“Conventional wisdom” says that there is no way a socialist can win the U.S. presidency. Eugene V. Debs tried and failed in the WW I era, as did Henry Wallace, who ran as the Progressive Party candidate in 1948. But the problem with conventional wisdom is that yesterday, when the “convention” was established, isn’t today – and the realities of today are profoundly different from any I’ve witnessed in a pretty long life.
The Tea Party was made up of legitimately disgruntled people who, unable to correctly analyze their plight, were easily cajoled by right-wing forces that supplied simplistic, false analyses serving elite interests. Predictably, the lot of the people has not only failed to improve, it has gotten worse – while money rushes ever faster into the hands of the few. Yet Donald Trump and his fellow GOP candidates still pursue this strategy of distortion. Then along comes Bernie with a correct analysis that echoes the actual experience of the people. He puts his finger on the truth concerning the causes and effects of poverty, economic struggle and inequality. His insight touches a core – hence his “surprising” ascendancy.
That being the case, there’s no reason why misled southerners would not respond to him. The South is the poorest section of the country, making it ripe for Bernie’s message. His challenge is getting to these people, and no doubt he has to campaign very strongly in key southern states. These states have large black populations that are among the major beneficiaries of Bernie’s economic policies. He must get his message to them and convince them to vote, which many of them think is futile for good reason. Regardless of who has been elected in the past or what pre-election promises were made, their condition has never improved. But if Bernie can get to them, he could even win over Tea Partyers who would also respond to the honest analysis reflecting the undeniable reality of their lives. It’s really a question of how far the truth can travel – and, given his success to date, there’s a basis for optimism.
What is just as important as Bernie’s candidacy is the unprecedented number of people he’s rallied to a progressive cause. These people and the circumstances that drew them to Bernie will not magically disappear after the election. On the contrary, they will form the basis of a popular movement championing the real interests of the majority mired in economic despair. Bernieism is for real because it is rooted in indisputable realities that are not going away.