Bernie Sanders is far to the left of European socialists

There’s a fascinating article in the latest New Yorker about Bernie Sanders’ personal brand of socialism, and how Sanders is basically to the left of “socialist” parties in the very Scandinavian countries he claims to emulate.

The main point, which is something I’ve been saying for a while, is that Sanders is an “old socialist.” And that’s not referring to his age, it’s referring to an era.

In the old days, socialists of the European and the American variety were much more politically extreme (further to the left than they are now), and they also tended not to be terribly pro-American (or at the very least, they had a certain sympathy for the Soviet Union, and other rather nasty communist states).

That’s not today’s European socialism, whose members don’t even really call themselves socialists anymore — they call themselves “social democrats.” Sound familiar? It almost sounds like what Bernie Sanders calls himself, a “democratic socialist.” And while the two phrases sound alike, there’s a yuge difference between the two. The latter, the one Sanders uses, is much more extreme, and it harkens to a bygone era of far left European socialism that has basically been debunked and rebuked both politically and economically.

Old socialists called for revolutions. New social democrats most certainly do not. They believe in pragmatism and compromise — that’s the Nordic way, according to my Social Democrat friends in Sweden. Bernie Sanders, who was recently rated the most partisan member of the US Senate (he even beat Ted Cruz), is another animal entirely. According to my Swedish friends, if you call yourself a socialist (or democratic socialist) and call for “revolution,” that puts you to the left of even the former Swedish communist party.

Set to set sail in 2019, and backed by £200m of government funding, the polar research ship will be built at the world-famous Cammell Laird shipyard on Merseyside.

The UK’s new polar research ship, which might just be named “Boaty McBoatface,” if the masses have their way.

Which brings us to Boaty McBoatface. You might have heard that the British government recently held an online contest to name a new research boat. The winning entry? “Boaty McBoatface.” That’s what can happen when you let the raw will of the masses influence policy, you can crowdsource crazy.

I remember years back when someone finally explained to me that America isn’t a true “democracy.” We are in fact a “republic.” American voters don’t get to decide every policy, they don’t get to vote on every law. Instead, the voters choose elected officials who then implement the will of the people tempered by, or at least influenced by, the elected’s own knowledge and experience.

Part of the reason for choosing a republic over a pure democracy is that people can be kind of nutty sometimes when you get them all together in one room. The heated will of the masses isn’t necessarily the best way to make policy. It’s the reason, in fact, the US House and Senate were set up the way they were. The late Senator Robert Byrd used to give a famous speech about how the House was the coffee cup and the Senate was the saucer in which the hot coffee was poured and permitted to cool before drinking. The idea being that the popular and populist will of the majority can be an important part of governance, but it’s also a dangerous part that needs to be kept in check, and tempered by cooler minds.

Here’s a bit of classic Byrd:

The Framers recognized that a minority can be right and that a majority can be wrong. They recognized that the Senate should be a true deliberative body—a forum in which to slow the passions of the House, hold them up to the light, examine them, and, thru informed debate, educate the public. The Senate is the proverbial saucer intended to cool the cup of coffee from the House.

Which brings us to New York’s Democratic electoral rules. Many have complained that under the rules, if you wanted to vote in yesterday’s Democratic primary, you were required to change their party registration to “Democrat” last October. That’s unfair, the masses cried! But is it, really? My populist gut wants to let everyone vote in the Democratic primary, and may be the best man or woman win. But then I think about it. I’m not sure I want someone elected president who was so relatively unknown six months ago that even his most ardent supporters today didn’t bother changing their party registration in order to vote for him. I want a little bit longer to cool my coffee, lest we elect Boaty McBoatface, or Donald Trump, to the highest office in the land.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • ECarpenter

    Another faux-progressive warning of the danger of the “raw will of the masses”.

    Mr Aravosis is correct that a lot of Europeans have moved to the right in the last few decades. That doesn’t make them admirable or progressive.

    It sounds quaint and old-fashioned to say that the government should govern for the benefit of the people as a whole, not for the rich and not for corporations – but there are, apparently, lots of quaint and old fashioned Americans who want candidates who work for the common good rather than against the interests of working Americans.

  • John Richard Clinton Maenpaa
  • xscd ✱

    Well, yes, there is a rebuttal (of sorts) to Robin Alperstein’s “On Becoming Anti-Bernie” at RawStory.com, which you quoted–

    http://www.rawstory.com/2016/04/surprise-author-of-viral-becoming-anti-bernie-piece-is-corporate-lawyer-who-defends-hedge-funds/comments/

    –But people have also voiced some objections to and concerns about the substance and arguments of that article as well (many of which appear in the comments to that article at its webpage). There are plenty of points that could be highlighted on both sides I guess.

    I was personally impressed with Bernie Sanders, I like him (just from what I have seen in his exposure to the media), and I’m glad he opened up the political and social discussion to a greater amount of territory on the left and has more or less defused the negative connotations of the word socialism in public discourse.

    I plan to vote for Hillary in my state’s primary in June, but I will happily vote for either Bernie or Hillary in the general election.

  • Tony

    “Let’s start with one of her bald-faced lies. Alperstein writes that Sanders, “literally pushed his wife away from a lectern (‘don’t stand there!’) on the air.” Actually, Bernie gestured. He never touched her. And there is video. So Alperstein either didn’t watch it (is “lazy and unprepared,” which are literally the words she uses to describe Sanders) or she’s a liar.

    Also, as a Clinton supporter, does Alperstein really want to make this election about the relationship between the candidate and his or her spouse. By all means, as a Bernie supporter, I’d be happy to.

    But the piece is generally chock full of distortions and myths that persist despite lack of evidence: Sanders hasn’t accomplished anything (which is weird because he has and his nickname is the Amendment King); he never compromises (which is even weirder since Alperstein points to examples of compromise in the same piece); has no foreign policy experience (he has more foreign policy experience than Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama did when they ran for first election, was right on Iraq. And Clinton was wrong on Iraq, but to be fair, her being wrong shouldn’t be limited to that one incident. She’s also been wrong on Libya, Haiti and Honduras, where she legitimized a coup that has rendered the country the “murder capital of the world.”)”

    http://www.rawstory.com/2016/04/surprise-author-of-viral-becoming-anti-bernie-piece-is-corporate-lawyer-who-defends-hedge-funds/

  • Tony

    Those are things that we have. In Finland, he would be centre-right. Same in the rest of the nordic countries. In Germany and France he’d probabaly be around centre. In Greece, Russia and Turkey he’d be left.

  • angryspittle

    Are you kidding? Bernie is advocating free college, universal healthcare like medicare for all, and other what I might consider rather moderate socialist measures. He may seem pretty radical to you because his proposals challenge the status quo which is pretty much in stone.

  • Demosthenes

    Why not keep giving money to “Bernie”. It’s your right to do so. It’s my right to say you are throwing it down a rathole.

  • All the way to the convention and I will continue to donate each week.

  • Demosthenes

    Yes, the polls were wrong on Michigan, but have been otherwise excellent. I guess it really doesn’t matter much, since after next week, Sen. Sanders will be effectively eliminated. He has a right to continue campaigning and seeking money from suckers wishing to flush their cash down the toilet.

  • Oh yeah Nate – he’s perfect. Did great with that MI forecast. 99% chance….

  • xscd ✱
  • Demosthenes

    “Would love to have access to your crystal ball.”

    Go read fivethirtyeight.com

  • Phil in FLL

    Bernie would be preferable to Hillary. On that much, you and I agree.

  • Really? Neither she nor Obama did in 08 and they had to use SDs. It’s uncommon for anyone to get the required number of votes unless they are uncontested. Would love to have access to your crystal ball.

  • Demosthenes

    Ms. Clinton will clinch the nomination with elected delegates well prior to the convention. It is a certainty.

  • No he won’t. Neither will get enough delegates and it will rely on SDs. Then HRC will likely get them, but why shouldn’t he contest? People want him to, and he’s the only voice of reason, that is not entirely corrupted and purchased.

  • Demosthenes

    Mr. Sanders will be mathematically eliminated prior to the convention.

  • No and he shouldn’t – take it to the convention. Let the people voice their opinions and let them fight. No one will get enough delegates the way we’re going.

  • Incremental progress is something that would be achieved no matter what and is code for “I want more money and to play both sides of the fence.” Having liberals push harder is the whole point – we have too have two opposing sides – neoliberalism is just a way of trying to say you’re a liberal when you’re really a centrist. Look how good neoliberalism is workin now? Congress got nothing done this year so far – you think that’s because we are trying to comprimise? No it’s because they know we’ll give in and wont’ fight for comprimise.

  • Carolrsalazar1

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  • Webster

    (1) Bernie is even stronger on issues 1-4 as you present them, and you’d know that if you brushed the Hillary-dust out of your eyes.

    (2) Clearly this is no longer a “progressive” blog if it’s willing to settle for Hillary’s center-right and dangerous weltaungschauung, which may, at best, march in place maintaining a rather sorry status quo, rather than move forward with the future of America foremost in its mind, and

    (3) I have never said anywhere, on this site or on any other, that I would not vote for Hillary if that’s the disappointing decision of the Democratic Party. The difference between you and I on the matter is that I will not be happy being forced into that odious choice.

    The body politic is in need of life-saving surgery, which I would trust Bernie to perform — not, as Hillary would do, give it a kiss on the boo-boo and a band-aid.

  • ComradeRutherford

    “Bernie Sanders is far to the left of European socialists”

    Good! What I disliked about Obama in his first term was how he’d “pre-cave” to the far right and wind up losing ground and having to settle even farther to their side. Why would you pre-cave and then lose so much ground that the adversary gets everything and you get nearly nothing?

    Everyone knows that you ask for *more* than you want and during negotiations, graciously give ground until the adversary settles right where you wanted to be. That’s why I’m pleased with Bernie. Instead of another moderate Republican, pre-caving “Democrat”, we have someone that actually want to try to *do* something. By reaching far, he might get something done, unlike Hillary who because of pre-caving and obstructionism, won’t achieve much.

  • Phil in FLL

    As I have said in many, many comments, I would be happy to vote for Bernie if he wins the nomination. Unless the sentiment among Democratic primary voters on the East Coast and California changes dramatically, Bernie will not win the nomination. Your complaint is really not with John Aravosis or the commenters on this blog, but rather with the millions of primary voters who disagreed with you. If you prefer not to cast a vote in November, fine. But trying to convince readers on progressive blogs that Hillary has proposed anything like what Trump and Sanders have is so counterintuitive that most people will conclude that you’re misrepresenting yourself. And why shouldn’t people come to that conclusion? Consider:

    (1) A no-fly zone in Syria to reduce civilian casualties vs. “carpet bombing” everyone and anyone in ISIS-controlled territory.
    (2) The Supreme Court justices appointed by Bill Clinton and Obama who voted against Citizens United vs. the Republican-appointed justices who voted for it.
    (3) Even if you don’t care about the Trump/Cruz threat to make abortion illegal (preferably incarcerating women who have them), perhaps someone in your extended family cares about it.
    (4) Even if you don’t care about marriage equality, perhaps someone in your extended family cares about it.

    So who looks like a jerk now? And why shouldn’t people come to the conclusion that you’re misrepresenting yourself?

  • Have the parties pay for these closed primaries I say – don’t make us subsidize them if they aren’t for everyone. If you want them closed use the DNC or RNC funds or get lost.

  • Or Brown Nose blog – someone is vying for a role in the WH or back in DC once this cushy 1% job is up in NYC!!! Who could it be?

  • Thanks – it’s too funny. I was over at a liberal blog that was making fun of this post and I got grabbed back in. If nothing else, John’s entertainment. It’s fun to watch people lose it.

  • Webster

    Did you go to a special school to learn how to be a jerk, or were you just born that way? I happen to be a genuine life-long Democrat — but in the FDR mold, not in the Republican in a pantsuit mold, i.e. those who would bar-be-cue their dear old grandmama for raw power and sufficient freighters full of corporate cash.

    Go ahead and vote for Hillary, and should she win the nomination and the Presidency, I will guarantee that you will look back one day and say to yourself, “What was I thinking?”

    I guarantee that…

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Welcome back.

  • phein39

    If Senator Sanders is an Old Socialist, he’s in good company: The Founding Fathers were Old Socialists. They feared and despised concentrations of wealth. Many of the Founders supported laws to break up estates, or tax them out of existence, in order to avoid what they saw (or had experienced) in England.

    In America today, that would translate into an extremely progressive set of tax rates — think Eisenhower — coupled with an estate tax aimed at retiring the national debt.

  • Phil in FLL

    Cheer up, Webster, and don’t let the Democrats get to you. It’ll all work out this November when Jill Stein or Chelsea Manning get enough electoral votes to win the presidency. Keep in mind that Jill Stein and Chelsea Manning have the advantage of much lower unfavorable ratings than Donald Trump.

  • John loves to red bait; he still thinks it’s the 1980s when he was a Republican.

  • More socialist than John’s trips to France to get reasonable health care every year?

  • Phil in FLL

    From BP’s comment below:

    Democrat/Dixiecrat/Republicans have a perfect right to be right wing and support candidates who promote wars, racism and union busting, but just as they did in 2010, when 27 million of Obamas 2008 voters deserted them, they’ll pay the price and the left will benefit.

    Now let’s parse the conclusion, shall we? “…but just as they did in 2010…they’ll pay the price and the left will benefit.” Oh, really? Did “the left” benefit really in 2010? I don’t think so. I think the right-wing Tea Party folks benefited in 2010, and everyone else thinks so too. And now, a shout-out to all the commenters on this thread who loved the results in 2010 because “the left” benefited. Did you faux-leftist folks find it amusing when the Tea Party Congress restricted reproductive choice, slashed benefits for the poor, fought any expansion of access to medical insurance, killed civil rights bills, etc? In 2010, as I recall, these comment pages were crawling with “leftists” who just couldn’t contain their glee, and something tells me that they’re going to wind up with egg on their face this November. ;)

  • Bill_Perdue

    Democrat/Dixiecrat/Republicans have a perfect right to be right wing and support candidates who promote wars, racism and union busting, but just as they did in 2010, when 27 million of Obamas 2008 voters deserted them, they’ll pay the price and the left will benefit.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Let us know when you people get around to passing ENDA, reinstating Glass Steagal, promoting socialized medicine and ending your relentless march to war.

    Your party supports fracking and offshore drilling. You’re one of the two parties that promote pollution and climate change.

    The supremes struck DOMA down, based on the pressure of the LGBTQ communities. Democrats had little to do with it.

  • Badgerite

    So, it is then possible to change one’s mind politically especially when jettisons opinions of youth that one may have inherited from their parents.
    My point exactly. HRC came from a middle class family in Illinois with Republican sympathies that were common back in the day in the middle class. The idea that she cannot now be a liberal because of that is preposterous.

  • Badgerite

    ;-)

  • Badgerite

    I check out Daily Kos regularly and you certainly must not because the number of pro Bernie articles there are rather high. I would hardly call the nation’s premier Kosack “in the tank” for Hilary.
    That is basically your criticism of anyone who asks you for detailed and specific response or who does not subscribe to “The Bern”.
    “Shill”. “In the tank”. Phrases like that always pop up from the Bernie Bros.
    Which makes me wonder if they are really that or something else.

  • beergoggles

    It’s silly to say Dems are the same as Reps when they clearly aren’t. The distinction, I think, is are they different enough. In my case where I just want violence and bombs against brown people to stop, stronger unions, environmental protections and manufacturing protectionism, that isn’t the case. But for people who want incremental progress on lgbt rights and neoliberalism, there is a distinct difference between Democrats and Republicans.

  • Webster

    So that’s why Daily Kos is in the tank for Hillary as well. Seems you can push former Republicans toward being progressive only so far before they return to type. Just can’t seem to shake their love for pro-corporate-money, pro-war authoritarian leaders. Shame, really…

  • Rainbird

    This has been a paid political announcement by the Hillary Clinton for President campaign.

  • Phil in FLL

    True. The distinction is whether those who supported Reagan 30 years ago consider Reagan a saint today. Many don’t. Obviously, the founder of Daily Kos is one of those who don’t.

  • Badgerite

    You say potato, I say tomato.

  • Phil in FLL

    Says you, who have supported the Republican ticket going at least as far back as 2011. People do remember previous comments.

  • Dan Hendricks

    Actually before NY Bernie was leading in closed primary wins 8 to 7. Now they are even. There isn’t a conspiracy here. One real problem was the drive to get Democrats to switch to Working Families in 2014 so that party could maintain the required registration level, which is great but people weren’t reminded to switch back for the primary. Bernie should have been honest with those huge crowds

  • Markos Moulitsas. Actually, Moulitsas Zúniga. ;-)

  • goulo

    > In the old days, socialists of the European and the American variety
    were much more politically extreme (further to the left than they
    are now), and they also tended not to be terribly pro-American (or at
    the very least, they had a certain sympathy for the Soviet Union, and
    other rather nasty communist states).

    Seriously?

    This seems an extremely ham-fisted way of transparently insinuating that Sanders is some kind of anti-American secret fan of the totalitarian oppressive Soviet Union… while you maintain a dubious “plausible deniability” that you didn’t DIRECTLY say it. “Hey, I’m not saying that Sanders is a nasty totalitarian Stalinist plotting to destroy US democracy, BUT he IS an ‘old socialist’, after all…”

    Sounds a lot like the old innuendoes about Obama: “I’m not saying that Obama is not a Christian, but you gotta wonder about him going to a Muslim school as a kid…” and the like.

  • Reagan was a mistake a lot of people made back then.

  • Badgerite

    Marcos Malitos, the founder of Daily Kos, was a Reaganite.

  • Max_1

    New York Comptroller To Audit Board Of Elections After Voting Troubles Reported
    https://www.buzzfeed.com/maryanngeorgantopoulos/new-york-comptroller-to-audit-board-of-elections-after-votin#.repBjWV9KP

  • Max_1

    When Hillary passes the TPP… Wall Street will thank her.

  • Max_1

    Oops… ‘another’ closed primary State won by Hillary whose election board is under investigation.
    Not saying ‘conspiracy’… But can Hillary win a major closed primary without issues arising?

  • nicho

    So, do we have an official date for the name change from AmericaBlog to HillaryBlog?

  • hiker_sf

    I don’t think he will. He will follow Clinton’s path in 2008, without being a calculating pig about it, as she was:

    Hillary Clinton was forced on the defensive today after citing the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy as a justification to keep campaigning for president against Barack Obama.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/may/23/hillaryclinton.barackobama

  • Butch1

    Nice to see him trying to pull this party to the left once again. It has drifted hopelessly too far to the right to even resemble what the Democratic Party used to be back in the 1950s and 1960s. Bernie Sanders is a Liberal, period. I suppose to others he may look like someone on the “extreme left” because we’ve become so used to seeing this Party being represented by people such as Obama, and others who profess to be Progressive Democrats when they are nothing more than Centrists or Moderate Republicans. (DINOS) We have too many in the party as is, with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and I think Hillary Clinton. She is proud to be a Goldwater girl and I don’t think her core values have really changed that much from when she said that. Her statements change with the wind and will they change back from her liberal stands now to what they were a few years ago once she secures the nomination?

  • Bill_Perdue

    Democrats are just as bad as Republicans.

  • Phil in FLL

    Getting on progressive blogs and asking readers not to vote in November is a transparent ploy to support the Republican ticket. You’re clearly stating your intentions by “liking” BP’s ongoing requests for progressive voters to avoid voting and thereby aid the Republican ticket. I’m sure you will begin to explicitly parrot BP’s opinions any day now. Why not be evenhanded about it and go to conservative websites and suggest that Ted Cruz supporters skip the November election if Trump is the candidate—or vice versa? No, I don’t think you’d consider that. It would endanger Republican victory. So when do you start your screeds about why Americablog readers shouldn’t vote in November? 5… 4… 3… 2… Pffft.

  • Well, couple of remarks: First, the ‘Boaty McBoatface’ thing is likely to be overruled by the naming committee simply because they can. Simply having an online naming contest doesn’t mean one has to be bound by the results — and I’ve seen it happen more than a few times in lots of different contexts.

    Secondly, I’ve noticed frequently how those who manage to climb to a position of power wherein they have the means to override the will of the people will very often become patronizing and paternalistic. “We know better” becomes the excuse to ignore what the people actually want. Byrd was exactly like that.

    As for the primaries, don’t fall into the trap of thinking they’re the same thing as the general election. What’s been happening now is exactly why states bother to have people register for a party or none: Registration means you are self-selecting to join the club. Membership in the club gives a particular privilege, namely a voice (usually) in deciding whom that party will select as its nominees for various public offices.

    What’s not fair? Open primaries, when you as a registered Democrat can fuck with the GOP’s choice, or vice versa, when you have zero intentions of voting for their nominee in the general. Less unfair but still unfair nonetheless are caucuses when less than 0.7% of registered Democrats decided who Washington state’s pledged delegates would support at the convention. Super delegates are kind of unfair, too, although usually they’re ‘super’ by virtue of the fact they won previous elections. Definitely unfair and undemocratic are the few states and territories where delegates are chosen by party insiders entirely, with no input from the electorate.

    You DO have the chance to vote for whomever you like, in both the primary and in the general. If you’re a registered Republican, on New York’s primary election day, you could have voted for Senator Bernie Sanders to be the GOP’s nominee as a write-in candidate. Because THAT is what you are eligible to vote for as a registered Republican — their nominee for the general election. And come the general election, you are 100% free to vote for Bernie Sanders for President regardless of your party affiliation or lack thereof, because that is the office being voted on. Even if his name isn’t on the ballot.

  • Demosthenes

    Happy 4-20 day.

  • Voodoo Chile

    Probably because Boaty McBoatface was against the Iraq war.

  • Krusher

    What are you smoking? I want some.

  • Krusher

    Why the grudge against Boaty McBoatface?

  • Voodoo Chile

    Anti-war, pro-economic justice liberals are now Boaty McBoatface. My how far this blog has fallen…

  • Webster

    And Republicans like Aravosis used to be Democrats.

    Pfffft.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Support for Democrats and Republicans is a major political error and very much like partnering with an abuser and refusing, time and again, to press charges. People who support Democrats and Republicans pretend to want change but in the end make excuses for their self-destructive political behavior and return to the abuser.

    The real history of American politics is summed up in the phrase ‘bipartisanship’ and it covers crimes like NAFTA, FISA, DOMA, DADT, deregulation, immigrant bashing, the maintenance of racism, starting wars of aggression and decades of concerted attacks on the standard of living of workers. There is only one possible response to those crimes and that is to begin fighting for a socialist agenda. Those who pretend that one or the other party is a vehicle for change are only looking for a way to soften opposition to the very policies they create, not to end those policies.

    There are no ‘soft cops’ in the interrogation room or in politics. Both parties are the enemies of change and both aim to uphold the system of rule by the rich. There are no ‘nice guys’ in the brutal world of the duopoly and no democracy int he American political order. We’ll have to create democracy.

    Now we’ll watch as the Clintonistas try to woo the scores of millions of BS supporters back into the cesspool of the DP. It won’t work.

  • Demosthenes

    We both hope for the best . . .

  • emjayay

    I thought Washington said that, and I thought it was tea. Maybe it was in the same book with the cherry tree story. But to your point, yes.

  • emjayay

    And gives all the leftover campaign cash to downticket Democrats, or the party he just joined, or however you do that? Sure.

  • dcinsider

    I seriously doubt that. It would be classy if he did, but no way.

  • Demosthenes

    Sen. Sanders has some personal dignity. When he loses the primaries next week, I’ll bet he suspends his campaign.

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