There are several reasons why I’d like to see Bernie Sanders elected US President. The very thought of a socialist in the White House is the stuff of fantasies, about as unlikely as Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour Party! There are certainly plenty of questions to be asked about how either man might turn words into deeds if in power, but for the moment I’m happy with the thought that I could say ‘I’ve met the President!’
It was back in pre-selfie June 2006, so I can’t provide photographic evidence, but it was on the same day this was taken.
The years have been kinder to Bernie than me! We met in his office when I tagged along with a delegation of tenants from Vermont who were lobbying him as their Congressman (he’s since moved to the Senate). It was a fairly brief encounter, but enough to make me not entirely surprised by his current popularity – and there are other Corbyn similarities. The very fact that Sanders’ door was open to a group of tenants and a discussion about housing shows that, even when thoughts of national office were a million miles away, he was in touch with his constituents and their concerns. I recall my Vermont friends saying that Sanders consistently supported campaigns for tenants’ rights and decent, affordable homes. (I remember raising council housing with him and Sanders at least showing some recognition of the subject, potentially the first US President ever to do so!) A decade ago, such issues struggled for attention. Today, they are mainstream and as the rise of Corbyn and Sanders demonstrate, are central to demands for a political alternative to the domination of big business and the establishment. Less flatteringly, the appeal of Sanders (like Corbyn) sits in relation to how repulsive his rivals are. While I suppose it’s still more likely than not that Hilary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, she is Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham squared, so it’s not certain. I don’t pretend to understand the idiosyncrasies of US elections, but it’s very clear that many Americans have had enough of business as usual and this disillusionment might make it more possible for me to enjoy my moment of reflected glory in November. If Donald Trump becomes the Republican candidate (also unlikely, but possible) then Sanders could be faced by his diametric opposite. Leaving aside his crass, but calculated, vulgarities, a possible President Trump would represent the ultimate triumph of corporate property developers – a virtual coup d’etat by the forces who have come to control – and ruin – housing policy on both sides of the Atlantic. If it comes down to Trump v Sanders, many Americans will be seduced by the bombastic bouffant billionaire (just as some over here are by Nigel Farage), but in a two-horse race, there are too many victims of the housing crisis (not to mention women and non-whites!) in America for the impossible not to become a real possibility – President Bernie Sanders.