Jailed on 22 charges relating espionage and aiding the enemy between 2010-2017 the activist, whistleblower and ex-army personnel Chelsea Manning was, in her cruel and sordid isolation, a world away from the glamorous heights of Senate, but fortunes change and following a commuted sentence to “Time Served” by President Obama in 2017, she has harnessed her talents as a campaigner running for a seat on a left-progressive platform.
This year, on January 11th, 2018, Chelsea Manning filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for U.S. Senate as a representative for Maryland constituency, putting herself forward for the Democratic nomination and garnering a great deal of attention for an eccentric, left-leaning policy agenda. She made the case that whilst the 1% have never had it so good and, moreover, abuse their power by enacting policies at odds with the common good and public interest (she would know), America is failing spectacularly to provide a decent standard of living and secure the basic human dignities of the majority of its citizens.
According to Manning, as well as “Occupy!” and many highly regarded economists and sociologists, there is an overwhelming imbalance of wealth and power in the privileged 1% of the population. With the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans now owning as much as the bottom 90. This causes an enormous imbalance away from policies made towards the common good towards those, who currently the power.
Manning’s stunning rise as the far left-progressive competitor for the Democratic nomination in Maryland may be publicised by mainstream media under the thumb of Washington op-ed policy as the vanity project of a traitor, but within the context of a broad left resurgence the world around since 2010 it is hardly an anomaly.
Manning is a sister of Sanders and Corbyn, a cousin of Podemos, an ally of Syriza. Their politics stand up for diversity in the policy debate, deftly moving discourse to the left, projecting a progressive agenda that rebels against an America of injustice, iniquity and unsustainability. “For many,” Sanders said, “The America Dream has become a nightmare” of job losses, home repossession, poverty and environmental disaster.
Left-democrats stand on an appealing platform of economic populism, endeavouring boldly to take the corrupting force of big money out of politics and policy. With grassroots crowd-funded campaigns, to creating jobs, to meeting decarbonisation targets by investing in building of a sustainable economy, and creating aforable housing by introducing statutory requirements for fair rents. If Sanders, Manning and the left-slate democrats were elected they envisage wealth redistribution – in the form of progressive taxation – between the 1% and 99%. This would make their policy vision affordable. University would be free to make it accessible to people of all backgrounds from across the country. There would be radical reform of and investment in a predatory healthcare system. Public services would be properly resourced. Progressive taxation, public spending and nationalization are being embraced as sound ideas once again as the Left smashes the Overton window (the range of ideas the public will accept as valid). Squeezing out toxic neoliberal ideas, which shuts down debate.
It was a major accomplishment of the Sanders campaign to garner massive public support for left-wing policies that for many decades have lied beyond the pale of ‘acceptable’ policy. His policies are sensible, pragmatic and easily understood. Manning promises to take this to the next level, by bringing his vision in to local government.
Manning’s appeal, much like Sanders’, lies in the combination of common sense and humility. She was politicized at the young age and has longstanding, ongoing interest in justice. Until last year she was best known as a whistleblower, a radical left-wing anti-war activist who crusades against war and capitalism. Since becoming a serious public figure, Manning nevertheless comes across as a modest woman being carried on a wave of warm public sentiment. Her campaign reflects a union of youth-left idealism with wizened wisdom. Since the beginning of her campaign she has consistently won the support of the radical young, promising to electrify the student movement ahead of what could be a sultry summer of protest for free tuition.
By combining ‘people power’ and direct democracy of an Occupy!-style movement, something resembling a united front may emerge over the coming months amongst Manning’s supporters. To fight for her manifesto for a better America: one with a system that serves society, not business.
Unlike Trump this campaign isn’t about Manning simply wanting the big job, but it is about her earnest endeavour to act as a public interest representation, to end the unaccountable nature of corporate power in America, its corrosive influence on political decision making, and Manning’s desire to take back the democrats for the public. The essence of Manning’s campaign is creating a space where alternatives to the regency of tyrants can be imagined. Manning insists on the alternative to alienation; grassroots democracy and civic participation in a vibrant and flourishing campaign. It is the best antidote to Trump: politics with a human face, not politics by cartoon farce.