Sanders tries, fails, to explain 'democratic socialism'
For months, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been promising a speech that would explain and make palatable what he calls "democratic socialism."
The problem for Sanders is that during his entire political career, he has run for office as a "socialist" - never mind the addition of "democratic."
Not that it makes a difference. A new poll out today shows Hillary Clinton ahead of Sanders by 25 points nationally. Sanders could call himself a reformed Druid and he'd still be buried.
But Sanders is determined to make socialism mainstream. To that end, he traveled to Georgetown University to give a speech before cheering students who haven't a clue that Sanders is pushing policies that would destroy their future.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager, said that the Vermont senator worked "intensely" on this speech over the last few days and took personal ownership of it.
The crowd of mostly Georgetown students, packed into the university's Gaston Hall, cheered loudly throughout his lengthy speech, which also touched on how he would address ISIS and a broader foreign policy.
At one point Sanders brought up King's assessment that "'This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor'" as part of a broader strategy aides said was to show his ideas are hardly foreign.
But he was also defensive at times.
"So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, like tomorrow, remember this: I don't believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of this country deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down," Sanders said.
Weaver called it a "very important speech," but would not say it was the most important speech of the campaign. Sanders' goal was to demonstrate "that his agenda is firmly in the mainstream of the Democratic Party prior to the party leadership's movement to the right in the 1990s."
"He really represents the Democratic Party regaining its connection with its roots," Weaver said. "The Democratic electorate has already moved there and Bernie is pulling the institutional party to where the Democratic rank-and-file already is."
I think it's obvious from the speech that Sanders' "socialism" is a hodge podge of quaisi-Marxist class warfare, and extreme liberal bromides that have been pushed since the ascendancy of the New Left in the 1960's. Whatever it is, it ain't socialism. The addition of the word "democratic" is purely political - like a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
What was truly glaring in its omission was any semblance of specifics on how to achieve his dream. Raising taxes and few percentage points on the rich is not going to significantly narrow the gap between rich and poor, and anyone with half a brain knows it. Where Sanders wants to concentrate his efforts is in building a new alphabet soup of federal programs and agencies to transfer wealth to the Middle Class. This makes him no different than any big government liberal out there.
So where's the socialism? Where's the takeover of the banks? The oil companies? Wall Street? Real socialism - democratic or not - would give government control of not only the means of production, but the power to dispense capital. The fact that Sanders goes out of his way to explain that he would do none of these things proves that he is more of a "trendy" socialist than a democratic one.
That doesn't make him any less dangerous to our liberties. But it explains his confusion and hesitancy in trying to justify himself to the voters.