Last summer this columnist wrote that Senator Bernie Sanders would gradually lose support to more intersectionally viable candidates like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Harris is gone, Warren is going, and after winning in Iowa and New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders is the Democrat frontrunner. Panicking establishment Dems point out that Sanders is not yet getting even 30% of the vote. But Sanders is gaining traction. A Yahoo/YouGov poll taken last week showed Sanders defeating each one of his rivals in a head-to-head matchup. This includes former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom Sanders defeats 53% to 38%.
Bloomberg was once a Republican and endorsed George W. Bush for president in 2004. Even so, he is becoming the preferred choice of Establishment Democrats, #NeverTrump Republicans and others in the Democrat party fearing Sanders will win the nomination. Over the past several weeks, Bloomberg has spent nearly $400 million of his own money. He has spared no expense, hiring political consultants, data analysts, and an army of internet meme generators. Bloomberg has saturated the air waves with political advertisements. Those ads tout his extremely successful business career and his three terms as Mayor of New York. They also burnish his liberal credentials by linking him to President Obama and highlighting his gun control efforts. To further solidify his standing with Establishment Democrats, this weekend Bloomberg announced that he would consider Hillary Clinton for Vice President. Despite carpet bombing the political battlefield with cash, Bloomberg does not have an army of fanatical supports.
Sanders does. Bernie Sanders is not merely a candidate but the living symbol of a movement. A 78 year old socialist would seem a strange choice to carry the banner of modern socialism, yet he is the choice of the young, eager left. Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) leader of the Squad of Freshman Democrat firebrands has already endorsed Sanders. Overall Sanders enjoys the support of about 25% of the Democrat Party. The so called ‘Bernie Bros’ are young, enthusiastic Democrats who loathe President Trump, reject American capitalism, and embrace socialism. These are the American Millennials who grew up during the era of Bush and Obama. This generation has endured slow economic growth, crushing student debt, slim job prospects and endless war. The Millennials have no memory of the Cold War or the stagflation of the 1970s. No wonder Bernie Sanders seems like a fresh solution to them.
So, what exactly does Sanders mean by Socialism? Opponents are quick to call him a communist, a serious charge in America even after the Cold War. Sanders has given those opponents plenty of ammunition. In the 1980’s he supported Nicaragua’s communist government and, in 1986, he attended a commemoration of the communist Revolution there. He visited the Soviet Union in 1988 and lavished praise upon the Soviet system. He’s stated that ‘we could learn a lot from Cuba’, visited Havana in 1989, and extoled Castro’s virtues. In Sanders’ defense, he has qualified those statements with criticism. In his writing and public utterances Sanders has used Marxist terms like ‘means of production’.
When called ‘socialist’ on television, Sanders is quick to interject, ‘Democratic Socialist’. He insists and has insisted since the 1980s that, to him, ‘Socialism means democracy,’ and has said, ‘I believe very strongly in the right of descent.’ Which certainly sets Sanders apart from the likes of Stalin and Mao. On the issues, he supports AOC’s Green New Deal, free college, forgiveness of student debt, Medicare for all, and a host of other ideas dismissed by Republicans as ‘Free Stuff’. In this, Bernie Sanders has been remarkably consistent his entire adult life. Whether mayor of Burlington, a congressman, senator, or presidential candidate, Sanders has always advocated socialism for America. Which does not mean Sanders is inflexible. This campaign he has embraced the complicated doctrine of ‘wokeness’ or ‘intersectionality’ in which race, sexuality and gender are deemed the determinative factors in American life. Sander’s ‘evolution’ on the issues is a matter of political convenience.
At 78 years old, Sanders has unkempt white hair and a slight frame. Despite having a heart attack last year, he is remarkably spry. He’s certainly more energetic than the stammering and confused Joe Biden. On the stump, Sanders seems the archetype of an old Jewish curmudgeon, the uber-cool and ironic comedian Larry David (Sanders’ near doppelganger regularly impersonates him, perhaps making the old man more palpable to young Democrats. While everything about Elizabeth Warren (who claimed she had native American ancestry) seems forced and fake, Sanders says what he thinks and comes off as genuine. Overall, Sanders is a serious and likable personality.
In the 2008 primary, the Democrat Party Establishment favored Hillary Clinton, but she was ambushed and defeated by Barrack Obama. Obama was elected with high hopes. But, his $750 billion stimulus package failed, Obamacare simply complicated the healthcare system, and his signature Iran Deal is now defunct. At the end of two terms the supposedly transformational president’s administration left his supporters disappointed and facing four years of Donald Trump. Perhaps the time for Sanders has arrived.