Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic US presidential primary on Wednesday. His victory came after he won the highest number of votes in Iowa last week.
“What we have done together here is nothing short of the beginning of a political revolution,” said Sanders.
Sanders took 26 percent of the vote as a “democratic socialist”. Second with 24.5 percent was the mainstream neoliberal and former naval intelligence officer Pete Buttigieg. Another pro-business candidate, Amy Klobuchar, came third.
It was a crushing night for two candidates who had been touted as front-runners. Elizabeth Warren won only 9 percent and former vice-president Joe Biden was languishing in fifth with 8.4 percent.
CNN’s exit polls showed that Sanders beat every candidate in nearly every category. He secured votes from half of voters under 25, over a third of voters aged 26-44, half of white women without college degrees and a third of white men without college degrees.
Sanders also received a third of the non-white vote.
There is still a very long way to go before the Democrat candidate to face Donald Trump is chosen.
To guarantee selection a candidate needs to win 1,991 delegates at voting in the 50 state and seven other caucuses and primaries over the next four months. After New Hampshire Sanders has 21 and Buttigieg 23.
But Sanders’ momentum is worrying the Democrat establishment. They think he is too left wing to lead one of the central parties of US capitalism.
The Democrat leaders and their business funders hate Sanders’ politics. He has attacked the super-rich, supported measures to combat climate change, backed workers’ rights and opposed war with Iran.
“Sanders is not a Democrat,” said Kenneth Baer, a former official in the Barack Obama administration and Democratic strategist. “Democrats don’t seem to be taking that seriously. Nobody is actually questioning him.”
The other great argument is that Sanders will lose and allow Trump a second term. But as Biden was supposed to be the most electable candidate yet has all but been eliminated, that argument looks threadbare.
Sanders insists his radicalism makes him more likely to beat Trump. And his supporters are prepared to take on the more right wing candidates.
They booed Buttigieg on Wednesday night chanting, “Wall Street Pete!” for his slavish support for the corporations.
However Sanders made a call for party unity, saying all the candidates and their supporters would back whoever was chosen to face Trump. “No matter who wins—and we certainly hope it’s going to be us—we are going to unite together and defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country,” he said.
For now that puts pressure on the Democrat leaders to come behind Sanders and stop trying to undermine him. But if he loses it’s a signal that Sanders will loyally line up behind some utterly conservative supporter of imperialism and capitalism such as Buttigieg.
This highlights the limits of Sanders’ campaign.
The next contests are in Nevada on 22 February and South Carolina on 29 February.
There is now a fight between Buttigieg and Klobuchar to be the standard-bearer for the mainstream Democrats against Sanders.
Another option is the billionaire Michael Bloomberg. He is not running in the early primaries. Instead he is waiting for “super Tuesday” on 3 March when 16 states and territories vote.
He has already spent over £200 million on campaign ads. And is preparing to spend another £500 million in the next month. All of this is coming from his vast fortune estimated at £40 billion.
Referring to Bloomberg Sanders said, “We are taking on billionaires and we are taking on candidates funded by billionaires. But we are going to win because we have the agenda that speaks to the needs of working people of this country.”
That’s certainly what worries corporate America. Bosses’ magazine Forbes, trying to analyse Sanders’ appeal, said recently, “Younger people face the frightening realisation that they may be the first generation to have a lower standard of living than their parents.
“They are understandably concerned about how they can be self-sufficient, financially independent and live the American Dream, which was promised to them. In light of their situation, it's not surprising that Bernie Sanders is surging in the polls and the idea of socialism is gaining traction among young people.”