Bernie Sanders Not Harmed By Democratic Socialist Label Among Voters

Sanders Meet the Press

Bernie Sanders said on Meet the Press that he is a Democratic Socialist, and not a capitalist,This has led to opponents repeating  anti-Sanders rhetoric, generally leaving out the Democratic and falsely describing him solely as a Socialist. Fortunately others have been setting the record straight for quite a while. Fortune discussed this recently in an article whose title demonstrates the confusion: Bernie Sanders is a socialist, but he’s not a Socialist:

Bernie Sanders has made great strides in the Democratic (note the capitalization!) primary polls, all while talking about the democratic-socialist ideas he has espoused for decades. But you won’t find him talking about banning private property or nationalizing industries…

The article concluded with noting that Sanders is not “likely to try to take away your farm.”

The reality is that, regardless of what labels Sanders uses, his economic policies are based upon reforming capitalism, not replacing it with socialism. In fact, socialists generally do not see Sanders as one of their own. Bloomberg Politics looked at how true Socialists see Sanders:

“He isn’t an anti-capitalist! He is for reforming capitalism, not changing capitalism. He is really a lot closer in ideology to Hillary Clinton than he is to me,” said Stephen Durham, the 2012 presidential nominee of the Freedom Socialist Party. “His is the politics of a lesser evil among some very bad choices.”

While socialists are split into various factions, many of them agree that Sanders is not one of them:

La Riva, a perennial vice-presidential candidate for the Workers World Party in the 1980s and ’90s (the PSL split from the WWP for reasons that remain largely unclear, even to its most committed partisans) said that even if Sanders won the Democratic nomination, she would continue to seek the presidency.

“I don’t think he is a socialist. He ignores socialist countries,” she said. “We agree with him that the rich should be taxed more heavily, and that the minimum wage should be higher, but we are calling for the seizure of the banks, the seizure of the health care system, the seizure of the pharmaceutical companies. We are calling for full immigrant rights, dismantling the Pentagon, bringing all of our troops home and reparations for victims of U.S. imperialism.”

Some Democrats, actually primarily Clinton supporters, are arguing that being a Socialist (again confusing Socialists and Democratic Socialists) makes Sanders unelectable. Sanders, unlike Clinton, has been consistent in his views, and is showing no sign of being harmed by the Democratic Socialist label. Besides, Republicans have been screaming for years that Barack Obama is a Marxist Socialist and Hillary Clinton is on the far left (neither of which is remotely true). The capitalist label is also tainted by the manner in which Republicans have corrupted the system. A Democratic Socialist who promises to reform the system might be just what the voters want this year.

Bernie Sanders’ views are more mainstream than Clinton’s more conservative views. If we were to choose a candidate based upon electability, Sanders is looking like a far better choice than Clinton. Sanders does better in the polls among independents than Clinton. He does comparable or leads Clinton in the battleground state polls despite lower name recognition. It is Sanders who is creating the excitement this year, and pulling in the big crowds.

In contrast, Clinton is faced with gradually worsening poll numbers, a significant majority who considers her to be dishonest, about thirty-six Freedom of Information Act trials in progress, and the FBI investigating her email practices. New revelations are constantly in the news, such as AP reporting today about her server’s vulnerability to hackers, or last week’s report that the classified identity of a CIA source was sent over her private server. Republicans will do far more harm to Clinton as a candidate with ads based upon these scandals than quoting Bernie Sanders saying he is a Democratic Socialist.


  1. 1
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    Bernie rightly calls himself a socialist because socialism is what he prefers, though he is not running on an agenda calling for it and knows perfectly well if he did he would scare off all the voters.

    And he has a perfectly obvious and well-known history of public and genuine admiration and support for reds as well as condemnation of US efforts to oppose them.

    Forgot all that, have you?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is not a matter of forgetting as what you said is untrue. You also have it backwards in the first sentence as Sanders calls himself a Democratic Socialist, while his policies are not actually capitalist and not socialist.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    I also hope the Clinton camp continues to attack Sanders along these lines. He pulled in quite a lot of money in response to the last attack like this.

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