Jack Ohman

About that ‘socialist’ label for Bernie Sanders

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate and self-declared socialist, is drawing huge crowds and rising in the polls.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate and self-declared socialist, is drawing huge crowds and rising in the polls. The Associated Press

Growing up in Minnesota, I was exposed to a lot of liberal firebrand politicians, the premier example being former Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

Humphrey is not quite forgotten. He nearly became president in 1968 and was hugely influential in the 1950s and 1960s. He was one of the architects of a number of programs we take for granted today, ranging from food stamps to Medicare.

With the surprising surge of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I have noticed one oft-cited fact about him that all the wise guys agree will torpedo any hopes he has of being elected president:

He’s a socialist.

You see, the word “socialist” doesn’t poll well. Granted, Sanders says he’s a democratic socialist, but still, it’s a label that only he wants to wear. Oddly, however, there is another inconvenient fact:

The United States is kind of a socialist nation.

I know the acknowledgment of this would be music to the ears of voters who hate President Barack Obama, but all of those same voters engage in dipping their toes (or their entire bodies) into the socialist pool.

Try this socialism on for size: Social (wow, the actual word) Security, Medicare, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other innumerable federal regulatory bodies that do lots of things to check the economy so it doesn’t go into too-many or too-steep mood swings.

Of course, American socialism wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the corporate socialism this country freely and openly engages in. Democrats and a lot of Republicans call it “crony capitalism,” which seems to be acceptable socialism. You know, government spreading the wealth through direct and indirect subsidies: socialism.

In our political system, socialist candidates have had a rough go of it. Sanders, to my knowledge, is the only person in the history of the United States to be elected to the Senate as an open socialist. Of course, there have been lots of closeted socialists who have held federal office. You know, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and any other post-war Republican who supported Social Security.

Naturally, they would deny it.

Fox News has had a field day with Sanders being a socialist, Obamacare being socialist, and more, but Fox News also operates under the very stringent FCC rules that grant it a socialistic, big government broadcasting license. You know, share the wealth and all that.

Current polling is showing the American people agreeing with the majority of Sanders’ positions. For example, they really like the free college education he proposes, which is a prominent feature of any self-respecting socialist country. I suppose if you told those same voters that was socialist, however, some would probably run back into the loving arms of their ardent free-market saviors, such as the socialist Koch brothers, who love their corporate welfare as much as anyone.

Demonizing 20th century socialists like Eugene V. Debs, Robert LaFollette Sr., Norman Thomas and lots of others like them was a national sport. But now, we’re loving our socialism just as much as they do. We just don’t confess it publicly.

Socialism goes hand-in-hand with fear of Big Brother, too, and yet some of the biggest proponents of truly Big Bro agencies, such as the NSA, are socialists like George W. Bush. Before becoming president, he got $14.5 million for his share of the Texas Rangers when they got a nice socialist tax abatement for the baseball stadium in Arlington.

Socialism and baseball had been berry, berry good to him, I guess.

So the next time someone heatedly tells you that Bernie Sanders is happily selling the country down the river to the socialists, you should ask them to tear up their Social Security check in solidarity.

Solidarity forever. Right?