By Dakar Lanzino
*The opinion on this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of Latino Giant.
Bernie Sanders came in second place in the Iowa caucuses last Monday, losing to Hillary Clinton by 4 delegates as it relates to the rules of the Iowa Democratic Party. During his “victory” speech, the Senator said that Iowa was the beginning of a “political revolution,” a sentiment that his supporters are proud to echo. Is this really a revolution though? No. At least not the type of revolution that would bring about the change that the self-proclaimed socialist from New England is promising to bring.
A revolution is defined as “an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people” and this is exactly what Bernie Sanders is selling. However, Senator Saunders can’t do this by himself,. He will need to build a socialist coalition to help him govern. Are there enough candidates/members of congress willing to run or even align themselves with a socialist to win a super majority? Taking into account how successful the Republicans have been at gerrymandering congressional and legislative districts across the country, I would say no.
You see, what Sanders is promising has been done before. It has been termed the “Socialism of the 21st Century” and championed by Commander Hugo Chavez Frias from Venezuela. Chavez, a democratic socialist, was democratically elected promising the same socialist change that Bernie is talking about, and he delivered.
Chavez first became president in 1998 receiving 56% of the vote with a turnout of 63%. In 1999 he introduced a new constitution that was adopted by the majority of the voters. Because of the new constitution, Chavez ran for reelection for the second time in three years and received nearly 60% of the vote with a turnout of 56%. He was also armed with a veto proof majority in the newly formed unicameral legislature. Chavez and his coalition were then reelected in 2006, when 75% of the country went to the polls, 62% of them for Chavez, and again in 2012 with huge turnouts…you get the point, the people loved him.
Chavez and his socialist government took over the means of production; expropriating private industries, and setting a very strict control on currency. Using petrodollars, Chavez was able to finances all his social programs. Among his many accomplishments, Chavez gave thousands of Venezuelans new homes, he cut unemployment, and closed the wage-gap. Most importantly, he gave a voice to the people that had been politically disenfranchised for so long. Whatever your opinion of Chavez or his tactics is, he was loved.
Chavez had something that Bernie will never have — the ability to convince a super majority of the population to come out and support you, your political coalition, and your socialist ideals over, and over again. This comparison is not to say that Bernie has to be or do what Chavez did if and when he comes into power, because Sanders can be better, but a parallel can be drawn for how to achieve the power necessary for a socialist revolution.
Compare the election results and turnout in Venezuela to that of the United States and you quickly see that the American people are not ones to be civically engaged. In the 2012 elections; 55% of the U.S. population came out to vote. In 2014, that rate dropped to 36%, down from 41% in 2010 if you want to compare similar elections.
To achieve the political revolution that Chavez was able to achieve in Venezuela, and replicate it in the United States, Bernie Sanders would not only need to win the presidency with supermajorities in both houses of congress in 2016, his supporters would have to come out and defend his policies in 2018 by reelecting a socialist legislature, reelect him and his government in 2020, and come out again in 2022 and beyond, otherwise, none of what he is promising will be possible, sustainable, viable or everlasting.
After one of the most unproductive governments in the history of this country, we need a proven leader that can get things done in spite of the divisive environment that is in our nation’s capital and Bernie Sanders is not that person.