Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been surging in the polls against Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said he is “delighted” that Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of the UK Labour party.
“At a time of mass income and wealth inequality throughout the world, I am delighted to see that the British Labour Party has elected Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader,” the independent Vermont senator said.
“We need leadership in every country in the world which tells the billionaire class that they cannot have it all.
“We need economies that work for working families, not just the people on top.”
While I find much to like about Bernie Sanders, and much on which to agree with him, I’m rather sorry to see him identifying with Corbyn– even if his praise is limited to Corbyn’s general stance on economic inequality.
I don’t know how aware Sanders is of Corbyn’s awful positions on Israel/Palestine, Ukraine, repressive “socialist” regimes, confronting the Islamic State, etc. Those positions are not widely reported in the US media, but Sanders should have made an effort to find out more about Corbyn before issuing his statement. If he was aware of these positions, it’s inexcusable.
Lately I’ve been hoping that Vice President Joe Biden (who was clearly devastated by by tragic death of his son Beau) will join the race for the Democratic nomination– especially after watching the speech he gave at a Labor Day rally in Pittsburgh:
(Rich Trumka is president of the American labor federation the AFL-CIO, which has strong ties with the Israeli labor federation the Histadrut.)
Nevertheless, in many important ways, Bernie Sanders is not like Jeremy Corbyn. Here are five of them:
1. Sanders has long been a critical supporter of Israel and its right to exist. Corbyn has not. Last year Sanders was willing to take on some anti-Israel constituents at a town hall meeting in Vermont:
Can you imagine Jeremy Corbyn saying any of the things Sanders says after “On the other hand” (2:34) about his “friends” in Hamas?
While Corbyn grants interviews with Press TV, that Iranian propaganda outlet publishes denunciations of Sanders as “a strong supporter of the American military–industrial complex as well as Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.” Sanders has consistently voted for military aid to Israel.
2. I can’t imagine a pro-Putin regime website publishing an article titled “Jeremy Corbyn Is a Russia-Bashing, Pro-Israel, Militarist Tool.” Sanders’s foreign policy positions are viewed as excessively mainstream and insufficiently “anti-imperialist” by many on the Left.
3. Sanders supports US airstrikes against the Islamic State. Corbyn opposes any military action against IS, and believes they can be negotiated with.
4. Corbyn, who is always pleased to express solidarity with any nominally “socialist” regime, would never say, as Sanders did:
“The minimum wage in Vietnam is 56 cents an hour. Workers there cannot form independent unions. And if you protest government policy, you might end up in trouble. OK?”
5. Corbyn seems anxious to avoid potentially unfriendly or uncomfortable questions. Sanders, by contrast, seems to relish confrontational questions (even on Fox News) and the opportunity to appear before audiences that disagree with him on many issues– as he did Monday at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Update: Anthony Lane writes in The New Yorker:
One suggestion is that, by dint of the refreshing threat that he poses to the establishment, Corbyn is roughly the British equivalent of Bernie Sanders. Nice try, but no. Corbyn makes Bernie Sanders look like Ted Cruz.