By Theodore Shoebat
Bernie Sanders just won Nevada, which means he is leading the Democratic primaries, beating Warren, Biden, Bloomberg and Buttigieg. The one who calls himself a socialist is now leading in the race to see who will face Donald Trump in the 2020 election. People are voting for Sanders for a similar reason as to why people voted for Trump: its something different. To quote one Nevada voter, Christian Nielsen, the country needs a “major change in the White House.” Just as Trump voters saw their candidate as someone who was going to protect American workers from industrialist reliance on foreign labor, Bernie fans see their guy as someone who will help the American worker from elites and corporatists.
There is an intense phenomena taking place, it is a rejection of what is customary and established for something ‘new’ and novel. For decades the term “socialist” has been taboo, thanks in large part to the Cold War. But, today, we have a candidate who openly uses the term socialist when describing his political position, and he is beating establishment Democrats. The aversion to the word socialism (or any association with the term) was reflected in Biden’s recent statement:
“I ain’t a socialist. I’m not a plutocrat. I’m a Democrat”
When Sanders called Democrat consultant James Carville “a political hack,” Carville replied: “At least I’m not a Communist.” Democrat candidate Pete Butigieg even remarked on the divisive nature of Sanders:
“Senator Sanders believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans.”
Sanders is doing an efficient job at fragmenting the Democrats, between the establishment and those who want ‘something different.’ Now, the argument has been made (such as by Paul Krugman) that Sanders isn’t a true socialist but is really just a Social Democrat in the European sense. But, this doesn’t really matter as far as optics go. The perception of him as a socialist is already out, which is dangerous because this means that “Socialism” and “Socialist” are quickly becoming no longer bad words and are transitioning into the frame of the Overton Window wherein everything is acceptable speech.
Bernie’s popularity puts the ‘S’ word on an incremental path towards popular acceptance. Bernie may have the least extreme position in applying socialism, but this does not stop socialist ideologues will totally succeed, but that they are going from a moderate place to one of more intense fanaticism. I am not arguing that the US is going to become Communist or Soviet, but that the process of the word socialism leaving the fetters has begun and that in the future its not going to be such a verboten term. The opportunity for more fanatic Left-wingers has been given for them to intensify their position and give themselves a feeling of empowerment. This does not mean that they will fully succeed, but that they will have a feeling that they can actually fulfill their fantasy of socialist utopia.
No matter who is the candidate for the Democrats, Trump will most likely be the winner since his base still accepts him (or loves him, depending on who you talk to) and since 4 years is not really a long enough time to rule, his base will want to see him continue his presidency to see if he can fulfill his promises (especially of “the wall”). But if it is a Bernie VS Trump scenario, there are several things we can expect. Firstly, it would be a perfect situation for Trump as far as perception goes. It will be marketed as the patriotic, nationalist outsider versus the socialist who wants to make American into a Communist country. Trump has called Sanders a Communist: “I think he’s a communist. I mean, you know, look, I think of communism when I think of Bernie”. And Sanders will be getting confronted on his past statements regarding Communism and Communist regimes. While his acolytes will defend him by arguing that he is not a Communist but a “Democratic Socialist,” Bernie will be confronted on his past remark in 1972 in which he said: “I don’t mind people coming up and calling me a Communist”.
Sanders is either going to ignore or come up with a way to explain away the fact that in the 1980s he collaborated with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a Communist group full of followers of Leon Trotsky, and that he endorsed the SWP’s presidential nominee in 1980 and 1984, and in addition to this, Sanders spoke at SWP campaign events and in 1980 was amongst its would-be presidential electors. Sanders will be confronted on the fact that he said positive things about Communist regimes. For example, recounting his time in Communist Russia, Sanders remarked that people there “seem reasonably happy and content.” He was “extremely impressed by their public transportation system…[the] cleanest, most effective mass transit system I’ve ever seen in my life!”
There is going to be a lot more attention on videos like these if Sanders becomes the Democratic candidate:
If Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, then Communism and socialism are going to become central points of contention, with Bernie fanatics arguing that Bernie is not a Communist but a “Democratic Socialist” and that Conservatives don’t understand what these terms mean, and with Trump acolytes arguing that Sanders is a Communist, cultural marxist or an evil socialist (or all of the above). Videos like this will become more common and intense:
Secondly, if Bernie becomes the candidate, the Left of the US will get more emboldened because they will see it as their chance to have a ‘real Progressive’ defeat ‘a fascist.’ If Bernie loses (and he most likely will), it will still embolden the Left wing because they will see it as a moment in which they almost won and they will reason that the next four years of Trump will be a duration for a battleground to inundate the internet with propaganda against Republicans and in favor of Progressive policies; it will be a time in which Left-wing ideologues will become more intense and fanatic, fueled by the thought of being almost successful.
But, what no one is pointing to when it comes to Bernie Vs. Trump is the reality of the strategy of tension. If the Left in America becomes more emboldened, the only inevitable result will be the radicalization of the Right. We have been seeing this in Europe in which liberal and centrist support for taking in refugees from the Middle East and Africa resulted in the overnight widespread support for Right-wing politicians such Geert Wilders who didn’t have a seat in the Dutch parliament until fears over immigration got amplified. Hysteria over immigration in the US, likewise, got Trump elected with people adoring his words describing Mexican immigrants and criminals and rapists. With the further polarization of the country comes tension, and with tension comes the intensification of both poles of political power. It is a metapolitical battle over not just votes, but over influence and the emotions of the country. This phenomena has become ever present in the West, and this could implode into something dangerous and destructive, if not in the US then in Europe where political history is a lot darker (with National and International Socialisms and all of the bloodshed that resulted in the clash between these two ideologies). Nonetheless, the Bernie rage is a reflection of the anti-establishment phenomena that is being seen throughout the world. But since political victories cannot be made without big finance, are these voters really helping the ‘anti-establishment’ or are they really helping in the transitioning into a new zeitgeist which is being backed by the very establishment they claim to be against?