Politics still matter in the US but not in Europe

Bernie Sanders is a Democratic candidate for President of the United States. He is now serving his second term in the U.S. Senate.

Bernie Sanders is a Democratic candidate for President of the United States. He is now serving his second term in the U.S. Senate.

The Iowa US presidential candidate nomination race results in both the Republican and the Democrat vote, proved that in the US politics still matter. The populist, unpredictable and apolitical billionaire Donald Trump was largely defeated by Ted Cruz, a super conservative Texas politician. On the other side Hillary Clinton the champion of the American business establishment, amply financed by the Wall Street giants didn’t manage to defeat an outsider, the U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described democratic socialist.

Of course this is just the beginning in the long and trying race to win the nomination in the GOP and the Democratic parties for the Presidential election scheduled for Tuesday 8 November this year. Nor is it a safe way to predict the final results of the nomination race. However, the Iowa results clearly show that the agricultural communities of this state have an infallible criterion for politics that repels both the fallacy of Trump’s super ego on the one side and the business and Wall Street sponsored Hillary Clinton on the other, despite her abundant financial means.

Markets don’t like Sanders but citizens do

The first reaction of the markets was very characteristic on this occasion. The US stock futures lost some grounds on the announcement of the results. Market analysts say this has to be attributed to the inability of Clinton to win a clear start over Sanders. Understandably, the American financial giants feel much more ‘comfortable’ with Clinton than with the Vermont senator. At least this is what some bankers said. Not to forget that Sanders has made the break-up of the giant New York banks as his main political platform.

This newspaper has watched Sanders’ strategy for quite some time. He has said clearly and loudly from the very beginning that, “If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist”. What is even more important, he has made this statement the motto and the main banner of his campaign. No other western politician in the US or Europe has so far dared to make of this issue a prime political argument.

Targeting the banks

In both the US and Europe the established political elites have never came close even to recognizing that the size of the banks are posing a major problem. The US and European banking super giants are viewed by the major political parties and the main stream media as a natural phenomenon, as if it was always like that. Everybody seems to have forgotten that the banks in the US and Europe were very closely monitored, controlled and checked only twenty years ago.

Until the early 1990s they were obliged to withhold sizeable reserves against the risks/loans they were undertaking. In this way, it was impossible to acquire such immense dimensions as today. In any case, Sanders has made this issue a prime political question. It’s more than certain that if his candidacy for the Democratic nomination progresses swiftly, the financial markets will feel the impact. Sanders self description as a democratic socialist, plays an important role in the way markets perceive his possible nomination let alone his Presidency.

Trump can be beaten

Passing now to the Republican side, it’s not only that Cruz with 28% beat Trump by far. Marco Rubio’s Iowa showing with 23% was equally a surprise compared with businessman Trump’s 24%. Of course, Cruz’s political profile is much more conservative in many ways than Trump’s. This Republican winner of the Iowa nomination contest was in favor of threatening the US government with a financial default in November 2014, when President Barack Obama had asked the Congress to increase the ceiling of the public debt. He also despises the ObamaCare health plan for the underprivileged and promises to undermine it, if elected.

Both Cruz and Rubio though are strong political entities, while Trump is just a self-obsessed apolitical individualist. Cruz has a well structured political proposal albeit very conservative and he remains loyal to his principles. Let’s now compare the American political scenery with the European landscape.

Americans have strong political views

For one thing, in the US arena there are very distinct political platforms in almost everything. Mainstream Democrats and Republicans disagree very deeply in almost everything. From the financial system and health, to government finance and public debt, the candidates support quite different views, which if applied will lead to quite differing results. On the contrary, in Europe there is a horizontal idea penetrating all the major political formations, that there is only one ‘virtuous’ option in every important issue.

This is particularly true for the two most prominent European political camps the conservatives of the center right and the socialist of the center left. In almost all the central EU countries, the two main political camps differ only in very tiny percentages regarding public finance, incomes and health spending. When it comes to the financial system as a whole there is not the slightest difference about the role of the banks. This attitude of a single ‘virtuous’ solution to every political problem is amply nurtured also by the Brussels bureaucracy. Unfortunately, it leads to a growing de-politicization of mainstream European politics. This is very a dangerous situation, because the ‘other option’ is brought forward by extreme formations like the National Front in France and Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party in Poland.

The Europeans don’t question the banks

What Sanders says about the banking industry is completely out of place in Europe, not because his view is right or wrong but because the European main political system doesn’t comprehend it. The EU has come up with a distorting compromise about confronting a possible failure of a bank, but nowhere in the horizon is there a question mark on the real problem, which is the incredible and largely unknown size of the banks themselves.

The chief European political formations have also accepted the ‘technocratic’ policies formulated in Brussels on a large number of crucial issues, ranging from government debt and deficit to labor market regulation. As if there should be no deep political differences in all those burning matters, which strongly affect the lives of all and every European citizen.

No political differences in the EU?

The same is true around the latest thorny developments over the problem of immigration. The two main political formations have almost identical narratives, which actually amount to no proposal at all. They just react to developments. That’s why the extreme groups of the right and the left have gained such an important place in European politics, bringing back to the main scene the political issues that were thrown out of the window by the established players.

All in all, this European idea nurtured not only in Brussels but also in Berlin and Paris, that there is always one optimum technocratic policy for all the important issues, has de-politicized the political scenery. Even the language has been distorted in Europe and everybody speaks of policies not politics, meaning that there is always one optimum solution to every political problem. Alas, this practice has left large unoccupied spaces in the main political field, to be taken by the dangerous and belligerent extreme right.

As noted above, at the end of the day politics return to the European main scene through the door after been thrown out of the window. The problem is that those who bring those issues in again are dreadful figures of a catastrophic past and they paint them with eye-catching but quite threatening national colors. A rerurn to agreesive nationalism will mean the end of European politics and the beginning of a new kind of warfare.

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