Since Monday, February 1, political pundits have speculated as to why Bernie Sanders made such a strong showing in the Iowa Caucuses. Bernie supposedly attained a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton because he’s more authentic, he doesn’t take Wall Street’s money, he’s a bonafide advocate for the middle-class, and he promises to tackle the rising cost of college tuition and the problem of student debt. All of those explanations for the Vermont senator’s popularity have merit. But there is another very important reason Bernie is receiving strong support among Democratic and Independent voters.
Bernie Sanders represents a repudiation of President Obama. In 2008 and 2012, Obama sold himself to Democrats and Independents as a Progressive and yet after seven long years in the White House, he has failed to fundamentally change either the American political system or the economy. There are many reasons for his failure, but the single greatest reason is this: Obama is not a Progressive. In fact, he is a Clintonian neo-liberal. Obama, like his predecessor Bill Clinton, favors U.S. colonialism masked as globalization, international interventionism, the secret security state, and Wall Street’s exploitative economic agenda. Obama has done little to address income inequality; he hasn’t prosecuted the banksters that crashed the economy in 2008; he’s filled his administration with The Street’s people; he hasn’t increased the real wages of average Americans; and he’s taken the big money contributions made legal by Citizen’s United. The litany of his failures goes on and on. Predictably, he’s blamed his shortcomings and his “concessions to political reality” on the GOP.
When Obama came into office in January 2009, he had an electoral mandate similar to the one that swept Franklin Delano Roosevelt into the White House at the height of the Great Depression. A sizable majority of Americans were ready for real change. They were ready for a New, New Deal – a restructuring of the political and economic order. Obama didn’t deliver it. Instead, he took the reformist impulse of millions of his supporters and purposely dissipated it. It’s instructive that in a March 27, 2009, meeting in the White House, the newly-elected president told a group of Wall Street bankers, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitch forks.” In that one statement Obama summed up how he saw his presidency. And so for the past seven years, Barack Obama has loyally served as Wall Street’s firewall against the outrage of America’s middle-class and young. And it’s largely for this reason that he and his chosen successor – Hillary Rodham Clinton – are now feeling “The Bern.”