Despite being Hillary Clinton’s friend of 50 years and former Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton, Robert Reich is a big supporter of Bernie Sanders. In the video above, he counters half a dozen arguments made by Sanders skeptics.
I think Reich is wrong on two points. First, it’s rarely valid to put faith in any political poll more than six months before the election, yet Reich quotes surveys that say Sanders would do better against Trump or Cruz than Clinton would. There’s too much that will change over the course of this year and too many political attack ads trying to sway public opinion, to be certain that the current poll numbers will hold. They may, they may not. After all, if Sanders believed that premature poll data were valid, he never would have run in the first place, because he was supposedly too far behind Clinton to have a chance — and yet he’s still around.
Secondly, Reich downplays the power of the word “socialist” by rightly pointing out that medicare, social security, public parks and schools, and lots of other things that are popular with Americans are actually “socialist” in nature. In fact, America’s favorite sport, the NFL, should be considered “socialist” because it spreads its wealth (from TV rights) among its 32 teams evenly, so that a franchise in a little town named Green Bay gets the same amount a franchise in a big city like Chicago gets.
Unfortunately, the public is not attuned to “socialist” in those terms. To most Americans, “socialism” was what was practiced in the big bad Soviet Union, or Castro’s Cuba, or any other place that was once considered evil. Most people think that “socialist” is exactly the same as “communist,” a word that still carries strong negative connotations — even though we all love those smartphones we’re walking around which were made in a “communist” country called China.
Sanders refers to himself as a “democratic socialist,” a reference to the economic system popular in many European countries that the US could learn a thing or two from. But that nuance has been (and will continue to be) lost on voters in this nation. And if Sanders becomes the Democrat nominee, every negative connotation of “socialist” will be pounded over and over again by the Republican attack machine.
None of this takes away from Sanders’ enormous appeal. As someone more politically in tune with him than any of the others, I’m thrilled to see that a candidate who says what Sanders says has come this far and gotten the attention that he has. It’s refreshing to see a believable, passionate man who (let’s be honest) was until last year basically an asterisk in the Senate, finally getting a national stage to take on the plutocrats and corrupt power brokers. It’s even more rewarding to see his ideas resonating with millions of Americans, and to see him succeed without taking PAC money.
However, I’m a realist, and in a world where super delegates decide nominees, I think it’s only a matter of time before we Feel The Bern Out. My hope is that there are others who share Sanders’ views who can pick up the ball and run with it in future elections, at every level, and keep alive the flame of popular revolt that he has ignited. And I hope he stays around long enough to continue inspiring people.