It has been common for left-wing American intellectuals to claim that there is really only one American political party with two wings, both of which essentially serve business interests. The massive backing both Democrats and Republicans traditionally get from Wall Street and other big money supports the one-party thesis. But the rise of the so-called Tea Party within the Republican Party and the consequent turn to the hard right has called this thesis into question. Now even the premier American left-wing intellectual Noam Chomsky admits that things have changed. Chomsky now argues that the Republican Party is no longer a political party at all; it has become a radical insurgency. (http://www.salon.com/2015/09/23/noam_chomsky_right_wing_extremism_from_trump_may_be_comic_relief_but_its_not_that_different_from_the_mainstream/)
Amazingly—at least is amazes me—Chomsky’s view of Bernie Sanders, who seems to be leading a sort of radical insurgency in the Democratic party, doesn’t differ much from the conventional wisdom. Chomsky thinks Sanders has by far the better positions, but Hilary Clinton is electable, and Sanders isn’t. That Noam Chomsky, of all people, plans to vote Democratic no matter who the nominee is shows just how far the Republicans have gone over the cliff. The idea of a science-denying, sabre-rattling ignoramus in the White House is just too scary, even for those who are very cynical about the Democrats.
But I believe that if Bernie Sanders can get the Democratic nomination, he has a real chance of winning the general election, especially if the Republican nominee is Donald Trump. The conventional wisdom says that Americans hate the government, but in reality Americans hate government only in the abstract; they love government programs like Medicare and Social Security. Bernie Sanders is articulating a class analysis: the problem isn’t government itself, but the fact that the government has been bought by the billionaire class. That analysis is resonating with voters, especially young voters, who are overloaded with student debt and have dim job prospects. Sanders’ analysis might also start to resonate with many Trump supporters when they tire of Trump’s content-free bravado and macho posturing.
A persuasive case can be made that just as the Republican Party has moved right, a majority of Americans have moved left. If that’s the case, Bernie Sanders can certainly win.