Immediately following unabashed socialist Jeremy Corbyn's election as head of the British Labour Party, speculation was widespread about socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders' chances here in the U.S.
Corbyn won with a surprising 60 percent of the Labour vote. Sanders released a statement Sunday saying he was “delighted” with the election of Corbyn.
“Not so fast,” said several political historians who talked to me. While noting that both Corbyn and Sanders have mobilized both traditional and younger left-of-center activists, they noted that Sanders is dealing with an entirely different system and opponent than his British counterpart.
The historians also cautioned that the “politics of anger” that leads a party to nominate an extreme-sounding leader historically has dangerous results.
“The Democratic Party shifts further leftward by the day,” said David Pietrusza, author of the book “1932” on the first elections of Roosevelt and Hitler. “Sanders, for all his weaknesses, such as his age, is less and less out of step with it. Arguably, little ideological daylight exists between a Sanders and . . . Obama.
“As with [1972 Democratic presidential nominee] George McGovern, the radical candidate [Corbyn] galvanized in particular the young students — those who feel disengaged from the political establishment of the older generation,” said prize-winning British historian Graham Stewart, whose book “Burying Caesar” is considered one of the definitive works on British politics in the 1930s.
Stewart predicted that Corbyn “if he gets as far as the next election [which is not until 2020] will probably meet the same fate as McGovern [who lost every state but one to Richard Nixon]. Of course much can happen in five years."
Stewart added, “As for Sanders, it's still relatively early and the path to the Democratic nomination is a much longer one than the couple of months that have taken Corbyn from rank outsider to party leader in a process which is more comparable to winning New Hampshire than reaching the White House.
“So, now is the time to make the analogy but not yet the time to make the prediction.”
Michael Barone, co-author of "The Almanac of American Politics,” agreed: “Sanders is working through a quite different system. Corbyn’s people just had to register new voters for three pounds [roughly $5.00], so they were able to stuff the ballot box [The Financial Times’ John Lloyd reported that of the 550,000 who voted for a Labour leader, two-thirds joined the party only recently].
“The fact that they could get so many is evidence of a considerable enthusiasm, but that's different from a primary. A caucus? Not so much. Bernie could do very well there, as Obama did in ’08, and Ron Paul in ’08 and ’12.”
Irwin Gellman, whose “The President and the Apprentice” book on Nixon as vice president is now in its third printing, told me “it’s not that Bernie Sanders is doing well but that Hillary Clinton is doing worse. Sanders doesn’t have to broaden his base or reach out so long as she keeps opening her mouth about using a personal server.
“If Hillary keeps on being Hillary, anything is possible.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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