Bernie Sanders: Drawing Massive Crowds Yet Still Considered a “Long Shot?”

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Opinion, Politics

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Published on August 29, 2015 with 2 Comments

Democratic candidate for president, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Democratic candidate for president, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

By Ralph E. Stone

August 29, 2015

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an unabashed democratic socialist, is making quite a splash in the media and on the campaign trail, drawing massive crowds wherever he goes.  The question is, can an independent, democratic socialist win the Democratic nomination for president?  What follows is my view of the Sanders’ campaign to date.

What is democratic socialism?  “Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.”

In general, democratic socialists like Sanders want to ensure that every person has access to housing, health care, education, meaningful employment, and transportation. Furthermore, Western socialists of all stripes typically support progressive social policies such as gender equality and tolerance of differences.  In particular however, Sanders advocates for three things that should be the backbone of the Democratic Party. These include reducing economic inequality, removing the rigged influence of the rich on our political system, and of course most importantly, preventing climate change. These aren’t just issues that the far left supports; these are broadly popular issues on which our political system is massively out of step with what the public wants.

Specifically, Sanders favors, among other things, universal healthcare, free public college education, a $15 minimum wage, keep and expand social security, is pro women’s rights, is pro gay rights, and is an advocate for climate change.

Given what Sanders stands for, why should a “socialist” label cause fear and trembling in voters?  I bet most of these Americans could not explain what they mean by socialism.  To me, it basically means a redistribution of wealth or publicly-funded programs that capitalism will not pay for.  We already have many so-called socialistic programs in the U.S. such as our progressive tax system, social security, public housing, unemployment insurance, medicare, schools, libraries, etc. I like to think that most of these programs provide social safety nets for the havenots in our society who otherwise would fall through the cracks when unregulated capitalism goes awry.  You know the kind of capitalism that got us into our financial mess under the George W. Bush administration.  Looked at this way, socialism equals compassion for the less fortunate in our society. What’s to be afraid of?

Ultimately, Americans should want a democratic socialist government to provide a society for the benefit of all.  But can Sanders win the Democratic nomination?  I am not optimistic.  Sanders will likely do well in the Iowa caucuses and in New Hampshire, which have progressive, liberal traditions.  But will he win over the moderate voters?  He will have a harder time in South Carolina where over half the population is Black. Sanders will have to show he can appeal to moderate voters.

Money will become a problem for Sanders.  Hillary Clinton so far has amassed a war chest of $60.6 million while Sanders has raised only $15 million.  If Sanders does well in the early primaries, money will continue to come in.  If not, money may dry up.

Hillary Clinton is slipping in the polls. In fact, a recent poll shows Sanders leading Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in New Hampshire.  If Clinton fails to get her email problem behind her, she will probably slip even more. If she does, Joe Biden will likely enter the race.  Biden down the road would probably then pick up Sander’s liberal and progressive followers and have appeal to moderate voters.

Sanders appeals to many liberals at the moment but the national Democratic Party is unlikely to nominate an independent democratic socialist.  Instead, the Party will go with a mainstream Democrat like Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden.  However, Sander’s candidacy is raising issues that might otherwise be ignored and has shown that Americans have nothing to fear from a democratic socialist.

We shouldn’t count out long shots however.  Remember, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and Jimmy Carter were long shots, but went on to be the Democratic nominees for president.  Even Ronald Reagan unsuccessfully pursued the GOP nomination twice before becoming a two-term president.  Amazing things can happen in politics.  We might even end up with a Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump race.

I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the California primary and vote for the Democratic nominee in the general election.

Ralph E. Stone

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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  • Tyranei

    I think America is slowly becoming numb to the anti-socialism chatter that has been repeated over and over again. I think a recent poll showed that 49% of Americans were willing to vote for a socialist.

  • SleepyheadSugarpuss

    Great assessment of Sanders. I’ll do whatever I can to support him. I think we need to fight the message that he can’t win so that voters aren’t afraid to ‘waste a vote’ on him. He’s been holding the same line for decades without wavering. Love him.