For several months, the mainstream media was quite certain that the Bernie Sanders campaign was little more than a neat distraction. Good, good, that will give us something to talk about when everyone gets bored with Hillary Clinton’s emails. The little socialist that could. How adorable.
But with the shadow of Iowa looming large, Sanders’ professed socialism may turn out to be his biggest strength. According to a new Des Moines Register poll, 43% of Democratic caucus goers readily identify themselves as socialists! Whether that strong, strange result is due to Bernie’s candidacy, the bizarre state of politics in Iowa, or something else, no one seems able to say. But if Clinton ever thought that she could squeeze by Sanders merely by saying, “Uh, he’s a socialist, guys,” it may not be as easy as she thought.
Part of it is almost surely down to Sanders himself. He’s proven to be a remarkably likeable candidate, especially when contrasted with the secretive, arrogant, and dismissive Clinton. If our elections were decided solely by those under the age of 25, Sanders would be on his way to the nomination. He has managed, with surprising aplomb, to describe his brand of socialism in a way that sounds…downright American.
“What democratic socialism means to me is that economic rights, the right to economic security, should exist in the United States of America,” Sanders told a voter this week. “It means there is something wrong and government should play a role in making sure that all of our kids regardless of their income are able to get a higher education.”
Gee, that sounds wonderful. Is that really what socialism means?
Well, not quite. But since Bernie Sanders has yet to suggest that we turn over the means of production to the federal government, it might not be fair to hold him to the dictionary definition. He’s embraced the label, to be sure, but he doesn’t envision a Marxist revolution – at least not publicly.
In fact, that’s really the problem for Hillary, as crystallized by her inability to answer a simple question from Chris Matthews last month: What’s the difference between a Democrat and a socialist? Clinton, like DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz before her, couldn’t come up with a response. How could she? When it comes to the fundamental aim of Marxist socialism, in all of its forms, there is no difference. The goal: Turn the poor against the rich. Get the “lower” classes so worked up that the “upper” class has no choice but to give up its power.
If that doesn’t describe the strategy of the Democratic Party, what does?
Say what you will, but at least Sanders is willing to be straightforward about what he is. If Clinton were half as honest, she might not be struggling so badly right now.