Bernie Sanders is now, at this point in the campaign, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. It’s time to take him seriously, both as a potential candidate and as a potential president.
After a virtual tie with Pete Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses, Sanders narrowly defeated the mayor of South Bend (25.8% to 24.4%), who is now also a serious contender for the nomination, in the New Hampshire primary. Add this to the collapse of Joe Biden, who came in fifth in New Hampshire (8.4%), worse than his fourth place performance in Iowa. Sanders’ rival on the left Elizabeth Warren came in fourth in New Hampshire (9.3%), with neither Biden nor Warren winning a single New Hampshire delegate. Amy Klobuchar did well at third place (19.7%), perhaps replacing Biden as the moderates’ best hope.
Lots could change–Biden could come back with a big victory in South Carolina, and Mike Bloomberg could buy the nomination on Super Tuesday–but Sanders has a good chance of getting the nomination.
Sanders, who isn’t even a Democrat but an Independent, is a Democratic Socialist, the definition of which is a Marxist who seeks to bring in the revolution by political means–such as elections–rather than by a violent overthrow of the ruling class. Sanders says that his socialism is that of the Scandinavian countries, but that’s a confusion with Social Democracy, which is capitalism along with a generous welfare state.
On paper, Sanders would seem like the easiest Democrat for Donald Trump to beat. At 78 years old, Sanders has had a long career in far-left activism, beginning with the campus radicals of the ’60’s, and some of his positions and activities in those days may not play well with today’s general public. Democrats have been treating Sanders with kid gloves, not delving into his past, but you can be sure that the Trump campaign will do so.
Whose side was he on during the Cold War? Sanders is on record praising Castro’s Cuba and the Soviet Union.
Did he ever call cops “pigs” or deride U.S. soldiers in Vietnam? What was his relationship with the campus radicals who bombed ROTC buildings and committed other acts of terrorism? Sanders may have had nothing to do with any of that, but if he did, the Trump campaign will find out. And if he didn’t, many in his circle of leftwing activists did, and he may be vulnerable to guilt by association.
The proposals that Sanders is campaigning on are unfathomably expensive and extremely controversial: Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, forgiveness of student loans, free college tuition, national rent control, suspending deportations of illegal immigrants, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as Customs and Border Protection (CBP), banning fracking, eliminating nuclear power, allowing convicted felons to vote, nationalizing the internet, among many others.
And yet, don’t count him out. No one thought Donald Trump could possibly win, but he did.
Many voters did not live through the Cold War and consider it irrelevant ancient history. According to a recent study, Americans 18 to 24 have a more positive view towards socialism than they do capitalism. And many older Americans who lived through the ’60’s–now with their medical marijuana and nostalgia for their youth–may not be so bothered about the excesses of youthful idealism.
Lots of Americans also want everything that they can possibly get from the federal government. And postmodernists, who scorn the very concept of objective truth, are not worried too much about costs, consequences, and practical considerations.
But what could elect Sanders is what elected Trump. Not only could Sanders, with his traditional leftist appeal to the working class, steal away voters from Trump’s blue collar base. He could also win lots of anybody-but-Trump votes. In 2016, a large number of voters did not particularly like Trump, but they voted for him anyway because they could not stand Hillary Clinton. In 2020, a large numbers of voters may not particularly like Sanders, but they would vote for him because they cannot stand Donald Trump.
So what if Sanders is elected president? Surely, Congress and the Supreme Court would prevent him from enacting his full socialist agenda. Even if Democrats keep the House and win the Senate, they are mostly traditional liberals rather than socialists, so they would be a brake on the socialist president’s ambitions. But, again, look at how establishment Republicans in Congress came to support Donald Trump’s agenda. If the Democrats sweep to power on the coattails of Bernie Sanders, expect them to join the Sandernista revolution. As for the Supreme Court, even Buttigieg is advocating using Congress to increase its size, so that the current conservative justices could be outvoted by a liberal majority.
What would Sander’s socialist revolution do to America? Throwing out capitalism, as Sanders says he wants to do–confiscating wealth, eliminating the profit motive, restricting businesses, drastically cutting back energy supplies–would mean a dramatic change in the level of prosperity and the standard of living that Americans have become accustomed to.
Furthermore, a government strong enough to control the entire economy is strong enough to assert its control over every other facet of life. Ending the free market is often accompanied by ending other freedoms as well.
But maybe that is what Americans want today and what they will vote for.
Photo: Bernie Sanders by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)] via Wikimedia Commons