[Marxism] Vermont poised to elect America's first socialist senator

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 1 18:54:59 MST 2006

(The introductory note is by a British subscriber to the CubaNews
list who has lived and worked in Cuba for the past ten years.)

From: michael walker 
Sent: Nov 1, 2006 8:39 PM
To: Walter Lippmann <cubanews at yahoogroups.com>
Subject: [CubaNews] USA set to elect Socialist Senator in mid-terms

In a set of elections which could be decided by the impact of a
wilfully mis-understood joke, it's refreshing to read about a Senator
who could be elected because he talks about "issues".

He may not be everybody's ideal of a Socialist and the only way he
might have influence in the Senate is because of a close decision in
the US mid-term elections.

AS to the rabid response to Senator Kerry's off-the-cuff remark but
as Samuel Johnson the great Anglo-Irish writer is reputed to have
said "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrels".
Guardian | Vermont poised to elect America's first socialist senator

Vermont poised to elect America's first socialist senator
· Cantankerous campaigner strikes chord with voters
· New milestone nears after eight terms in Congress
Julian Borger in Washington
Thursday November 2, 2006

Amid the furious debate over Iraq and the speculation that George Bush may be a
lame duck after next Tuesday's mid-term elections, an extraordinary political
milestone is approaching: a cantankerous 65-year-old called Bernie looks set to
become the first socialist senator in US history.

Bernie Sanders is so far ahead in the contest for Vermont's vacant seat for the
US Senate that it seems only sudden illness or accident could derail his
rendezvous with destiny, after eight terms as the state's only congressman. His
success flies in the face of all the conventional wisdom about American

He is an unapologetic socialist and proud of it. Even his admirers admit that
he lacks social skills, and he tends to speak in tirades. Yet that has not
stopped him winning eight consecutive elections to the US House of

"Twenty years ago when people here thought about socialism they were thinking
about the Soviet Union, about Albania," Mr Sanders told the Guardian in a
telephone interview from the campaign trail. "Now they think about Scandinavia.

In Vermont people understand I'm talking about democratic socialism."
Democratic socialism, however, has hardly proved to be a vote-winning formula
in a country where even the word "liberal" is generally treated as an insult.
Until now the best showing in a Senate race by a socialist of any stripe was in
1930 by Emil Seidel, who won 6% of the vote.

John McLaughry, the head of a free-market Vermont thinktank, the Ethan Allen
Institute, said Mr Sanders is a throwback to that era. "Bernie Sanders is an
unreconstructed 1930s socialist and proud of it. He's a skilful demagogue who
casts every issue in that framework, a master practitioner of class warfare."

When Mr Sanders, a penniless but eloquent import from New York, got himself
elected mayor of Burlington in 1981, at the height of the cold war, it rang
some alarm bells. "I had to persuade the air force base across the lake that
Bernie's rise didn't mean there was a communist takeover of Burlington,"
recalled Garrison Nelson, a politics professor at the University of Vermont who
has known him since the 1970s.

"He used to sleep on the couch of a friend of mine, walking about town with no
work," Prof Nelson said. "Bernie really is a subject for political
anthropology. He has no political party. He has never been called charming. He
has no money, and none of the resources we normally associate with success.
However, he learned how to speak to a significant part of the disaffected
population of Vermont."

Mr Sanders turned out to be a success as mayor, rejuvenating the city
government and rehabilitating Burlington's depressed waterfront on Lake
Champlain while ensuring that it was not gentrified beyond the reach of
ordinary local people.

"He stood this town on its ear," said Peter Freyne, a local journalist."I tried
to make the government work for working people, and not just for corporations,
and on that basis I was elected to Congress," Mr Sanders said. He has served 16
years in the House of Representatives, a lonely voice since the Republican
takeover in 1994. He has however struck some interesting cross-party deals,
siding with libertarian Republicans to oppose a clause in the Patriot Act which
allowed the FBI to find out what books Americans borrowed from libraries.

He says his consistent electoral success reflects the widespread discontent
with rising inequality, deepening poverty and dwindling access to affordable
healthcare in the US. "People realise there is a lot to be learned from the
democratic socialist models in northern Europe," Mr Sanders said. "The untold
story here is the degree to which the middle class is shrinking and the gap
between rich and poor is widening. It is a disgrace that the US has the highest
rate of childhood poverty of any industrialised country on earth. Iraq is
important, but it's not the only issue."

In a state of just over 600,000 people he also has a significant advantage over
his Republican opponent, Rich Tarrant, a businessman who has spent about $7m on
his campaign. "Sanders is popular because even if you disagree with him you
know where he stands," said Eric Davis, a political scientist at Vermont's
Middlebury College. "He pays attention to his political base. He's independent
and iconoclastic and Vermonters like that."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2006


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