Bernie Sanders: Democrat, Social Democrat, Socialist, Independent, Revolutionary – Pick None

democrat-logoA common misconception is that democratic values and the Democratic Party are synonymous. “Of course Bernie is a Democrat,” the refrain goes. “He’s been Democratting hard for decades!” Except few of his labels, including this one, are accurate.

The Democratic Party is a non-government organization with its own maturing set of interconnected goals. Members work toward these by helping get each other elected and pooling clout to pass progressive bills. It’s the oldest political party in the world.

Sanders is a newcomer to the party. He has caucused with Democrats on occasion but doesn’t contribute on a larger scale. Right now Hillary continues to donate millions to the DNC while Sanders enjoys a free ride, mocking the organization and tossing caustic insinuations when things don’t go his way. Let’s say it plainly: Bernie Sanders is no capital-D Democrat.

Nor is he a social democrat. Economies that incorporate social democracy have a strong base of capitalism underneath driving the funding of it all. Sanders has shown disdain for industries that account for a significant percentage of the US GDP. He’s on the populist anti-GMO train. Wall Street needs further reform, but his claim “their business is fraud” shows a lack of understanding of history and of economics, both micro and macro. He denounces dirty energy but, unlike Hillary, has no plans for displaced coal miners and refinery workers. The only way to achieve social programs like universal health care and free public education is to increase the tax base on top of a thriving economy. In a social democracy, you can’t have the socialism part without the capitalism part.

Nor is he a socialist. When does he speak of worker-owned companies? Mondragon in Spain has proven the model works and there’s no reason it couldn’t be nurtured in America. When does he speak of public ownership of critical resources like water? Public schools and cops and highways aren’t socialism, and attempts to link these features of every society to Marx is unfounded. His platform has been, at best, progressive. Except when it’s not, like his prime time insistence that Mexican immigration needed to be reversed for the sake of American jobs. (related)

Nor is he an independent. He had the option of getting ballot signatures in all the states and running an independent ad campaign. If he had a big enough following he would be on stage with the Republican and Democratic candidates for November. Instead, last year he joined a party and got free exposure to millions of people who had never heard of him. He didn’t earn that attention. He’s riding the coat tails of Democrats who have worked for literally centuries pushing America forward and earning the party its reputation as the one of reason and compassion. Why not infiltrate the GOP instead? Because it’s easy being on the “right” team while complaining loudly about how not-good-enough it is.

Nor, unfortunately, is he a revolutionary leader. His fan base is more out of control than the Tea Party, demonizing progressive institutions that dare support Hillary’s track record, spouting sexist vulgarities online, conspiring to cheat in the Nevada caucuses. He rarely asks them to reign it in. His ground game in the Carolinas shows how uncoordinated and under-staffed his volunteer army is. (He’s the only candidate to pay some staffers.) They were able to move the needle in small states by summoning all their focus, but the enthusiasm isn’t scaling to larger states. Their volunteer hub on Reddit contains endless pleas for more door-knockers as Hillary cements a strong lead in the polls. This doesn’t bode well for the camp’s ability to gain the House seats it would need next season to unlock Congressional stonewalling.

Today in Nevada may be the last party for the Sanders camp. “Nevada polling is notoriously hard because of the transient population,” it’s said. He may have pulled even in the state, and they’re going to be excited about that.

Super Tuesday is going to be quite the hangover.

Bonus edit: Krugman explains the Sanders platform in one graph.

Note from a Redditor: “Just to point out, centuries is a little much considering Democrats were the racist ones just one century ago. I think the original progressive was a Republican (Teddy Roosevelt) if I remember correctly. Decades is more accurate.”

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Jay is Editor In Chief of The Agonist, veteran and technologist.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Reactions from Reddit:

    A purist who must now use the infrastructure of a party he has refused to caucus with and now needs to further his political goals. He could have worked all his years to build a third party infrastructure, but he didn’t.

    Meanwhile calling everyone else who has needed to use the infrastructure of the party “corrupt” for doing so. For doing what he’s now doing.

    This touches on one of the things that really bugs me about sanders: if he’s such an independent socialist why doesn’t he start his own political party?

    The obvious answer is that practically speaking he’d never succeed or get any traction. But any time ANYONE ELSE relies on such pragmatic reasoning they are tut-tutted by sanders fan club about how you compromised and sold out and we expect more out of you. But it’s ok for Bernie to conveniently become a democrat in the 11th hour for purposes of winning a political office.

    It’s telling that the socialist can’t stand on his own two feet and needs to take over someone else’s institution. It’s also telling that no one sees a problem with this. A taste of things to come.

    He’s literally cussed out the Democratic Party on multiple occasions.

    He could certainly run a platform complaining about all the things he believes the Democratic party got wrong and how he’s going to make America great. I mean look at Kasich: he’s for a lot of things that are abhorrent to mainstream Republicans. Kasich is doing ok, not great, who knows if he could be doing better running as a Democrat going for the moderate Democrat vote. I don’t know, I agree the best move for Bernie was to run as a Democrat, but he could spin himself as a moderate Republican.

    > Nor is he a socialist.
    The Democratic party needs to understand this. When people like Bernie say, “Socialized systems like public education work in the US, so socialized health coverage can also work,” they’re buying into Newt Gingrich’s lie that nationalized coverage = socialism. No one was saying that until Newt started spreading that lie to kill the bipartisan support for universal healthcare.

    It is like the author just read a few online article that painted Sanders in a negative light and decided they were all based on fact. Then he decided to mash them all together into one.

    I’m a Decider!

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