The Politics of Hope


With their announcement last week labelling the current outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic, the WHO confirmed what many had long feared – this novel species of coronavirus is here to stay. The implications will be global and are deeply concerning. Scientists have been warning for over a month now that, with a 60% infection rate and a mortality rate of roughly 3%, it is not unfathomable that millions of people will die before the outbreak is contained. 

At first, when coronavirus cases in the UK were few and far between, it was easy to laugh at empty supermarket shelves as irrational hysteria. It was even easier to laugh at one study which found that 38% of American beer drinkers would avoid the Corona brand as a result of the outbreak. But it is now almost 4 months since the first recorded coronavirus case and Wuhan’s streets remain lifeless, Italy is in lockdown and satellite images show Iranian officials digging mass graves for the victims. Nobody is laughing now. 

Not even Boris Johnson, usually so keen to prove ‘the doomsters and gloomsters’ wrong, could find much to laugh about at a recent press conference, warning that ‘many more families are going to lose loved ones’. His government claims to have a grip on the crisis, with the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, pledging £30 billion to combat the effects of the virus. However many will rightly wonder if this is too little, too late, following years of Tory cuts which have crippled the NHS, severely reducing its ability to deal with the outbreak as a result. 

Depressingly, the situation in America is perhaps even more dire. The President initially labelled the outbreak a ‘hoax’ and the American healthcare system appears woefully unprepared to deal with a pandemic. With nearly 30 million Americans estimated to be uninsured there is a very real risk that many who fall ill will not seek help, allowing the virus to spread even faster. 

Perhaps three weeks ago the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, fresh off of a big victory in the Nevada caucuses, would have provided Americans with hope for real leadership on healthcare issues. But instead, Joe Biden is now almost certain to win the Democratic nomination, despite doubling-down on his attacks against a Medicare-for-All system in the midst of a global pandemic. 

So although it may be too late to believe in a Sanders presidency, if nothing else the outbreak has served to validate many of the arguments he has been making for decades. It is clear that only a socialised healthcare system can meet the unique challenges presented by a pandemic, as he has said – ‘we are only as safe as the least insured person’. Many derided Jeremy Corbyn for claiming that, despite a bruising election defeat, Labour had ‘won the argument’, and there is no doubt that Sanders’ claim that his campaign ‘won the ideological debate’ will be ridiculed in equal measure.  But it is hard to be so dismissive when exit polls from every Democratic primary contest so far have shown that more voters back Sanders’ healthcare plan over the current system. Whether the political establishment likes it or not, a progressive agenda is both necessary and popular, particularly amongst voters aged 18-29, nearly 75% of whom consistently back the Senator from Vermont. 

It is therefore clear that young people broadly support a radical overhaul of a political and economic system which has failed to meet some of the biggest challenges of our time, from the coronavirus outbreak to climate change. Sanders’ politics are undoubtedly the politics of hope, and his affinity with young people allows us to dare to dream for a better future. 

Image: Gordon Joly via Flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.