Most Americans should understand that a ‘label’ is an identifier, or more aptly put a word or short phrase that describes someone or something. Republicans are real big on labels, and they have had a fair measure of success improperly labeling “socialism” as any policy or agenda that does not enrich corporations and the wealthy, spend half the budget on the military, or create greater numbers of poverty level Americans. To be fair, America does have one purely ‘socialistic’ program in the Veterans Administration, but other than that one agency, America is the epitome of anti-socialist.
In its basic form, socialism is simply organized society in which all major industries and financial institutions are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and corporations. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont self-describes himself as a ‘democratic socialist,’ but there is not only nothing ‘socialistic’ about his policies, those he does espouse are supported by the majority of Americans that likely rail at the idea they are socialists. It is why he is having a measure of success creating a grass roots movement and may have even more if he did not self-label as a socialist.
The reason Sanders is unlikely to win the nomination for president is because only 31% of Americans “react positively” to the word socialism. However, among 18 to 29-year olds, about half view socialism favorable and only 47% see capitalism as a good thing. Still, even with the ‘socialist’ label, Senator Sanders’ policy positions enjoy a great deal of support among the population and it should not only frighten Republicans, it should, and is, pull Hillary Rodham Clinton farther to the left; the left that twenty years ago was decidedly Centrist. One thing is clear; even as a self-described socialist, Sanders’ views on ‘key political issues’ are more in line with mainstream Americans’ opinions of, expectations for, and demands of government.
Senator Sanders’ concept of tax reform is the reverse of Republicans, and what they say Americans demand, and believes the system overtly favors the rich at the expense of the government and rest of the population. Sanders believes the rich do not pay nearly enough in income taxes and recently supported returning to the 90% tax rates established during Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower administration. Socialist moniker or no, a February poll revealed that 68 percent of voters said wealthy households pay far too little in federal taxes. Voters also agree with Sanders’ policy, and legislation that cracked-down on offshore tax havens for the rich and corporations. Sanders’ bill required corporations to pay the top corporate tax rate on profits they hide offshore. Interestingly, a stunning 85 percent of business owners favor closing all overseas tax loopholes in their entirety and 68 percent of the public agrees that the government should “close any and all tax loopholes for large corporations that ship jobs offshore.”
Americans also closely align with self-described ‘socialist’ Sanders on campaign finance. Senator Sanders rails against Citizens United and has a called for a constitutional amendment that would effectively prevent corporations from making political donations and buying the government; he also support public funding of elections. Although most Americans think corporations should have a very limited right to make political donations, over half say ban all political donations from individuals and private groups and shift to a government-funded system; only 44 percent of voters oppose such a law.
Sanders believes, like many Americans, that “Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.” Many polls reveal that majorities of voters, including Republican voters, demand that Social Security is expanded and a poll last year showed that even Republicans in red states want Medicaid expanded. Most Americans also support expanding nutrition and housing programs. A poll conducted last year showed that even voters in red states want to expand Medicaid. In a January 2015 poll, it found that over 50 percent of likely voters agree with Sanders and support a single-payer healthcare system.
On regulations, a surprising sixty-four percent of Americans agree with Senator Sanders and strongly support regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, factories and cars to reduce global climate change; they also support a federal law requiring utilities to generate more power from low-carbon sources. Americans are not, as Republicans claim, in favor of deregulating banks or abolishing the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. In fact, a substantial majority of Americans agree with Sanders that big banks “are too powerful to be reformed and must be broken up.” A recent survey revealed that 58 percent of voters agree with ‘socialist’ Sanders and support “breaking up big banks.”
It is almost a no-brainer, but over 63 percent of Americans completely agree with Sanders that it is imperative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour “over the next few years.” Americans want the minimum at $15 an hour by 2020. What is surprising, and should worry Koch Republicans in Congress and states, is that Senator Sanders support for legislation guaranteeing that workers can form and join a union is favored by 53 percent of Americans. In fact, that 53 percent actually “supports a new law that would make it easier for labor unions to organize workers.”
It is glaringly obvious that for regardless the reason Senator Sanders self-labels himself as a “democratic socialist,” or whatever negative connotations that label socialist has according to constant harping by Republicans, most Americans support Mr. Sanders’ policies. Of course the truth of the matter is there is nothing, nothing whatsoever, in any of Senator Sanders policies that are remotely ‘socialistic,’ and he may enjoy even greater success if he would just drop the label and be what he, and most Americans really are on social and legislative issues; liberal.
Republicans have for too long enjoyed success by labeling progressives, liberals, secularists, and indeed, Democrats as some kind of anti-American monsters. However, the more people like Senator Sanders, and by force of public opinion Hillary Rodham Clinton, expose their popular policy positions as “good for all Americans” and America, the quicker the Republican label machine will be exposed for what it really is; contrary to the popular will of most American people.