By Michael Fritz
A red tide is rising across America. Not in the Republican vs. Democrat sense of red, but the infamous red of socialism (which, interestingly enough, began during the French Revolution; the red in the Red Flag was used to represent the blood of the workers ruled by the bourgeoisie).
But much like the French Revolution, a new type of class revolt is happening right here on our soil. Longtime political activist and congressional independent, Bernie Sanders, is spearheading one of the most successful socialist movements in the US since Eugene V. Debs (socialist presidential candidate in the early 20th century). “[F]our years [after the Occupy Movement,] protesters say the movement’s unorthodox style of campaigning has laid the groundwork for Sanders’ success, while Occupy’s network of activists are proving a major boon to what was a relatively impoverished campaign,”Adam Gabbat of The Guardian said. In essence, the somewhat jumbled Occupy Movement has morphed itself into a campaign. The same cries for equal wealth distribution still ring, but now from the mouth of Mr. Sanders with the needed addition of actual solutions.
In the polls, Sanders is beating Clinton in the 18-24 year old demographic by a margin of two to one. Many of these millennials seem to be dissatisfied with the Clinton campaign and its promises to continue what Obama has begun. In a recent debate with Senator Sanders, Clinton is quoted as saying “vote for me if you want a third Obama term.” While Obama has decreased the unemployment rate a considerable amount; gun sales have skyrocketed, homeownership dropped, and the national debt has more than doubled.
With Clinton’s poor track record of missing classified emails and indecisive dogma, she’s going to have to offer much more than the status quo if she wants to garner the youth vote. Sanders, on the other hand, wants to flip the political system on its head. His promises of free public college, honest campaigns, and increased opportunity for employment resonate well with indebted and underemployed youth. With youth unemployment and graduate underemployment both at increasingly high levels, it’s clear why the younger generation sees a need for a change.
In Iowa’s caucuses on Feb. 1, Bernie just barely fell short of Clinton’s 23 delegates with a strong 21 in his corner. However, he subsequently swept up in New Hampshire, beating Clinton 15 to 9. With the Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primaries soon approaching, both candidates are gearing up for a rough fight. Though Clinton came in with a large superdelegate advantage in both states, her support has slowed down a good bit since the defeat in New Hampshire. Bernie started far behind Clinton in both New Hampshire and Iowa and believes that he can come back out on top once more.
One thing that scares many voters about the Sanders campaign is his inclusion of the word “socialism.” Due to its negative association with communism, many voters are scared of a fascist regime that would take our fields and feed us soma from spaceships. Democratic socialism is anything but. This ideology functions alongside capitalism, using taxes to fund fundamental services to all citizens. In an article by Robert Page, a professor of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham, he wrote about Revisionist Democratic Socialist Anthony Crosland, saying that he “contended that a more ‘benevolent’ form of capitalism had emerged since the [Second World War] … According to Crosland, it was now possible to achieve greater equality in society without the need for ‘fundamental’ economic transformation.”
In fact, many prominent countries already follow a democratic socialist system and prosper because of it. Almost every Scandinavian country has a social democracy. Denmark has the happiest population per capita; Sweden, Norway, and Finland lie not far behind, according to surveys done by Forbes Magazine. Many European countries such as Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Slovakia and Malta all currently have Democratic Socialist political parties in power. And while Canada’s government is a bit more on the socialist side of democratic socialism, their fortified social security system and world-renowned health care system serve as great models for programs and policies that Bernie himself has in mind. Dissenters will argue that socialism works in European countries due to their smaller size, and that it could never work on America’s scale. To that I say: do you not consult the sturdiness of a smaller model before you begin construction on the building?
As someone who has attended rallies held by both Mr. Sanders and the infamous Donald J. Trump, I fear the worst for this country. Sanders set the record for turnout at rallies early in his campaign, garnering 28,000 in Portland in early July and 27,500 at a Los Angeles rally that I attended later that month. His people are composed of liberals whose patience has worn thin over the income inequality and greediness of Wall Street. Sanders’ policies are radical and likely to be costly (the Wall Street Journal estimates the costs at $18 trillion over 10 years.) Some of Bernie’s policies scare me from an economic standpoint (i.e. paid maternity leave for fathers, a $15 minimum wage, free college, etc.), but many of his more radical ideas will be shot down early by an unavoidably split legislative branch.
But what scares me even more is Trump. After laughing about Trump actually running for a few months over the summer, his head began to inflate and he began to see the presidency as an actual possibility. For some reason, people take his roast style tit-for-tat as actual politics and see him as a legitimate candidate. Cries of “Build that wall!” sent shivers down my back as a few thousand racists swooned their hotheaded candidate at the Sun Dome at USF. After listening to blatant lies and horribly-inflated statistics for an hour or so, I got sick to my stomach and left. When I left the arena, he was still jabbering on about himself and his opponents in a semi-comedic fashion. No actual politics. Outside, I argued with an actual Trump supporter who tried to claim that the term “racism” is not a real word and was invented by Leon Trotsky to quiet the people on his communist policies. These are real people and there are lots of them.
Bernie may not be the country’s ideal candidate, but in the trash heap that is the 2016 candidate pool, he’s the best of the worst.