A guide for Korea’s left wingNon-mainstream politicians are emerging in the United States and the United Kingdom. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are west of the Atlantic and Jeremy Corby is to the east. Real estate tycoon Donald Trump is leading the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders is emerging in the Democratic Party. In the UK, the left-wing Corbyn enjoys overwhelming dominance in the Labour leadership election. What is going on in Western democracy?
Donald Trump is known for his controversial comments. He has managed to come up with new ways of stirring up the public day by day. I can assure you that his influence will soon dwindle. If he becomes the Republican candidate, I don’t see why “Heobonjwa” cannot become the Saenuri party’s candidate. Trump’s popularity is a storm in a teacup, and I bet $100 that the storm will turn into a breeze soon.
Bernie Sanders is a socialist, which makes him an unlikelier president than an atheist in the United States. His radical promises, such as the dissolution of financial giants, free public university education and an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, have little realistic possibilities. I bet $50 that he will not win the presidential nomination. Thanks to the spotlights on Trump and Sanders early in the race, analysts predict that the presidential election will boil down to a contest between former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But Corbyn is different. He is highly likely to become the leader of the Labour Party. He is an old-school socialist who opposes the new Labour front advocated by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Left-wing is not enough to describe Corbyn. He is more of a radical and a progressive. While Ed Miliband’s leftist rhetoric is being criticized as a cause of the Labour Party’s crushing defeat in the general election in May, Corbyn argues that the Labour Party should swing farther left to survive. Free college education and reinforced welfare through taxes on the rich are his policy promises. On Corbyn’s possible leadership, Matthew d’Ancona, columnist of the Guardian, said, “Imagine if a figure like Noam Chomsky or Michael Moore were in Congress and became the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for the White House.”
The emergence of Trump and Sanders reflects the sharp turn in American society. In a Gallup poll, the baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are more conservative (44 to 21 percent) while the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 1996 is more liberal, at 30 to 28 percent. The sociodemographic change of the baby boomers declining and the millennial generation emerging affects the political topography as well. The increase in the non-white population, including Hispanic and Asian-Americans, also accelerate a leftward swing. The recent liberal turns, such as the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage and Obamacare, and the minimum wage increases by municipal and state governments, are also related to the demographic changes. Sanders is riding the wave. Trump’s popularity is based on the frustration and despair of the conservative white male voters who are resisting the overall left turn of American society.
Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is also affected by the trend. The economy will be the decisive factor in the next presidential campaign, and Clinton has proposed a series of economic moves targeting the middle and working classes. Unless she focuses on alleviating economic inequality, she will not be able to win. So Clinton supports profit sharing and minimum wage increases. She has embraced the rhetoric that wage increases would boost buying power and spending and start a good cycle of economic recovery.
Corbyn may be able to take the Labour leadership by evoking socialist nostalgia, but it would not lead to a Labour Party victory in the 2020 general election. The Labour Party can only win by attracting conservative voters with moderate tendencies. Clinging to old-fashioned leftism is like resorting to the comfort of a security blanket from infancy. The world has already embraced global competition, consumerism, individualism and technology development. It is outdated to seek power with left-wing purism.
The contemporary leftists need to focus on developing realistic policies to share the benefits with the workers while pursuing growth. Do Korea’s leftists have the competency and will? Korean leftists can only survive by proposing realistic alternatives for mutual success of labor and management. Corbyn and Sanders are not good examples to follow. They need to take a cue from Clinton’s campaign promises.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 4, Page 31
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok
More in Columns
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?
Fighting Chinese patriotism
The curse of the presidency