The Democratic Party and the US media are facing a new challenge: the rise of an avowed Social Democrat to first place in the competition for Democratic candidate in this year’s presidential election. In 2016, the media were convinced that Donald Trump couldn’t be elected: they have been ‘eating crow’ ever since. This time around, the Democratic Party (supposedly the party of the working class) didn’t believe that the 77 year old democratic socialist that Hillary sidelined last time around could actually rise to the top in its primary elections. Just to make sure he didn’t become the candidate, it rewrote the rules to make room for last-minute candidate, the billionaire former Mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, in the debates, having refused to bend them for candidates ‘of color’ such as Julian Castro and Cory Booker.
Although Bloomberg did poorly in his first confrontation with the other candidates, in chorus, the media warned that were Bernie Sanders permitted to pursue his lead all the way to the nomination, Trump would be re-elected! Never mind that many of Trump’s voters came from Bernie’s ranks, after he was pushed out by Hillary Clinton’s dirty tricks. Never have I witnessed such a shocking display of politically-dictated ‘news’: almost a century after FDR’s New Deal, the Democratic Party still cannot allow a left-leaning candidate to become president, and this is why the United States, alone among developed nations does not recognize the basic human right to health care.
In desperation, the Democratic Party got a pollster to list all of Sanders’ negatives: socialist, seventy-seven years old, recent heart attack, eliciting predictably negative answers from potential voters to each of these characteristics. This didn’t stopped Bernie from being ten points ahead of his nearest competitor closing in on the California primary, which has the largest number of delegates in the nominating convention.
This is nothing new: Barack Obama — the nominal head of the party until another Democrat becomes president — is backing the former Republican and his billions over his former VP, Joe Biden, apparently also approving the idea of Hillary Clinton becoming his running mate!
As for Bernie, his followers doubled down after he was cheated out of the nomination in 2016, but there is also a growing interest in socialism, especially among the young. This was demonstrated by the recent election to the House of Representatives, of four ‘minority’ women, including three Muslims, under the leadership of the charismatic Hispanic, Alexandria Ocasio Cortes. Aside from the short-lived ‘Progressive’ era that brought Franklin Roosevelt to the White House in the midst of the great depression of the early thirties, Socialists had been barred from the airwaves, with socialist literature confined to obscure presses, until very recently.
Still not accepting FDR’s commitment to social democracy after almost a century, the Democratic Party clearly instructed morning after pundits to claim that voting for Bernie would put Trump back in the White House, quoting the BBC’s Katty Kaye saying that ‘Americans are defined by their work, whereas Europeans are eager to call it quits’ the minute the clock strikes.’
But whether they refer to Bernie’s philosophy as ‘Democratic Socialism’ or ‘Social Democracy’, journalists haven’t a clue as to what distinguishes both from straight-up ‘Socialism’, in which workers actually own the ‘means of production’. Social democrats, accept the need for government to protect ordinary citizens from capitalism’s excesses, and that is what the plans of Elizabeth Warren, who refers to herself as ‘capitalist to the core’, are designed to do.
Ideologies and the theories behind them were long ago replaced in the United States by the principle that “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, a foundational American principle that individuals are expected to stand on their own two feet, like the pioneers. Thanks to the paucity of information about the rest of the world, only recently has the younger generation become aware that some form of socialism is ubiquitous — including in post-communist China and Russia. (China touts ‘capitalism with Chinese characteristics’ while President Putin’s recent government overhaul is intended to further improve the lives of ordinary Russians, who lost a lot of ground under his American-backed predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.)
As Bernie surges in the latest primary voting, the media is frantic. We have to hope his voters will continue to realize that the wealthiest country in the world CAN afford to provide free health care to all, if it ceases to wage wars of choice. Alas, the announcement by the intelligence community that Russia is supporting both Bernie and Trump is being treated with righteous indignation: not a single journalist has pointed out that it is based on the fact that both candidates, while polar opposites in every other way, oppose attacking that country.
Deena Stryker is a US-born international expert, author and journalist that lived in Eastern and Western Europe and has been writing about the big picture for 50 years. Over the years she penned a number of books, including Russia’s Americans. Her essays can also be found at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.