After another big win – this time in Nevada with 46 percent of the vote – Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described democratic socialist, is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. And the Democratic establishment has no idea what to do about it.
Democrats have nobody to blame but themselves. If Sanders weren’t running, they’d have to invent him.
More than a generation has been spent declaring cultural Marxism to be a conspiracy theory, all the while the Left was soft-peddling socialism and radicalism in our public schools and universities, in Hollywood and in governmental and non-governmental institutions.
And in pushing radical environmentalism to transform the U.S. economy that has fostered the Green New Deal, a proposal to end oil, gas, nuclear and coal consumption by 2030, convert to solar and wind, and put the U.S. at a global disadvantage economically versus China and other emerging economies.
And in implementing a national government-run health care system such that now the predominant Democratic proposal is to end private health insurance and institute socialized, single-payer health care.
And into demonizing wealth and success so that now the Democrats’ national platform now calls for redistributing wealth, raising taxes and pitting Americans against one another via class warfare, all the while disincentivizing work with universal basic income schemes.
Until now a full 50 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of socialism, according to the latest NPR-Marist poll conducted Feb. 13-16. Only 33 percent of Democrats polled had a negative view of socialism.
The same poll has Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic nomination 31 percent to Michael Bloomberg’s 19 percent.
And while the overall outcome of the poll shows 58 percent of Americans oppose socialism – creating an uphill battle for Sanders in the general election and giving President Donald Trump a decided advantage this November – that is a snapshot in time. Most people now think about the failures and brutality of eastern Europe, Cuba or Venezuela when they think of socialism.
But give it another four or eight years or 16 years and another recession or two. As Baby Boomers begin dying in greater numbers, and younger generations become the prime voters in elections, and eventually there will be an economic slowdown, it is conceivable that almost all Democrats will one day have a favorable view of socialism in the future. That’s the direction the chart is pointed in.
As a result, Sanders is the party base’s most honest representation. He is the future of the party. The fact he has never registered as a Democrat and views the party’s establishment as an obstacle to change, and yet is winning handily, shows that Sanders has bent the Democratic Party in his direction. He’s winning the argument.
If Sanders prevails in the nominating contest, he will have to perform the same feat in the General Election to move the country towards socialism. It won’t be easy, and the odds are against him, but that’s just how Sanders likes it. He understands that politics is a generational affair.
In 1964, Barry Goldwater represented small government conservatism, but it would not be until 1980 with Ronald Reagan that a Republican would win on that platform, changing his party and the country as a result.
It might take another political cycle or two, but if this the direction the Democrats are moving in, given the nation’s two-party system, ultimately somebody a lot like Sanders is eventually going to. Republicans won’t win every election. Bernie running in 2020, even if he loses, could very well set the stage for a future socialist president.
In the meantime, whether the Democrat Party establishment will be able to steal the nomination from Sanders in 2020 – likely putting the General Election in doubt as Sanders supporters stay home – remains to be seen.
South Carolina may be the final firewall against a Sanders nomination. If Joe Biden can eke out a win, it will throw the nominating contest into chaos and create an avenue for thwarting Sanders at the convention, although Sanders’ momentum is undeniable.
For now, this is Bernie’s moment to shine, and it provides a useful glimpse of what’s in store for Democrats in the future. This will be the first time American voters have heard directly from an out-front socialist on the national stage in the general election. I, for one, hope they are paying close attention to what he is telling us.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.