Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has managed to gain a level of momentum thought unachievable by a socialist Independent turned Democrat. He’s running alongside immediate rival Hillary Clinton, but attracting a very different kind of attention.
Unlike Hillary, Bernie has a more relaxed demeanor, a “regular guy” vibe that resonates with a great many people who are sick of the mainstream. But, it’s likely he would attract more supporters were it not for the most off-putting part of his campaign.
Sanders claims to be a “democratic socialist” which many older Americans see as something of a contradiction. When they hear “socialism,” they probably think communism.
But, the definition of socialism is more complex than most people may know. Generally speaking, socialism can refer to any one of several economic and political theories advocating the collective or government ownership and operation of production, economics and distribution of goods and services.
The average American view of socialism probably exists more as a combination of Marxist theory, which refers to the unequal distribution of goods and pay according to effort, and another version where there is no private property and all means of production are owned or controlled by the state.
But how can you have citizen representation in the legislature (a democratic republic), sworn to uphold the Constitution, then ask them to take control of private industry and essentially outlaw certain levels of personal wealth? That would lean toward communism as well.
Bernie’s so-called, “democratic socialism” is a theory in which a democratic government would work right alongside a socialist economic system. The “distribution of wealth” is at the forefront of his ideology. But, it could potentially allow the state to take control of private businesses and seize any personal money they choose.
People like Bernie believe that by taxing corporate America into bankruptcy, seizing personal wealth and cutting the defense budget until our military consists of a slingshot and a couple of rowboats, America will be able to feed and house every citizen, whether they want to work or not. Their policies offer absolutely no incentive for people to support themselves nor do they require any personal accountability.
Of course there is nothing bad about wanting to make sure everyone in the country has enough food, shelter and healthcare. But there is something negative about having absolutely no idea how to pay for it short of raising taxes to an exorbitant level – which would affect everyone, by the way, not just the super rich – and legislating the takeover of private industry and personal wealth.
Bernie’s idealism without practical basis has enamored the college-age, mush-minded youth of America. Left-wing students are flocking to support Sanders at every turn, abandoning former Democratic darling, Hillary Clinton, for a “nice old grandpa” who wants to make sure you never have to work a day in your life but will get plenty of money anyway.
Make no mistake, Bernie Sanders is an establishment candidate, having served in the House and then the Senate since 1991, longer than rival Hillary. He may lobby against corporate-controlled legislation, but he is in the pockets of the big unions to an unbelievable degree.
Bernie has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the most powerful and influential unions in the country from the United Auto Workers to the Teamsters. There is no reason to believe union leverage won’t continue to influence his behavior should he make it to the White House.
Perhaps if Bernie, Hillary, or any of their Republican opponents, would come up with more practical solutions to serious problems of the day, it wouldn’t be so hard to get behind them. Like his opponents, Bernie’s extremism is distasteful to moderates, or anyone who thinks for his or herself rather than just lemming along a party line.
Democratic socialism will likely not win the election, but there is no question that someone needs to come up with solutions for better healthcare and wage inequality, among hundreds of other problems. Currently, candidates seem to care more about feuding with each other than appealing to voters.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at deerinheadlines.com.