Bernie Sanders on Brexit: urgent lessons for the Democrats

In a powerful op-ed in the NYT, Bernie Sanders warns the Democratic Party that Brexit shows that many of the left's traditional supporters justifiably feel abandoned by the neoliberal establishments of the "progressive" parties, and will use any opportunity to show their displeasure.

There's a classic behavioral economics experiment called the ultimatum game in which one subject is asked to divide a pool of money, and the other subject can choose to take whatever the first one offers (no matter how little that is), or reject the offer and both of them get none. The "economically rational" approach is to take whatever you're given, even if it's just one penny, because one penny is more than you'd get if you rejected the offer. But in experiments, subjects confronted with "unfair" splits overwhelmingly choose to punish themselves in order to punish the person making the unfair offer.

Neoliberal politics have been a long-term, iterated form of the ultimatum game: the capital class arrogates more wealth to itself while it offers less and less to working people, with fewer prospects for advancement, but points to an opposition that would give workers even less, and expects that they'll go on winning as the lesser of two evils.

Brexit shows that in such a circumstance, table-flipping is a viable alternative to playing the game at all.

As the Democratic establishment rejects the lesson of the unprecedented support for Sanders (just as the Blairite Labour has knifed Corbyn in the back, they risk repeating Brexit experience: a mass protest vote that elects the worse of two evils, as a way of punishing the establishment for not giving them a better choice.

Meanwhile, Clinton is signalling that she'll give the world's biggest corporate tax cheats a tax-holiday if they want to repatriate their offshore money.


We need a president who will vigorously support international cooperation that brings the people of the world closer together, reduces hypernationalism and decreases the possibility of war. We also need a president who respects the democratic rights of the people, and who will fight for an economy that protects the interests of working people, not just Wall Street, the drug companies and other powerful special interests.

We need to fundamentally reject our “free trade” policies and move to fair trade. Americans should not have to compete against workers in low-wage countries who earn pennies an hour. We must defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We must help poor countries develop sustainable economic models.

We need to end the international scandal in which large corporations and the wealthy avoid paying trillions of dollars in taxes to their national governments.

We need to create tens of millions of jobs worldwide by combating global climate change and by transforming the world’s energy system away from fossil fuels.

We need international efforts to cut military spending around the globe and address the causes of war: poverty, hatred, hopelessness and ignorance.

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States.

Bernie Sanders: Democrats Need to Wake Up
[Bernie Sanders/NYT]

Election 2016: Bernie Sanders NYC Fundraiser Draws Campaign Supporters Who Are 'Feelin' The Bern', Michael Vadon, CC-BY-SA)

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