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Why This Top European Progressive Is Excited About Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON -- While it looks increasingly likely that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will not be the Democratic presidential nominee, his impact is already being felt -- in Europe, as well as the United States.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said Sanders’ meteoric rise is evidence that unabashed progressive politics is an effective antidote to the far-right xenophobia on the rise across the developed world.

“Every time we have a spasm of capitalism, whether this is the 1930s or now, the seeds of vulgar ultra-right-wingness sprout into a very ugly tree,” Varoufakis said. 

Bernie Sanders, he argued, “has succeeded” in appealing to the disenchanted voters hurt by a struggling economy, who might otherwise rally behind Donald Trump or politicians like Trump.

“I am very impressed by his capacity to rise from almost complete marginality to the center of the debate,” Varoufakis continued. “And if you look at the discussion he has invigorated, or reinvigorated, in the Democratic Party, that just goes to show that it is perfectly possible to excite young people, people who are apathetic, people who loathe politics, into participating in politics again.”

The former finance minister -- who skyrocketed to fame in the first half of 2015 thanks to his willingness to confront ranking European officials, his media-savvy style and eyebrow-raising sartorial choices -- acknowledged that Sanders’ candidacy was not “sufficient” in itself, since he likely will lose to Hillary Clinton.

“It gives us a glimpse of what politics could be like along the lines of progressive renaissance,” Varoufakis concluded.

Varoufakis, a popular progressive economist and founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, resigned his cabinet post in July on the eve of a new loans-for-austerity agreement between Greece and its international creditors. The agreement is widely derided as punitive and unworkable. He has since become one of the most vocal critics of the accord and of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, under whom he served.

Varoufakis was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday promoting his new book, And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe’s Crisis And America’s Economic Future.

Varoufakis also rejected the idea that Sanders is a “populist” who merely occupies a different place on the ideological spectrum from demagogues like Trump and his European counterparts.

“To describe Bernie Sanders as anything other than a typical Democrat New Dealer, who simply remained consistent in the principles of FDR, even LBJ, while the whole spectrum of the Democratic Party moved toward the looney right, would be inaccurate,” he said.

Radical academic Noam Chomsky expressed a similar view to HuffPost’s Matt Ferner back in January.

Watch the entire interview with Varoufakis here.

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