Skip to main content

In These Times - February 5, 2020

"Majorities ofyoung people,womenandDemocratsall now say they prefer socialism over capitalism. And survey results from Data for Progressshowthat in a general election matchup, Sanders’ identification as a socialist would not be a liability against Trump. Interestingly, the results indicate that Sanders performs better against Trump when he’s identified as a “socialist” and the president as a “billionaire,” versus Democrat and Republican, respectively. AsVoxconcludes from the study, “tagging Sanders as a socialist did not seem to undermine his campaign.”

In October 2019, less than three weeks after suffering a heart attack that pundits and opponents seized upon to declare his presidential campaign dead in the water, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held the largest rally of the 2020 cycle in Queens, New York alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Following his declaration of “I am back,” Sanders channeled Nelson Mandela in enjoining the crowd of 26,000 that everything, “always seems impossible…until it’s done.”

Sanders’ performance in the Iowa caucuses on Monday—where he maintains the popular vote lead with 71% of precincts reporting—affirms this adage. Throughout the primary campaign, commentators, rivals and establishment politicos across the spectrum have written off Sanders’ candidacy, treating it as an afterthought—or, more recently, as an annoyance to swat away. Despite the Iowa Democratic Party’s bungled reporting of caucus results, which show Pete Buttigieg narrowly leading in state delegate equivalents, Sanders is currently on top by over 1,300 votes. By leading with the most votes in the first contest of 2020, Sanders has proven the commentariat wrong.  

The outcome reshapes the primary race, where Joe Biden—long assumed the most “electable” candidate among Democrats—is now coming in a measly fourth. Sanders, meanwhile, is on track to take New Hampshire next week, where a win would establish him as the clear frontrunner. But the results also realize an axiom that many on the American Left have long believed, but has now been demonstrated: Democratic socialism can, in fact, win.

Countless hands have been wrung by paid consultants and strategists over the false fear that the mantle of socialism will sink any candidate seeking the highest office in the land. Just last week, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait warned that nominating Sanders would be “an act of insanity,” in large part because of the senator’s identification as a democratic socialist. Aside from the fact that Chait has been wrong about nearly everything in recent political history, including his archetypal 2016 take “Why Liberals Should Support a Trump Republican Nomination,” this liberal panic is simply unfounded.

By claiming the most votes in Iowa—a rural, Midwestern state—Sanders has shown that fears over a Scarlet S have been largely overblown. In reality, the democratic socialist agenda that undergirds Sanders’ political philosophy—free and universal healthcare, taxing the rich, canceling debt, ending wars, expanding workplace democracy and investing in a livable future for the planet—is incredibly popular. ...
Read full report at In These Times