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Bernie Should Own the Socialism Label
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Bernie Sanders is currently the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He and everyone else knows exactly how the Republicans will attack him if and when he becomes the nominee: old-fashioned redbaiting.

China became communist in name only during the 1980s; the Soviet Union shut its doors in 1991; the Cold War is dead; and 64% of Americans under age 50 have no memory of a socialist regime actually existing. Yet Trump and the GOP have already broadcast their plans to hang the “democratic socialist” label around Bernie Sanders’ neck.

Whether such archaic fearmongering — against long-dead adversaries — will be effective even with elderly voters is anyone’s guess. Considering the fact that 40% of Americans consistently tell pollsters they prefer socialism or communism to capitalism, branding Sanders as a nefarious democratic socialist might have the unintended effect of bringing out people who don’t normally vote to support an ideology they’ve never had the chance to get behind.

On the other hand, only 76% of Democrats say they would vote for a socialist.

One thing is for sure: The socialism thing will be Sanders’ biggest challenge. And so what? Every candidate enters the game with a handicap of some sort.

Elizabeth Warren has acquired a reputation for deception and opportunism. Amy Klobuchar plays a mean girl behind closed doors. Pete Buttigieg is gay; only 78% of voters say they’d consider a gay candidate. He’s also inexperienced. Joe Biden appears to have been suffering from dementia for years.

Political weaknesses are inevitable; what makes or breaks a candidacy is how his or her campaign chooses to address it. History’s answer is clear: Take it on honestly, directly and credibly.

Own your crap. American voters hate sneakiness and avoidance.

Bernie has no one but himself to blame for this potential electoral albatross. As Paul Krugman of The New York Times points out, the independent senator from Vermont is not really a socialist: “He doesn’t want to nationalize our major industries and replace markets with central planning.” He is a New Deal Democrat indistinguishable from old liberal figures like Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern. The economic model Sanders wants to establish isn’t the USSR, or even Yugoslavia, but the Scandinavian countries with their superior safety nets and enlightened penal systems. Capitalism as we know it would continue, albeit with reduced overall cruelty.

Bernie is a social democrat, not a democratic socialist. For some unknown reason, however, he chose to label himself as a democratic socialist. “It’s mainly about personal branding,” Krugman speculates, “with a dash of glee at shocking the bourgeoisie. And this self-indulgence did no harm as long as he was just a senator from a very liberal state.”

Now he’s going to have to explain himself and his beliefs to American voters who have been propagandized through education and the media to believe that socialism equals communism equals totalitarian dystopia.

If he’s smart — and there’s no reason to believe that he and his staff are anything but — he will own the phrase and address those concerns head on.

ORDER IT NOW

During the 1960 campaign, John F. Kennedy responded to worries about his being Roman Catholic and potentially taking orders from the pope. The speech allowed anti-Catholic voters to take a chance on him. “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act,” Kennedy said.

Aware that he was going to run for president in a few years, Barack Obama discussed his drug use as a young man, specifically the fact that he had tried cocaine, in his memoir and in an interview published ahead of the race. By the time he ran in 2008, the coke thing was old news baked into the politics of the time.

“Democratic socialism” is a pretty meaningless term. Which is not necessarily bad. Because it doesn’t define an existing party or ideology in the real world, Sanders can imprint his own definition upon his awkward tabula rasa.

Like every crisis, this is an opportunity. Voters want to know what Sanders stands for. Their confusion about democratic socialism (confusion caused by Sanders’ weird word choices) is his chance to explain himself and his policies.

The one thing he should not and cannot do is to shy away from the S-word. No matter how much he protests, Republicans are going to call him a Marxist, a communist, a socialist and worse. So there’s no point in protesting. “Yes,” he could say, “I am a socialist — a democratic socialist. A democratic socialist is a person who cares more about you as an ordinary American than about greedy billionaires and corporations who pollute your water and lay you off at the drop of a hat.”

Nothing neutralizes an attack more effectively than to cop to it.

If nothing else, even if he loses, Bernie could rehabilitate socialism as an acceptable economic alternative. In the long run, that would be a greater accomplishment than anything he could accomplish in eight years as president.

 
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  1. Rational says:

    BERNIE IS A JEWISH COMMIE, CONNING GOYIM WITH FREE STUFF PROMISES.

    Bernie is a Jewish conman Commie who supports Israel, but wants to exterminate the white goyim in USA. He is conning the goyim by promising them free stuff.

    He is working for George Soros, and his plan to finish the white goyim.

    The Judaists have brought in 50M 3rd world aliens, who are eyeing the whites with greed and jealously, and Bernie wants to promise them all free stuff to get their votes. And bring all 6 billion here to drink the blood of the goyim, while Israel remains pure.

    He will finish America, make it 3rd world even quicker.

    • LOL: animalogic
  2. Rational says:

    EVIL NAZI BERNIE SANDERS RELEASES DISGUSTING VIDEO GLORIYING RAPING SAVAGE MOSHE’S CULT.

    Nazi (Ashk) Bernie Sanders is a sick evil man, with no morals, as his new video shows. See:

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/bernie-sanders-releases-new-proud-to-be-jewish-campaign-video/

    Judaism is a religion of worship of a fake prophet Moshe, who was a raping savage, a mass murderer.

    See: https://www.thegodmurders.com/Moses.html

    Most civilized people would be ashamed of being members of this barbaric criminal cult called Judaism, with a fake prophet Moshe who is a mass murderer, but libbarbarian Bernie releases a video bragging about his criminal cult of a raping savage subhuman Moshe.

    No wonder people call them savages in suits. Bernie is a subhuman, totally unfit for office.

  3. The economic model Sanders wants to establish isn’t the USSR, or even Yugoslavia, but the Scandinavian countries with their superior safety nets and enlightened penal systems

    Really. Do those wonderful Scandinavian countries not enforce their borders and cripple the ability of immigration agents to deport? Because that’s Bernie’s plan for America. The biggest story on Sanders is how in 5 short years he’s done a complete 180 on immigration, adopting the Koch Bros. model. But I think even the Kochs would stop short of giving all of them free healthcare. Not Bernie.

  4. Indeed he should own it. The way many a thing that the squares warned us against so stridently that eventually, tired of the barrage, we decided it must be pretty good if the squares, the owners, the “front row” people are so sure it’s bad for us and we should never try it.

    Americans are pretty fuzzy on what socialism really is, but they’re pretty sure it means something like FDR and the New Deal and immunizations in school, and the public library up the street, and the sweet deal the Boomers got for everything from college education to a starter house.

    The rightists are “taco truck on every corner – horrors!” tone deaf. The more they rail about socialism and how horrible it is to have slightly higher taxes and not have to worry about a ton of things that ruin lives like lack of health care, lack of education, etc. in the US, the more Generation X and younger are going to want that forbidden fruit.

    Ted, I think you and I are very close in age. Technically boomers but really generation X in our life experiences; we got to see the last gasp of the Boomer times as young children, and lived through things just getting worse and worse as we got older.

  5. Puffdaddy says:

    He won’t rehabilitate socialism if he opens borders, which is what he now wants to do. He used to be against mass immigration of illiterate paupers from culturally incompatible countries; he’s changed his tune. He used to say it was a Koch brothers scheme, which it is…but now he’s changed his tune. This damages socialism here, just like it has damaged socialism in Sweden

    • Agree: Miro23
  6. melpol says:

    Jewish carisma can propel Sanders into the Democrat Party nomination. His soft Socialist agenda is appealing to the millions who want free healthcare and college tuition. Teaming up with Bloomberg as a running mate will give Sanders the needed financial support. Two Jews will be a powerful combination and might be enough to beat Trump in the 2020 election.

  7. Svevlad says:

    Well, let’s hope his stance on law enforcement is more chinese than scandi then

  8. Paul says:

    Bernie Sanders is no socialist. He has not suggested nationalizing any industry other than the overpriced corporate insurance racket. When the United States is spending vastly more per capita than single-payer countries while getting worse health outcomes and shorter lifespans, it is doing something wrong!

  9. Ted Rall is awesome. Another great article. My body is ready for “socialism” of the type Bernie Sanders is advocating.

    I wonder if they’ll kill him just like Huey Long.

  10. @Paul

    When the United States is spending vastly more per capita than single-payer countries while getting worse health outcomes and shorter lifespans, it is doing something wrong!

    I’m all for nationalizing insurance but I don’t believe for one second that it’s merely an issue of profits.

    Look at a picture of Scandinavians vs Americans.

    Come on.

  11. Bernie Sanders is not a Socialist

    Corporate America dislikes government regulation so dislikes Bernie Sanders. For example, he suggests that the government should set price controls on drugs, like all other modern nations. He suggests that billionaires should not pay a lower tax rate than working Americans. These are sane and popular ideas. Sanders does not argue that the US government should take over Exxon, General Motors or Boeing. That — would be socialism. A large part of the American economy is already socialist, like public schools, police and fire departments, parks, roads, water supplies, and our military. Sanders main issue is Medicare-for-all. Medical care would still be provided by the private sector, but paid for via a simple government insurance scheme, rather that a profit seeking racket.

  12. Patricus says:

    Simple government insurance scheme? We already have social security. It is bankrupt and became a pay as you go Ponzi scheme long ago. The social security trust fund is a stack of unsigned IOUs.

    Goverments regulate pharmaceutical prices? Most drugs are developed in the US. Even Swiss, German and British companies develop drugs for the US market because that’t the only place where a company can recover the billion plus in development costs. Once the drug is developed the actual cost of manufacturing pills is tiny. If the US stops drug development there will be fewer innovations. Maybe a few Mother Teresas will toil without pay to bring new drugs to the market.

    Like it or not profit seeking causes people to put their best foot forward. Government jobs not so much.

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