It is sometimes said that since the US is a global superpower, all citizens of the world should be allowed to vote in US elections. The global hyperpower does indeed impact the daily lives of many around the globe, be it militarily, economically or culturally, but so far it's never been realistic to expect non US-citizens to vote in a US election. Some US citizens already find it hard to vote for they are excluded by voter ID laws, felony laws, rumors and various tactics developed by the GOP, so an international extension of the franchise will remain a utopia.
Still let us pick up where Ivan Krastev has left off in his New York Times op ed: "America Hasn't Gone Crazy. It's Just More Like Europe". Krastev is right to point to similarities between Trump and Berlusconi, another buffoon, but saying that he finds Sanders "about as exciting as a cucumber sandwich" is just a conservative point of view which many on the right and far right would share.
Democrats abroad gave Sanders a big vote of confidence and there is also a kind of correspondence there. Globalization has not erased all national characteristics but it's fair to say that if Trump appeals to the quasi-fascists, the racists and the loonies on both sides of the Atlantic, Sanders appeals to progressives in both the US and Europe. His references to Denmark could actually encompass most countries in Western Europe.
There is some doubt about whether Sanders could break the mold of the Deep State, defeat the billionaire class and reorient US foreign policy. Doubt which also comes from the Obama experience, Obamania followed by disappointment. Obama was immensely popular in Europe and his inability to improve the lot of African Americans or significantly change US foreign policy has led to some soul searching. Wouldn't Sanders be caught in an even worse trap than Obama who after all promised a lot less progressive stuff? All the lobbies and special interests that fought Obama, so well described by Jane Mayer in her latest book Dark Money would not disappear if Sanders by a kind of magic were elected. Even FDR who enjoyed support among the wealthy at first could not get anti-lynching laws passed and let Japanese Americans go to interment camps.
Yet in spite of doubt I would vote for the "cucumber sandwich". Why? Well to adapt a phrase one could say: "half a sandwich is better than no bread". The US is in dire need of better schools, better roads, better health insurance, better financing of higher education and a non-militaristic foreign policy. Health indicators in the US are not good, considering how much money is spent on health (mostly for the rich though). Sanders might not be able to achieve great changes; he himself says he needs popular support for what he calls a political revolution. But who will try before it's declared impossible? A utopia or collective passion always precedes significant change. There are only millionaires or billionaires, who are also unreconstructed hawks in foreign policy, in the race besides Sanders and they are not likely to change the system they have thriven under. Warren Buffett said it: "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." There is no reason why the 1% would want to change a winning ticket. It would be like expecting the Koch brothers to work for the common good.
So Sanders might not succeed, or might not get everything we on the forward looking side around the globe want, but the only way to know is to try a progressive turn. If the US started getting its act together as far as global warming is concerned, if the US reversed its love affair with mass incarceration, if the US veered away from permanent war so beloved by neocons and others cons, it would not only be good for itself it would have a major global impact. Pierre Elliot Trudeau once famously said about the impact of the US on Canada that it was "like sleeping with an elephant". The whole world is sleeping with the elephant and is affected by "every twitch and grunt"; this elephant is not only in the room but in the cellar and the loft as well.
Elections in Sweden and Iceland, in Italy and Poland matter but they cannot have the same global impact as US elections. The first major Jewish candidate for the presidency, Sanders a progressive secular Jew, is also talking about the Palestinians and their rights, this is a powerful message which could mean a reorientation of US foreign policy, though I am quite aware that Sanders's forte is not foreign policy. I also remember the hopes that Obama's Cairo speech in 2009 had kindled before they drowned in the humdrum business as usual of so-called pragmatic policies. After Occupy Wall Street Sanders has taken the torch of the fight against inequality. This is the major fight we all need to fight, in the US, in Europe and around the world. The tax evaders and tax optimizers of the world, those who hide their deeds in Panama or Delaware are our global foe, we have to stop them. Inequality is the fuel of resentment, the resentment that fuels the campaigns of Trump and the European far-right demagogues. Sanders presents a civilized alternative to the quasi-fascism of Trump-Cruz.
If inequality grows worse chaos will ensue and strong men or women will appear legitimate. Sanders, like FDR before him, is actually offering a way out even for the powers that be. The pitchforks are there in the background. As we know, in 2009, Obama had reassured bankers that he would protect them from the pitchforks ("My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." ) Sanders is offering to defuse the crisis not by reassuring bankers but by fighting for the people at the bottom. Can he deliver? Won't he be stymied by Congress, the lobbies and special interests? If no one tries the US will be closer to the abyss and will drag the rest of the world with it.
One man, or woman, cannot change a country by him or herself. What the US needs involves major changes that can happen only incrementally if social movements push for them. The president is only the captain of a team. There is no Captain America with superpowers. Sanders is only one man in a complex system. But Sanders is also the name of a possible wave, the indicator of the road that should be taken, a motivator and a possible captain who will create his team. Or the current figurehead for a growing civilized revolt before others pick up the torch. Jill Stein whose ideas are sensible, whose proposals, such as a Green New Deal, are quite smart for they deal with the real issues is unfortunately hardly known outside the US and she has not yet managed to create a coalition of the progressives the way Sanders has.
There are two ways to plunge into the abyss: one is to follow the demagogic loonies on the right, whether Trump or Cruz who differ only superficially, the other is to give in to the business as usual crowd so that nothing changes. Sanders points the way forward, like Elizabeth Warren, and indicates that the worst can be avoided. He is not the ideal man, the ideal candidate, the perfect future president but he keeps alive the flame of possibility. Sanders does not encourage a personality cult which is as it should be for what needs to be believed in is an idea and a cause, not a human being. A more peaceful, racially integrated, more equal US would be a boon to all global citizens. Preparing the long goodbye to neoliberalism is the task of our time. Sanders is a reminder that this is not only desirable but possible and many of us as global citizens welcome this sudden emergence of an American spring. He embodies the America we like.