'Inspirational' Corbyn Offers Blueprint for Our Party, Say Left-Leaning Democrats
Progressive politicians in the US have hailed Jeremy Corbyn’s performance in the British general election “an inspiration” that could shift the Democratic party to the left in the run-up to the 2018 midterms.
Bernie Sanders was among those to praise Labour’s result, saying it showed “people are rising up against austerity and massive levels of income and wealth inequality,” while left-leaning members of Congress said the victory would have major implications for the future of Democrats.
The Labour party, running on a leftwing platform, gained 32 seats in Thursday’s election as the Conservatives lost their majority in the House of Commons. Corbyn and his progressive program had been derided for months but he defied expectations as young people voted in record numbers.
Corbyn’s achievement was part of a “global trend,” said Pramila Jayapal, a US congresswoman from Washington, “towards recognising that progressive policies are the answer to a lot of the inequality, and a lot of the issues that young people and working families across the globe are facing.”
“It’s a good sign for Democrats here in the United States,” said Jayapal, who endorsed Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary and introduced a bill with the Vermont senator to make college tuition free in the US.
Jayapal said some Democrats “are still stuck in the frame of: I need to move to the center” – despite some recent wins for progressives at city and state level. “But I think the UK election and the current elections here show that that’s not actually the answer people are looking for,” she said
Jayapal is among a number of high-profile Democrats appearing at the People’s Summit in Chicago this weekend. The event, organized by some of the most influential activist organizations in the country, aims to educate and galvanize the more than 4,000 attendees.
The British election result proved a positive start to proceedings on Friday, with politicians and activists encouraged by Labour’s performance under Corbyn.
“His disciplined campaign of positive populism and a bold vision resonated with young people and grassroots leaders across Britain,” said Ro Khanna, a US congressman foom California and member of Justice Democrats – a group that has committed to backing progressive Democrats to run against sitting, centrist members of their own party.
“That should provide inspiration to Democrats here,” Khanna said, as well as serving as a lesson to the more centrist Democratic establishment “that a positive populist message is not just morally right, it’s also strategically smart.”
Sanders, whose 2016 presidential campaign kickstarted a progressive movement in the US, is due to speak at the People’s Summit on Saturday night. Excerpts of his speech provided to the Guardian show that the senator will praise activists’ “enormous progress in advancing the progressive agenda” while urging the Democratic party to broaden its reach.
On Friday, Sanders, who had spent time recently in the UK on a speaking tour, said he was “delighted to see Labour do so well.”
“All over the world, people are rising up against austerity and massive levels of income and wealth inequality,” Sanders said. “People in the UK, the US and elsewhere want governments that represent all the people, not just the 1%.”
Progressive Democrats had already been buoyed by down ballot victories over the past couple of months. Khalid Kamau, a self-identified democratic socialist, became one of the first Black Lives Matter activists to hold elected office when he won a seat on Atlanta’s South Fulton city council in April.
New York state assemblywoman and former Sanders delegate Christine Pellegrino became the first ever Democrat to represent New York’s ninth district in May, while progressive Larry Krasner won the Democratic primary for Philadelphia’s district attorney against a slew of establishment candidates.
All three were boosted by the support of Sanders-inspired activist organizations like Our Revolution and People for Bernie, and are appearing at the summit this weekend.
Pellegrino told the Guardian that Corbyn’s “message of providing services and opportunity to people in need resonated with voters in the UK as it is resonating in the US.”
She said: “The Democratic party should learn that voters respond to a strong message of hope and opportunity that speaks to working families and not to the 1%.”
Corbyn’s performance in the UK was aided by grassroots organizers, and activists in the US are hopeful the same mood can find its way over the Atlantic.
“It just proves our messaging is right,” said Moumita Ahmed, a political organizer and the founder of Millennials for Revolution. “Our values are exactly the values that are resonating with millions of people, especially millennials.”
“And we do have a fighting chance. We’re constantly being told that we don’t, but Corbyn signals there’s a desire from young people across the world to shift politics towards a more compassionate system of government.”
Many organizers on the left were united over what the Democratic party should take away from the UK result.
Dan Cantor, national director of the Working Families party, said the result “should show Democrats the roadmap they must follow.” He said: “The only way to beat phony rightwing racialized populism is with a bold anti-corporate inclusive progressive populism.”
National Nurses United, one of the largest unions and progressive organisations in the US, backed Sanders during his campaign and is one of the key organizers behind the People’s Summit.
RoseAnn DeMoro, NNU’s executive director, said the Democratic party was continuing “to rely on the same old strategies; ignoring the base and staying on the side of Wall Street.”
“They can win elections if they actually adopt the populist agenda pertaining to the Bernie base,” DeMoro said. “Don’t ignore the base. The base isn’t going to come out for the status quo. They want a different country. A different world.”