Politics and political decision-making should be based on analytical and big picture thinking derived from facts and stats. The problem is, many Americans typically react emotionally and often irrationally when it comes to politics and whatever particular issues or candidates they’re passionate about. One of the most common errors I encounter in my dealings with politics is that people seem to believe that everyone thinks just like they do, and if you’re not 100 percent on board with every ideological stance from whatever “side” on which you claim to lie – you’re a “not a true liberal/conservative.”
That’s a lot of what I’m seeing from those supporting Bernie Sanders. I can’t count how many times I’ve received a message on Twitter or Facebook from someone asking me how I can call myself a true liberal/progressive, yet support Hillary Clinton at the same time. Apparently the only way to be a “true progressive” is to support Bernie Sanders.
Fun fact: Clinton and Sanders are a lot more alike than most people seem to think.
Most people who follow me know that I actually like both Clinton and Sanders. I’ll fully admit that Sanders tends to be more “left” than Clinton, but I still have strong doubts about his chances to win in the general election. While most of his supporters seem to think he can win based on their personal feelings about him, the size of the crowds he’s attracting or a handful of polls from New Hampshire or Iowa, I try to look at the broader scope of the situation.
In national polls he’s still being crushed by Clinton and hasn’t really made any gains on her in a couple of months. Not only that, but a Gallup poll from a few weeks back showed that 41 percent of Democrats said they wouldn’t support someone who describes themselves as a socialist. In a race that could come down to 2-3 percentage points in several key states, that can be the difference between a Democrat or a Republican occupying the White House on January 20, 2017.
Not only that, but he’s going to be 75 next year, a factor that’s only going to cost him votes – not bring him any. Yes, the reality is that there will be some Americans who won’t vote for him because of his age. However, that’s clearly nothing he can change or something that I think should impact him too greatly.
So let’s say for the sake of argument that Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton.
If he wants to win the presidency, he’s going to have to address the socialism label. While he doesn’t shy away from it, it’s also not something he’s really out there actively trying to redefine for many casual voters.
Now, most people who follow left-leaning politics know that Sanders is a democratic socialist, not the stereotypical “socialist” that often brings about gasps of horror whenever the word is mentioned. While a democratic socialist sounds like a complex phrase, it’s really not. It’s basically someone who believes in democracy but that the role of government is to provide basic services and protections to the people it serves. That’s why someone like Sanders advocates for free health care and college education.
To be honest, the Democratic party is a party of “democratic socialism.” It’s basically a blend of capitalism and socialism based upon the educated belief that “the market,” if left to its own devices, would ultimately shift power into the hands of a select few – leaving the rest of us screwed. You know, exactly like what’s happened over the last 30+ years.
By the way, it’s entirely possible to support capitalism and democratic socialism. Even as “left” as Sanders is, supporting a tax rate of 50 percent for the wealthy as well as closing loopholes many use to avoid paying taxes, the rich in this country would still be extremely wealthy. We did pretty well in this country during the 50’s (in fact, it might be our most prosperous decade) and taxes were much higher than 50 percent on the richest Americans.
But if Sanders were to become the Democratic nominee, Republicans would have a field day fear-mongering against the self-described socialist. Honestly, their campaign of fear and propaganda would have a good chance of working. The sad nature of this country is that most people are easily manipulated by negative campaigning and ridiculous political ads, no matter how many exaggerations or flat-out lies are involved.
That’s why he has to start changing the minds of many Americans now about what a “socialist” (at least as it relates to his brand of socialism) actually means.
Like I said before, it’s not that he avoids talking about the fact that he’s a democratic socialist, but there’s a difference between admitting what you are when asked about it and actively trying to convey what it means to the American people. Because it’s not enough for Sanders to campaign on what he wants to do if he’s elected, he has to address the label itself and make a big part of his campaign properly defining what a democratic socialist is.
I’m not really seeing him do that. He can’t sit around and just wait to be confronted about the label by Republicans later on during the general election, he needs to make it a big part of his campaign now – because it’s most definitely going to be the focal point of the GOP attack ads against him if he were to win the nomination.
If he doesn’t get out ahead of it now, choosing to wait until Republicans start making it a big deal, well… by this time next year, it’s going to be too late.
Image via Formidable Republican Opposition on Facebook
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