presidency.
However, notwithstanding her defeat in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton leads the Democratic campaign for the time being in opinion polls.
On February 9, the increasingly popular Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary decisively, defeating Hillary Clinton by a margin of 60 percent to 39 percent, outperforming most pre-election polls and posting the largest vote and the widest margin of victory ever recorded in the state that traditionally holds the first US presidential primary.
The Clinton campaign has been in deep crisis as Mrs. Clinton after faced an unexpected near-tie in the first contest of the Democratic presidential campaign in Iowa on February 1. Former President Bill Clinton’s series of angry and disjointed attacks on Sanders did not help his wife’s prospects. Mrs. Clinton campaign seeking to evoke a response among women voters on the basis of Clinton’s status as potentially the first female US president also did not work, at least so far.
Sanders has improved on Obama’s showing across-the-board last time. Clinton had won the 2008 New Hampshire primary in an upset over Barack Obama, receiving 112,404 votes to Obama’s 104,815. Sanders topped both those totals and is projected to reach 140,000. The only demographic groups where Clinton prevailed were voters over 65 years of age and those with incomes over $200,000 a year.
Going by her performance as US Secretary of State under President Obama, it is clear that the Democratic Party’s favorite, Clinton may not bring any change in US policies if fielded and gets elected as the new president of US — but many Americans feel Sanders might. Indeed, a Boston Globe poll released recently found that more than half of those voters aged 17 to 34 described themselves as socialists.
Now, despite Obama’s best intentions, the war in Afghanistan is headed into its 16th year, Libya is a disastrous failed state with the Islamic State consolidating a base there and Syria’s civil war created the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, while refugees fleeing the violence threaten to destabilize Europe.
Accelerating climate change, global economic troubles, a new US cold war with Russia, the aflame in the Middle East and the various wars on terrorism, among other issues have prompted a foreign policy debate in the US presidential campaign that is cutting across bipartisan and poll politics. The candidates vie to rip up the Iran deal, push for a new cold war with Russia, fan the flames in the Middle East and walk away from the progress made in Paris on climate.
Common Americans are yet to recover from the 2008 financial crash and the economic slump that continues to have a devastating impact on the jobs and living standards of these ordinary Americans who now support Sanders. The overwhelming concerns of Democratic primary voters are economic inequality, jobs and health care, and these class issues entirely predominated over the hyped issues of “gender and racial identity” that the Clinton campaign has sought to raise in the campaign.
The US as a super power is headed into a dangerous, escalating cold war with Russia. With little notice from the press, the Obama government just announced it plans to quadruple spending on weapons and equipment for US and NATO forces in countries on or near Russia’s borders. The provocative act is unprecedented in modern times. It will surely be met by deployment of greater Russian forces and armaments across the same borders and escalate a new and already dangerous US-Russian nuclear arms race. Instead of the countries of Eastern Europe providing a disarmed zone of peace after the Cold War, they are rapidly becoming an arena of armed tension.
Foreign policy questions in the debates have to date essentially ignored climate change. Sanders has said little about foreign policy, apparently viewing it as a distraction from his core economic message. He has suggested that the secretary is more inclined to “regime change” in countries that do not obey US instructions than he would be. Clinton has shown little sign of being sobered by the Iraq catastrophe. Yet the United States has a great interest in cooperation with Russia — on enforcing the Iran deal, on settling the Syrian civil war, on dealing with loose nukes and continuing to dismantle the nuclear arsenals left from the Cold War.
The problems of the common man seem to have made its impact on the US poll campaign. The fundamental issues like jobs played a key role in the Republican primary as well, albeit in a right-wing populist form, with the victory of billionaire Donald Trump, who won 34 percent, more than double the vote for the second-place finisher, Ohio Governor John Kasich. Other candidates—Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio—placed third through fifth, with 11 percent of the vote, while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie trailed with 8 percent and was expected to end his campaign.
A new phenomenon in US politics is the hate campaign of Trump, and that represents the mobilization of a criminal element in the American elite, based on national chauvinism, militarism and the glorification of authoritarian rule. His thuggish persona and racist attacks on Muslims, Mexicans and others express openly a grotesque coarsening of politics. Trump’s attacks on Muslims, in particular, have evoked a response of a fascistic character.
Anti-Islamism is the trend worldwide. One wonders if Trump has officially inherited anti-Islamism and Indian Hindutva hatred mode or Israeli hate politics to woo the educated Americans. But he has poisoned the American minds emboldened by the Obama regime attacking Muslims in Arab world.
The US has had a global economic strategy effectively defined by and for multinational corporations and banks. The result has been a trade policy that has racked up unprecedented trade deficits. The corporate-controlled US political parties and the entire political system promoting militarism and war targeted policies clearly suit Trump and his media allies. The experts, think tanks and old hands wedded to the old policies are too often part of the problem, not the solution. The country needs a major course correction urgently.
While virtually ignored in the press, a central cause of the tensions is the effort, hailed by Clinton, to extend NATO, a military alliance, into the nations of the former Warsaw Pact, and even former Russian republics such as Ukraine and Georgia. Mrs. Clinton is surrounded herself with advisers that are mix of neoconservatives and liberal “indispensable nation” advocates, all of whom share a strong belief in using American force as an instrument of good abroad. Her interventionist temperament has cost the US dearly. Since the Iraq vote, Clinton has championed the surge in Afghanistan, the intervention in Libya, the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Surely, after Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria, we should have learned enough to temper the interventionist inclination.
The military anywhere is not designed for building nations or birthing democracies. Ironically, the generals are usually more cautious in its use than the hawkish civilians who have dominated US foreign policy circles. A war-weary nation deserves a real debate about the limits of American military adventurism.
The US desperately needs a challenge to the mainstream thinking that has given us a foreign policy that grows ever more divorced from the interests and security concerns of the vast majority of Americans.
Sanders is now the new frontrunner for the Democratic nomination as voters are rejecting American capitalism and perpetual war policies, though the role he seeks to play in safeguarding the Democratic Party and the political monopoly of the two-party system may not change. His indictment of Wall Street domination of the US economy and political system and his proposals for higher taxes on the wealthy is most welcome. But his foreign policy is to continue the Bush-Obama legacy is highly dangerous and without any sense. Sanders thus seeks to reassure both Wall Street and the US Pentagon — intelligence apparatus that his presidency, if that happens, would uphold the global interests of Neocons and American imperialism.
Turning away from Clinton and growing support towards Sanders signifies a radicalization of the mood of American people, particularly the younger generation. However, the New Hampshire result is just the beginning and the debates shall go on until a final candidate is agreed upon by the Democratic Party on the basis of their individual standing.