Monthly Archives: November 2015

CAMPAIGN ANALYSIS: Sanders, “Socialism,” and what it means


So we’ve all heard of him by now. CONTROVERSY AND ALL. A little controversy is always good, in my opinion.

He’s rallying the American left with spirited, idealistic, revolutionary rhetoric similar to what you may have heard in 1950s Havana (though, not as extreme, admittedly).

Keep reading to find out details such as: What he wants, and what it means!

… you can tell I’m not a good marketer, nor advertiser …


I believe, though I may be wrong, Sanders is the only Congressman in America with a “socialist” title. While he claims the title, he’s trying to get the Democratic Party’s nomination; thus, he can’t call himself a strict socialist. In addition, a majority of Americans would reject him if he were just to claim the socialist title, and there seems to be a misunderstanding of what Socialism is in the US; mostly stemming from Cold-War conceptions of the approach.

To be considered a viable presidential candidate, Bernie has opted to blend Democratic policy focus with a socialist approach; hence the marriage of the two concepts. In this way, he is marketing socialism as an extension of democracy to the American people (because the lower and middle classes are, by fact, a majority) — make sense?

By and large, the “democratic-socialist” label is an invention of Sanders’. His very own marketing brand. He’s chiseling an identity that is distinctly separate from Hillary’s, and it’s actually pretty impressive how far he’s gotten.

Bernie socialism vs. real Socialism

While I’ve written more in-depth about what Socialism is here, I’ll still cover it in brief (but if you want a better understanding, read the article — or any article on Socialism).

Contrary to popular belief, Socialism is not a political system. It’s an economic system. In the socialist sphere, capitalists no longer dictate work conditions, pay hours, and so fourth. Instead, workers choose all of that, and, more radically, some socialists would say that society itself chooses levels of production and what everyone needs.

Socialists are for wealth redistribution as a necessity to implement their desired socially focused programs. Also, they seek explicitly to ally people together along economic lines (low and middle classes) So, no more social-policy interest alignments; it’s all about what low- and middle-income people need to be successful and live a quality life.

Knowing that (and more, if you read the Socialist article), the question is: How is Bernie Sanders a Socialist?

The quick answer is; he’s Socialist, but had to rebrand himself for a presidential nomination. Instead of running on a socialist ticket, he’s adopting the Party’s policy talking points, and wants to expand social welfare.

In his blended approach, what does he want?

  1. Free college. Sanders accepts the Democratic Party’s premise for increased educational spending, and inflates it. Bernie is full-on rallying for free higher education.
  2. Pushback against Citizens United. If you didn’t know, the Supreme Court essentially said that the government can’t limit political spending from non-profits, labor unions, corporations, and such. This is where campaign, big-money politics came from. In general, Sanders despises this, and finds it contributing to what he calls a “ruling class of greed” in Washington (as a side note, while all the other candidates stay in 4- and 5-star hotels, Sanders stays at the Motel 8).
  3. The economic 1%. Billionaires evading taxes is a HUGE problem for Sanders, because it takes away from government programs (such as free college, family leave and such). In fact, he goes so far to say it’s a “rigged” economy by billionaires, and it’s “morally wrong” for the 1% to own as much as they do.
  4. Family Leave. Sanders wants everyone to be entitled to family leave with a new child, and not have to go into debt for it.
  5. International solutions to international problems. Bernie is not into American-centric, pan-European, pro-NATO, Bush II-era stuff. He would probably downplay alliances while increasing the role of international support. As such, he has said he would ask Gulf States (who make billions from oil money) to step up training, funding, and arming of groups who can combat terrorism, IS, and extremism in addition to who contributes now. So, in a true social spirit, he’s an internationalist.

In short, he effectively amplifies the already-existing Democratic Party policy points, and re-brands Socialism for an American audience by explicitly allying people along economic lines (rather than demographic or regional).

What next?

Here’s the thing about Bernie: I don’t think that HE thinks he’ll win the nomination, despite the enthusiasm.

He’s been working essentially his entire life on understanding Socialism, and advocating for the middle and working classes. You can find YouTube videos of him in the ’70s, if you wish.

I do think he honestly is pro-middle class, and very much read on Socialism. But, at the end of the day, I think he’s OK with not winning. The only politician that I can think of who took this approach (though, I would say, less successfully) is Ron Paul. Where Ron has essentially become the rally figure for the American Libertarian movement, Sanders will become the face of American Socialism — a martyr, if you will.

From what I’m seeing, Sanders is offering a legitimate alternative from the two parties. We’re not talking about some billionaire trying to create a party, like Ross Perot; rather, we’re actually talking about a party that specifically targets the lower and middle classes.

From Sanders’ position, even if he doesn’t get the nomination, he’s done his part to set the stage for future socialists to build on what he’s done. He’s doing the hard work; branding Socialism to the American public.

This means that next presidential election or two, when Americans hear ‘socialism,’ it won’t be nearly as foreign.

My guess is that most people in America will eventually think in terms similar to this: Republicans represent wealthy and corporations, Socialists represent the poor and middle classes, and Democrats represent everyone else who is underrepresented.

Similar to the Libertarian movement, we could be seeing the beginning of an American Socialist movement.

Will this spur a VIABLE third-party option? Honestly, it’s anybody’s best guess. But consider this: People, in general, are increasingly becoming aware of their social lives, thanks to all the platforms we all know. The word ‘social’ seems to be cropping up all over the place, and, from a marketing perspective, people will eventually conflate the term with ‘popular.’ In short, I think people will respond to Sanders’ marketing. This, in effect, could be an attractive option for youth who are seeing massive educational debt and a debate over economic morals.

Conversely, today’s youth is growing up in an environment of terrorism and growing reactionary movements. We’re finding modernity and progressivism being threatened by fire-and-brimstone ancient laws. So, that may intensify the desire for heavy-handed international conduct.

But, for me, the “social” aspect to politics is very interesting right now, and I’m curious how it will play out. Will people respond to socialist ideas warmly, or will they fade away (or face a smear campaign by the right, or even American left)?

These days, people are exposed to a ridiculous number of articles, blogs (THIS ONE), tweets, statuses, opinions, education, and whatnot every day. I’m curious how this will shape things moving forward, because, right now, it’s only hardened positions between the right and left.

In the end, American Democratic-Socialism can take three routes. 1) It’s considered in the immediate (and he gets the nomination — something I’m doubting), 2) it fades away again, or 3) it simmers, organizes and re-emerges in the future.

I’m not sure which will happen, but I’m anxious to see.