Now that both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have declared their candidacies and are running in the Democratic primary for Election 2016, those opposed to Bernie, both on the Republican and neoliberal sides of the Democratic tent are harping on the “S” word.
But Bernie isn’t a “socialist” in the Marxist sense of the word. Sanders doesn’t belong to the US Socialist party, nor has he ever been a member. He’s always been an independent whose views are aligned with the kind of “Democratic Socialism” that is associated with Europe’s labor parties, specifically the Scandinavian flavors of it.
So… What does all that mean to us ‘Muricans? What is Bernie, politically speaking?
This New Republic article explains the difference between socialism and democratic socialism, and includes quotes from Sanders:
I think [democratic socialism] means the government has got to play a very important role in making sure that as a right of citizenship all of our people have healthcare; that as a right, all of our kids, regardless of income, have quality childcare, are able to go to college without going deeply into debt; that it means we do not allow large corporations and moneyed interests to destroy our environment; that we create a government in which it is not dominated by big money interest. I mean, to me, it means democracy, frankly. That’s all it means.
Since the news broke that Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, would announce his bid for president on Thursday, many headlines have used one particular word to describe him. To cite just three of many examples:
Guess which piece, in the article body, comes closest to accurately identifying Sanders’s political philosophy? Believe it or not, it’s the Daily Caller, which describes him as “a self-proclaimed social democrat.” (In its explainer, Vox didn’t even bother explaining Sanders’ socialism.) In reality, Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist,” which is not quite the same as being a social democrat.
Bernie has expressed great frustration at the way he is being portrayed, by way of the Los Angeles Times:
Sanders went on to express irritation with the way journalists slap the “socialist” label on him, as if his embrace of policies common in the democracies of western Europe makes him a radical outlier.
“It is not a radical agenda,” he said. “In virtually every instance, what I am saying is supported by a significant majority of the American people. Yes, it is not supported by the Business Roundtable or the Chamber of Commerce or Wall Street. I maybe old-fashioned enough to believe that Congress might want to be representing a vast majority of our people … and not just the Koch brothers and other campaign contributors.”
He suggested that if the media are going to refer to him as a socialist, journalists also should affix the label of “capitalist” with every mention of his rivals.
Sanders expressed his disgust with all the money in politics, vowing to nominate justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn the rulings that have diminished campaign finance laws, but he also joked that taking such a hard line is hardly a strategic risk for him.
“I don’t want the money of billionaire class, which is very easy for me to say because I would not get their money even if I wanted it,” he said.
Still, he expressed confidence that he can mobilize enough small donors to be competitive in Iowa and New Hampshire, saying the $40 million to $50 million it would take is within reach. Some 200,000 people have made small contributions to his campaign, the underdog said.
Here are four myths about Bernie, debunked in this Mic.com article:
1. He can’t compete with Clinton.
The suggestion Sanders might be able to seriously challenge Clinton is treated with disdain by the conventional chroniclers of the campaign. Almost every story about Sanders includes the caveat he’s a “long shot” candidate. We are constantly reminded of all the reasons Sanders can’t win. Most of the press has chalked up his candidacy as a tactical play to pull Clinton to the left on economic policies, the implication being Sanders will inevitably succumb to the might of the Clinton machine.
But the enthusiasm for the insurgent is real, and his policies appeal to a wide swath of the Democratic primary electorate. His office seems to cook up a compelling policy proposal or bill with impressive regularity. He’s been attracting huge crowds in Iowa. His poll numbers have climbed consistently in New Hampshire since he entered the race, and on Saturday, Sanders guaranteed an enthusiastic overflow crowd he would win the state.
2. His policies are irresponsible and un-American.
Source: Mic/ABC News
“What’s wrong with that?” Sanders responded, in his inimitable style. But Stephanopoulos wasn’t incorrect: It’s become a trope of national politics that ideas originating in Europe are by their nature contrary to some imaginary ideal of American-ness. Sanders’ embrace of the term “democratic socialist,” which critics have use to suggest he advocates some sort of Soviet-style economic system, only feeds the beast.
Read the rest of The 4 Biggest Myths the Media Needs to Stop Telling About Bernie Sanders.