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When Boris Johnson won a huge victory in the United Kingdom election in December — and the Labour Party suffered significant losses — some in the United States took note, drawing comparisons between far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
One of those people was Andrew Sullivan, who is writer-at-large at New York Magazine. He says both Sanders and Corbyn have similar weaknesses in that they both have a history of supporting far-left, extremist ideas.
“If Sanders is the nominee, the Republican Party [opposition] research will get to work on him,” Sullivan says. “And the material there is just as fertile as the material against Corbyn.”
There’s also another comparison between two other politicians — Pete Buttigieg and French President Emmanuel Macron. Like Buttigieg, Macron was a political newcomer who aimed to appeal to both the right and left, says Ryan Heath, senior editor at Politico.
“I think at their core they're both the ultimate insider outsiders. So they're obviously different [than] the standard candidate that is put forward, but they have both been part of very elite circles for a long time,” he says. “They have come from very similar backgrounds, so both from small Rust Belt cities, both married to teachers, both went to elite universities, both speak French and English.”
On the difficulties of being a moderate
Heath: “So Macron is someone who presents a little bit like Barack Obama in terms of his elevated rhetoric and his ability to sort of flirt and inspire crowds and things like that. But at the end of the day, he only won 24% of the vote in the first round of the French presidential election. So in lots of ways, he became president because of who he was. … And Pete Buttigieg in some ways would face the same challenges. He wouldn't be embraced just because of who he was, but also because he wasn't Donald Trump. And because of the way Macron came to be elected, he's really struggled to have a political lift off. Those 76% of people who never supported him have found ways to be angry at him since he assumed office.”
On the lessons Buttigieg could learn from Macron
Heath: “The lesson is really that Macron was very good at not just talking to one section of the French population. He really tried to burst out of the bubbles that the mainstream political parties had been operating in. And that's probably a route to success for Buttigieg as well. He needs to convince people who wouldn't ordinarily vote Democrat or he needs to convince people who are in love with Bernie Sanders that they still have a reason to support him if he ends up becoming the candidate.”
On the similar weaknesses between Sanders and Corbyn
Sullivan: “You have someone [Sanders] praising the Soviet Union, taking his honeymoon there. Any number of statements supporting leftist dictators, someone who supported the revolution in Iran even as Americans were taken hostage. There are ways in which the extremism of his own past can be brought to bear against him as a person. And what happened is that that was done to Corbyn as it normally is in politics, and it destroyed him. And that was very effective to such an extent that the Labor Party was wiped out in the election last year.”
On divisions within the Democratic Party
Sullivan: “The trouble is, as in the United Kingdom, the broad left is really split between a sort of moderate center left and an insurgent, more socialist, much more ambitious group that has essentially taken over the grass roots. And look, Britain has always been more sympathetic to socialism than the United States, but even Britain drew the line at a radical return to sort of 1970s statism. They didn't want it. And I'm not sure that Bernie is a much better answer to this than Corbyn was in Britain.”
This segment aired on February 21, 2020.
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