Bernie Sanders and an insurgent America

Abdallah Schleifer
Abdallah Schleifer

Abdallah Schleifer


By : Abdallah Schleifer


Everyone expected Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire. What matters about New Hampshire is that it followed the Iowa primary last week, where Hillary Clinton suffered a stunning setback. She had the overwhelming support of that state’s Democratic leadership, and public opinion polls predicted she would win. Instead, Sanders fought her to a near tie, with 49.6 percent of the vote for him and 49.8 percent for her.

New Hampshire had an important role in the Clinton family’s political history. Defeated in the Iowa presidential primary in 1992, Bill Clinton did so well in New Hampshire that he could coin himself “the comeback kid.” In the 2008 contest between Hillary and Barak Obama for the Democratic nomination, Hillary – who had been defeated in Iowa by Obama – beat him in New Hampshire.

If Sanders can recreate in the southern and western states the excitement generated by his campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, the nature of the Democratic Party – and possibly that of the federal government – may change dramatically.

Abdallah Schleifer

The Clintons – Hillary, Bill and daughter Chelsea – worked every venue possible in the week leading up to the vote in New Hampshire, expecting to keep the margin of their defeat to a single digit. Instead, Hillary lost by more than 20 percent. Sanders was expected to do much better than her among young voters, but the final result was an overwhelming ratio of six to one for him.

Equally important was the loss of white working class voters who had supported her in 2008 and now swung over to Sanders, despite trade union leaders with ties to the Democratic leadership endorsing Hillary. The reason is obvious – the shock of the 2006 housing market crash that set in motion the 2008 recession.

Economic crisis

Some 8 million American families lost their homes either because they were poor or sold fraudulent subprime (high-risk) mortgages with impossibly high interest rates kicking in after several years, which the banks knew they could not pay off. By then, those risky mortgages had been repackaged and sold as supposedly super-safe bonds – fraud number two. When the bonds collapsed, the banks were in danger of collapsing.

First George W. Bush then Obama bailed out the big banks responsible for the housing market fraud because they were too big to fail, but did little to nothing to bail out the millions who lost their homes and jobs. No one went to jail, and since the partial recovery almost all of the regenerated income has gone to the top 1 percent of wealth holders.

Millions of jobs have been lost as American manufacturers relocate their factories to countries with low labor costs. Billions of dollars in federal and state corporate taxes, which would have offset growing national and state debt, have been lost as companies merge with smaller foreign companies in countries with low or no taxes on corporate profits, thereby legally evading U.S. taxes. Technically that is not fraud, but it borders on economic treason.

Many industries such as textiles, garments and steel have been crippled or wiped out because of imports from China and other countries with low labor costs. All these problems began when Bill Clinton became president, and accelerated during Bush’s eight years in office. None of this has been corrected in any significant way during Obama’s eight-year presidency.

The cost of university and college education has soared over the past two decades, and many students end up graduating owing the government over $100,000 plus interest. Sanders promises no more tuition fees at public (state) universities, and tax relief for graduates heavily in debt.

Now the primaries shift to states with large black and Hispanic populations, particularly in the south and west where blacks dominate the Democratic Party – states where the Clintons retain popularity because of their endless assertions that they love black people, and symbolic gestures such as going to Sunday services in predominantly black churches.

If Sanders can recreate in the southern and western states the excitement generated by his campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, the nature of the Democratic Party – and possibly that of the federal government – may change dramatically.


Abdallah Schleifer is a veteran American journalist covering the Middle East and distinguished visiting professor of political mass media at Future University in Egypt. He is also professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo where he founded as served as first director of the Kamal Adham Center for TV and Digital Journalism. He is chief editor of the annual publication The Muslim 500; a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (USA) and at the Royal Aal al Bayt Academy for Islamic Thought (Jordan.) Schleifer has served as Al Arabiya Washington D.C. bureau chief; NBC News Cairo bureau chief; Middle East correspondent for Jeune Afrique; as special correspondent (stringer), New York Times and managing editor of the Jerusalem Star/Palestine News in then Jordanian Arab Jerusalem.


Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.


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