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Sanders' attraction and ascent are familiar internationally

By Rich Lowry on

The Democratic Party could soon be taken over by a leftist who has never formally been a member.

If it's any consolation to Democrats, it's a version of the same wrenching dislocation that has beset the center-left throughout the Western world.

One reason Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic nomination is entirely imaginable is that it wouldn't be a freakish occurrence outside the experience of other advanced democracies, but instead, entirely consistent with the travails of traditional center-left parties from France to Sweden.

Seen from a broader perspective, Sanders doesn't represent a revolution so much as a lagging indicator -- indeed, the British Labour Party has already been there, done that.

Across the European landscape,

center-left parties have foundered in recent years, often torn apart by cross-currents over immigration and by tensions between socially progressive urbanites and traditionalist working-class voters.

 

"As social democratic parties declined due to the weight of structural changes," Yascha Mounk wrote in a piece last year in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, "a new crop of left-wing politicians argued that their troubles were owed to the embrace of a more moderate (or 'neoliberal') set of policies." What was necessary was "an unabashed emphasis on the economic interests of the working class, coupled with the full-throated promise of social revolution."

Sound familiar? Sanders bears the closest resemblance to his equally-aged and disheveled ideological cousin from the United Kingdom, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn crashed the gates of the Labour Party as, essentially, an outsider. He rose on the strength of a left-wing grassroots movement and won Labour's leadership contest in 2015, thanks to newcomers who could vote in such a contest for the first time. An unlikely icon for younger voters, he drew enormous crowds and, unavoidably himself, had a distinctive charm for his supporters.

Like Sanders, he also had a history of sympathy for left-wing thugs, a hostility toward Western power, a motley collection of kooky allies and an utterly fantastical domestic program.

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