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July 21st, 2017

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Is Socialism Here To Stay In 2016, Or Is Bernie Sanders Just Another Howard Dean?

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published Sept.17, 2015

From September 1972 to March 1973 - the same time Hillary Clinton was attending Yale Law and the only servers she knew were the ones ladling out grub at the school cafeteria - CBS ran a situation comedy called Bridget Loves Bernie.

The show was controversial as it involved a wealthy Irish girl settling down with a Jewish cab driver. And it was short-lived - yanked from network's powerhouse Saturday night lineup after only 24 episodes, despite solid ratings.

As we're now under five months to the Iowa caucuses, the question is: does America love Bernie? As in: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who last week inched ahead of Mrs. Clinton in one Iowa poll while also enjoying a lead in New Hampshire.

This raises two questions:

1)  Has either of the major parties ever nominated someone who wasn't a credentialed member of said party (Sanders being a "Democratic socialist")?

2)  Should we interpret Sanders' surge as an indication that Americans are comfortable with the notion of socialism?

About that latter point: here's a story from Voice of America suggesting that socialism is more acceptable that one might think. It builds on a Gallup Poll from earlier this year which found that 69% of respondents ages 18-29 were ok with the ida of voting for a socialist presidential candidate.

And there's this Politico article which explains Sanders as an ideological heir to Eugene Debs, the oft-time Socialist candidate of a century ago - albeit, with a realpolitik twist: "Sanders is running as a Democrat because he understands that his hopes lie not in creating an alternative to the Democratic Party, but rather in getting the party's leaders, including likely nominee Hillary Clinton, to embrace the left-liberal policies he favors. It's significant, too, that rather than offering grand plans to nationalize private industries or impose confiscatory taxes, Sanders is pushing what are essentially liberal policies like breaking up big banks, funding infrastructure and taxing financial transactions. After years of Republicans complaining about Barack Obama being a "socialist," Sanders is making clear just how moderate the incumbent administration is."

There's another way to view Bernie Sanders and it's a one-word description. A four-letter word, actually: D-e-a-n.

Before Sanders disrupted this year's Democratic contest, there was 2003 and the summer of Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont.

Like Sanders, Dean was a novelty act (arguably the first presidential candidate to harness the Internet. And, like Sanders, Dean had the luxury of running as a fiery liberal counter to the milquetoast alternative that was John Kerry.

Now the big question: does Sanders have the legs and stamina that Dean didn't (Dean dropping out of the 2004 race after crashing and burning in Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin).

The Vermont senator's campaign shows signs of being more than a summer fling - it's hiring staff, figuring a delegate strategy and developing a volunteer corps (cue the Eugene McCarthy parallels).

And he's received some kind words (sort of) from Dean: "People like Bernie are always attractive, as I was. They speak truth to power. The problem with candidates like that - and like me - is that as you get closer to election time, you're more careful about how your vote's going to be used. You're going to tend to want to see somebody who you thinks looks presidential as the nominee of your party. That's one of the things that sank me. I know that as an insurrectionist, I wasn't going to get elected by my party to be the nominee. I just had a lot of trouble turning a corner from being an insurrectionist to being somebody who people could see as president."

In other words, Bernie the Socialist is pretty much the same flawed, enjoy-him-while-you-can guy as . . . Donald the Capitalist?


Well, not exactly.

Sanders' effort is policy-rich; Trump's diet is policy-lite, other than illegal immigration. If there were such a thing as a national primary and it were held next week, Trump likely would prevail on the GOP side. Sanders, on the other hand, likely would lose to Clinton.

But one thing Sanders can boast: the support of the actor who plays 007 (it's a messy story about an actor writing a check to what he thought was a super PAC supporting Sanders, but isn't as advertised - in the nefarious world of campaign finance, even Bond can get conned). It puts Daniel Craig on the same team with Danny DeVito, Mia Farrow, Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon - a better cast than Weekend At Bernie's.

Shall we call the Democratic race "shaken, not stirred"?

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Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he studies and writes on current events and political trends. In citing Whalen as one of its "top-ten" political reporters, The 1992 Media Guide said of his work: “The New York Times could trade six of its political writers for Whalen and still get a bargain.” During those years, Whalen also appeared frequently on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and CNBC.

Reprinted from Forbes.com

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