Tue 25 Feb 2020
Democracy did not die in 2003, but a lot of people’s faith in it did. Just over 17 years ago, I was one of the millions of people around the world who marched against the Iraq war. The energy on the streets in London was electrifying; it was the biggest protest in British history. The government, I naively thought at the time, would have to listen. The government, of course, did not listen. A few weeks later, Iraq was illegally invaded. This great betrayal galvanised a few of my friends into activism. But it left me, and many others, disillusioned at best and apathetic at worst. My student idealism withered and I lost confidence in the democratic process.
In the past few days, however, something strange has started to happen: I have begun to feel hopeful about politics again. In the US, the growing success of Bernie Sanders’ grassroots movement in the Democractic presidential nominations has restored my faith in people power. It has made me dare to hope that a second Donald Trump term may not be as inevitable as I previously thought it was. It made me dare to hope that a more equitable America – and, by extension, a more equitable world – really might be around the corner.
Whoa, you might say. Slow down! Sanders has only won three primaries so far. Yes, he may have won Nevada by a landslide. Yes, he may have emerged as the clear Democratic frontrunner but there is still a long way to go before he wins the nomination, let alone the general election. Even if we do see a President Sanders, it is not as if he would be able to enact ambitious policies, such as Medicare for All, overnight. He may not be able to enact his policies at all.
This may be true. But do not underestimate the magnitude of what is unfolding in the US. Politicians love to throw around the word “movement”; precious few have actually built one. Sanders, however, has brought together a multiracial, multifaith, multigenerational coalition of people who are fighting for the collective good in a country long obsessed with individual gain