top of page
  • Christopher Tobin

A Berning Momentum: Why Sanders and Corbyn Aren’t The Same Politician

Flickr/ 350 Vermont

On the surface the similarities between Corbyn and Sanders are unquestionable. They're old, they're ‘socialists’, they’re fighting against the party establishment and their base is primarily one of generation x and y. Their base of supporters is remarkably similar, not just as previously mentioned with age. Although it must be noted that the two candidates don't simply find their support in the younger generations, just rather the greatest support. YouGov data comparing the Labour leadership election and the New Hampshire Primary found that support by household incomes was comparatively similar between Corbyn and Sanders. Both relatively gained 70% of support from those earning under £20 thousand, 60% under £30, and 45% with £70 thousand plus. Indeed, both were political outsiders whom few had heard of up until a year ago. Both leaders were asked to stand for the left by their respective bases, not as personality figures. Both have a central policy and politics that addresses the huge wealth and income inequalities in their respective countries and globally, too. Furthermore, both presumably did not expect to become prime minister or president within the next few years when they began their campaigns.

Context of the countries that the two come from is everything. Sanders punches the air for universal healthcare – an unarguably radical position to take especially considering the huge opposition to Obamacare which is nothing compared to a universal system. In Britain, well, we wouldn’t expect anything less. For the parties to support the NHS is a given, no matter how right wing and no matter how much they’d like to privatise it. Too, Sanders rallies for free college tuition – again, you wouldn’t expect anything less from Corbyn with even the centrist party ‘promising’ it in 2010. Their opposition is different too. Whilst right-wing populist Tea Party group find their policies embodied in not only the outsiders Cruz and Trump, Marco Rubio - the Republican establishments favourite and current third in ranking - was too backed by the group. Here in the UK, UKIP failed to make the swathes it said it was going to. Sure the party lead to the defections of two MPs but gun rights and denying the right to women to have control of their bodies is something far more radically right on a general spectrum than UKIPs general policies or their prime motive of Brexit. Clinton supports the death penalty and Sanders himself has a voting record on gun control that leaves much to be desired.

Just because both politicians are, were and continue to be devoutly against the illegal Iraq war, Sanders is far from the pacifist Corbyn is. As chair of Stop the War and with a parliamentary record of voting against every single military intervention put forward to him, Corbyn’s foreign policy contrasts with Sanders inclination towards Western intervention in cases where the majority support it - with Afghanistan, and the Yugoslavian War for example. Whilst Sanders denounced the Republicans bringing Netanyahu around Israel’s election time, to speak against Obama’s Iran deal Bernie is no "friend" of Hamas and Hezbollah. Bernie seeks what most moderate democrats do – a two state solution and an end to the illegal settlements. The Jewish lobby is one of the most powerful forces in US politics, there is nothing like their stature here in the UK. Furthermore, the New Statesmen pointed out that whilst Corbyn called Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan president, a leader who sought 'a different narrative in world politics', Sanders labelled him a 'dead Communist dictator'.

Trudging through decades of a neo-liberal establishment; socialism is a dirty word in UK politics. But in the US? It's as filthy as Flints water supply. However, it cannot be overstated that Sanders and Corbyn’s democratic socialism is worlds apart. Whilst Corbyn’s ideology promotes a goal of state ownership of the means of production, Sanders is in fact against it. In an interview with Bill Maher, Sanders even associated public utilities and road building with socialism. The socialism that Sanders adopts isn’t one of overthrowing capitalism, sure it’s revolutionary and radical, but its radically reforming not replacing. Sanders arguably has far more in common with the social democrat moderate centre left of Labour than the ultra-leftist tradition that Corbyn comes from. If Sanders wins the Democratic primary, he'll likely win the general election. But with the lowest ratings of a Labour party in opposition since before the Second World War, the realities of Corbyn’s leadership contest win is a far different picture.


Flickr/ Garry Knight

bottom of page