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Why Bernie Sanders Will Win: Most Americans are Democratic Socialists

Updated on October 24, 2015

Democratic Socialism is the Politics of FDR and LBJ, Not Marx and Stalin

Bernie Sanders Needs to Position Himself as the Next FDR

In 1928, the United States operated under laissez-faire capitalism. There was no Social Security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, and any sort of a welfare system was relegated to local charities and nonprofits. Public K-12 schools existed, but access was far from equitable and little effort was made to prevent students from leaving prior to earning a high school diploma. Though public universities did exist, access was limited, primarily to white men of privilege. There was no federal minimum wage.

Then the Great Depression happened, and America overwhelmingly chose a progressive Democrat in the 1932 presidential election, sweeping Republican Herbert Hoover out of office in a landslide. The new president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, passed numerous liberal reforms between March 1933, when he took office, and his death in April 1945. Elected to four terms in office, FDR was America's longest-service chief executive. He helped usher in Social Security in 1935, a federal minimum wage in 1938, and the G.I. Bill in 1944.

In 1964 and 1965, president Lyndon B. Johnson, the former U.S. Senator (D-TX) who served as John F. Kennedy's vice president, ushered in Medicare, Medicaid, and important public education reforms as part of his Great Society and War on Poverty initiatives.

These two presidents, FDR and LBJ, instituted nationwide reforms that critics would likely deride as "socialism." They involved taking money from all citizens, but particularly higher earners, to pay for goods and services utilized by those who needed them: The elderly, the poor, the parents of school-age children, and college students. These reforms helped prevent many from falling into abject poverty and allowed millions to pursue upward mobility.

Our economic productivity soared as millions of teenagers and young adults could pursue education, credential, and job skills. Instead of "wasting" money, the reforms of FDR and LBJ dramatically improved our nation. Money kept flowing even when people lost their jobs. Families could send their children to school even when times were tight. Older workers could afford to retire, allowing fresh graduates to enter the work force.

But that system is starting to break down. Real wages are eroding, a retirement crisis looms, and the cost of both health care and higher education have soared beyond the reach of millions of citizens. Many politicians do not want to talk about the dangers facing our economy - they want to pretend that we do not need substantial reforms. They want to maintain the status quo.

The presidential candidate who want to reset America's economic growth through significant reform is U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Pursuing the Democratic nomination, Sanders has proposed instituting both universal health care and tuition-free public higher education. These wide-ranging reforms would free up billions of dollars in consumer spending and would guarantee increased access to both vital markets. However, Sanders faces tremendous opposition: Even fellow Democrats often mock his proposals as extreme.

His chief rival, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, has accused Sanders of economic fearmongering.

Up until early October, Sanders was gaining ground in the polls. As Clinton's status as frontrunner slowly eroded due to her festering e-mail server scandal, populists and progressives grew optimistic that America as ready to "feel the Bern." However, as the middle of October rolled around, starting with the first Democratic debate on October 13, Clinton stabilized in the polls and began to appear a stronger candidate. The decision of vice president Joe Biden to not pursue the Democratic presidential nomination, which was announced on October 21, further strengthened Clinton.

The next day, Clinton outlasted an eleven-hour grilling by Congressional Republicans during her Benghazi panel testimony, adding to her popularity.

Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, has an important task ahead: Now more widely known to the public, he must explain what he means when he says he is a "Democratic socialist." Though Sanders' individual proposals have been highly popular with Democrats, moderates, and independents alike, his open admission that he is a "Democratic socialist" has made him a political target. Unfortunately, many Americans still link "socialism" with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR.

Critics, obviously, want to maintain that false link and portray Sanders as a modern-day Joseph Stalin, seeking class warfare and an abolition of private property.

With Clinton back on high ground, Sanders must find a way to explain his brand of politics and economics to the bulk of America's voters. Many are intrigued but are hesitant to ally themselves with any political position that uses the word "socialism." Both Republicans and Hillary Clinton will, if they can, use that word as a cudgel to pummel Sanders.

Fortunately for Sanders, most Americans are socialists, whether they believe it or not. They benefit from, and even eagerly seek, access to socialist programs. These include public schools, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, public colleges and universities, and employment with government agencies. They enjoy the safety afforded by publicly-funded emergency responders and a large and powerful military. Employment in the public sector, including the military, often comes with secure retirement benefits.

Over ninety percent of Americans are socialists who send their children to public schools.

One-sixth of all Americans received some form of Social Security benefits, either retirement or disability.

Medicare and Medicaid cover more than 32 percent of Americans, providing them with government-paid health care.

Almost three-quarters of college students attend a publicly-funded college or university. Most of these students, plus most students of private colleges and universities, must rely on government student loans to fund at least part of their education.

The vast majority of Americans, therefore, enjoy socialist reforms that have proliferated since the dawn of the 20th century, especially since the beginning of the Roosevelt administration in 1933.

However, more reform is now needed. Though K-12 education has been almost entirely socialized, higher education remains considerably privatized...and costs have soared since 1980. The vast proliferation of federal student loans has allowed colleges and universities, both private and public, to drastically increase their tuition. Tuition and fee increases have far outpaced inflation, requiring greater and greater amounts of citizens' real income to pay. As a result, America has a student loan debt crisis.

Student loans are now the greatest source of debt outside of home mortgages, even greater than credit card debt. Such debt is harming the macro economy by preventing young people from buying homes, new cars, and other durable goods. The reason for this growing debt crisis? Colleges and universities, even public ones, operate primarily as profit-seeking institutions, raising tuition and fees with little limitation or government oversight.

Only Bernie Sanders' proposal of tuition-free public higher education can end this horrible problem. Colleges and universities will be required to accept all students who meet set requirements and educate them within fixed budget parameters...the same way public K-12 schools do! Though many Americans will undoubtedly grouse about some inevitable cutbacks and limits on which colleges students may attend, the system will work. Despite all the complaining, public K-12 education works.

Public colleges and universities would be forced to "make mission" within reasonable budgets and would be prevented from raising administrator pay by relying heavily on wage-slave adjuncts and graduate students. Educators would regain power and authority and administrators would no longer be able to give themselves unlimited raises from students' tuition payments.

How many American families would benefit tremendously from tuition-free public higher education? How many students would be motivated to excel academically if free college was a reward for a 3.0 high school GPA? Currently, the only financial motivation most students have is the chance to win or retain scholarships, most of which only pay a fraction of students' costs. How many students underperform because they feel that college is out of their financial reach any way?

Health care costs have also skyrocketed since 1980, with the sector now equal to twenty percent of the entire U.S. economy. Despite spending the most money per citizen on health care, the U.S. does not necessarily rank well among other developed nations in terms of life expectancy or quality of health. Rather, America does health care inefficiently. While our Western allies allow all citizens to receive quality health care through "socialized medicine," we continue to let profit-seeking medical providers and insurance companies rule the roost.

How many Americans suffer from untreated illness and injury because they are uninsured or because profit-seeking health insurance companies deny their claims? Though Obamacare forces all Americans to buy health insurance, it does not prevent those insurance companies from raising their rates or denying claims. It also does not prevent medical providers from raising their prices, putting pressure on uninsured and insurance companies alike. And even if citizens have good health insurance, they must cover their deductibles and copays before the insurance kicks in.

Implementing universal health care would finally allow our nation to control health care costs and ensure that all citizens have access. This is both a humanitarian and an economic necessity. How are we supposed to remain economically productive if our workers cannot afford medical treatments? Ironically, we provide socialized health care for our retirees...but not our working citizens.

We enacted tuition-free public K-12 education and America prospered. We enacted Medicare and Medicaid and America prospered. The vast majority of Americans enjoy these reforms and are thus Democratic Socialists. Bernie Sanders must remind Americans of this and explain how Democratic Socialism is the politics of FDR and LBJ, not Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin.



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    • Gordan Zunar profile image

      Gordan Zunar 

      2 years ago from New York

      Very good article, you make a good point. The problem is really in the naming of it, the word "socialism" which has been not only abused by the great tyrants of the Eastern Bloc, but also demonized in America (thanks, J. Edgar). However, you can't change that so easily, especially not during a political campaign, as I've written in my latest hub. Bernie should steer away from defining his political orientation as Democratic Socialism, and use Social Democracy instead.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 years ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD


      Who are you talking to.

      If it is me, then respond to my detailed comment, because I have no idea what you are talking about.

    • James Gaskins profile image

      The Daily Conservative 

      3 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      They don't make any sense? Then my are truly a lost cause. How can you choose to have an opinion about something if you don't even know both sides of the issue. Figures!

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 years ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD


      You arguments don't make any sense. Not personal, just an observation.

    • Cal Wolf profile imageAUTHOR

      Calvin Wolf 

      3 years ago from Midland, Texas

      So our veterans fought and died to roll back Social Security? To get rid of public schools? To end racial and gender equality? No, they did not. Please educate yourself on the difference between socialism and communism. I assume that, as a veteran, you feel that former servicemen should receive veterans' benefits. This another socialist reform, the likes of which did not exist when America was founded. During and after the Revolutionary War, America's defense was largely provided by volunteer militias, which offered little or no pay and zero post-service financial benefits. In fact, the idea of a standing, professional military was abhorrent to many of the founding fathers. The U.S. military in its current form is a socialist reform, intended to provided constant and consistent national security for all citizens.

      I assume your anger comes from the common misconception that Democratic socialism is the same thing as Soviet-style communism. It most assuredly is not, and a simple Google search would serve you well.

    • James Gaskins profile image

      The Daily Conservative 

      3 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      No, it's not being cruel, and maybe its a bit harsh. Then again, the truth can be brutal. Many times people don't want to hear the truth when they find out that their point of view or opinion has disrespected those who died defending your right to have your opinion. Excuse me for not being politically correct in my earlier response. If I was insensitive to you in some way, then maybe you should pick up a weapon and defend this nation as I did. Then maybe you'll have an idea of where I'm coming from. Not too mention, your views about the Democratic Socialist Party deeply offend me and millions of other Americans. I'm sure you will get what you want. They are taking over. Sadly, someday soon you will see how very wrong you are about their intentions and agenda for all mankind. You'll remember my words and wish you had been on the right side of humanity. I'll pray for you, and hope that you change your heart before its too late.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 years ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD


      What did you think was great about this hub?

    • Anna C Taylor profile image


      3 years ago from Around the World

      People can be pretty harsh, and borderline cruel, to people they don't agree with in the comments.

      Great hub.

    • James Gaskins profile image

      The Daily Conservative 

      3 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      Most Americans are Democratic Socialists? You know what, you might be right. But that doesn't make what you are any better just because the majority of you have become compliant sheep to a system of tyrants. What you are is a disgrace to the one million American soldiers who have died in the wars defending the principles of the Constitution. You're an idiot,

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 years ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Calvin Wolf

      It is sad that you think that most Americans are Democratic Socialists.

      Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Barack Hussein Obama are three of the worst US presidents because they mandated TAXES that promised benefits.

      They are and have continued to be TAXES.

      If you look at how these presidents treated the Government Employee over those in the private sector, you can't call these socialist programs, as socialist programs have to pervade through all the workers. This is clearly not true for SS, and Medicare, and Obamacare.

      The reason is that the government employees, were not part of SS, or Medicare, and they were only added because these programs were Ponzi schemes the required new blood to keep it in the black, In addition, congress and both political parties use these trust funds as a piggy bank, and never allowed them to increase their wealth through investment to pay for the benefit phase of those programs. Such is the case now, when all the Baby Boomers are retiring, and SS, and Medicare are bleeding because their isn't enough blood to continue the payments.

      At the same time, the government employee programs are costing the country a fortune by treating these workers differently than in the private sector.

      Government employees have an excellent Defined Benefits Retirement program, look up these benefits.

      They have one of the best, if not the best Health Benefits, meeting the best requirements of Obamacare.

      They have the most vacation, holiday, sick days, and personal days benefits.

      They have job security, and even increased the number of government workers during the 2008 economic meltdown.

      Bernie Sanders hasn't addressed the master servant unbalance, where the public servants are getting the benefits that should go to their masters, the people. And the people are getting the benefits of the servants, while the servants are getting those of the master.

      Most Americans may be gullible, ignorant, loyal party voters, trusting, not so politically smart, and they don't know what the US foundation was intended to develop as it aged, and grew.

      They certainly don't understand Socialism.

      Both political parties in congress have caused the decline and shrinkage of the middle class, while increasing the size and wealth of the upper class, while decreasing the wealth of the lower tax class, and made more people dependent on welfare, and aid.

      One of the mechanisms of congress to make this happen is the Federal Income Tax, and the Internal Revenue Code.

      The Internal Revenue Code cannot be effectively used by the lower and middle class, while it allow the upper class to evade their tax responsibility. The lower class doesn't pay income tax, and the middle class wage earners only can use several of the deductions in the IRC.

      The average payout from SS is about $1100 a month. Whoopee

      The SS death benefit is still $255.

      You pay into SS as long as you earn a wage, and that is even after you retire and are getting SS benefits.

      These are just a few of the demons created by these Socialist like US presidents.

      BTW, FDR never got the country out of the big depression, it was WWII that finally got the country out of the depression, and the 1950s were the boom years.

      LBJ tagged on Medicare to the SS program, and it became a lucrative vehicle for fraud. He also escalated the Vietnam War bringing the military up to

      9,087,000 Military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era. Aug. 5, 1964 - May 7, 1975.

      8,744,000 GIs Were on active duty during the war. Aug. 5, 1964 - March 28, 1973

      3,403,100 (Including 514,300 Offshore) Personnel served in the Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Flight Crews based in Thailand, and sailors in adjacent South China Sea Waters.)

      2,594,000 Personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam. Jan. 1, 1965 - Mar. 28, 1973

      A war that cost the US the lives of many soldiers, was very expensive, and we totally lost it. This was a failure on so many levels, and we have continued those failures since then.

      Finally, once again, take a look at how the government treats its employees, versus on how they treat the employees in the private sector. They even allowed the companies in the private sector to use the At Will Employment Contract which only benefits the company, while giving the employee no benefits.

      The employees both existing employees, and new hires are Forced to sign these contracts if they want to keep their jobs, or get the job.

      This is clearly an Adhesion Contract and it should have been held unconscionable, and unenforceable, but congress chose not to make that a law. As a law, it would have protected wage earners in the private sector.

      Government employees are all union members, and the government lets the union have their way. Unions don't exist in numbers in the private sector. And unlike the government, companies shed their employees when the going gets rough, or it even looks like dark skies in the forecast.


    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Stop the scaremongering on marx if you've never read his writings: he wasn't a stalinist or a maoist and he in fact predicted that any third world nations still mired in feudalism who attempted to leap into a socialist economy without first transitioning through kapitalism would result in "oriental despotism", i.e., stalin and mao. Also, LBJ was following through on JFK's Great Society more than actually believing in it as his debacle in Vietnam proved so yeah, a social democrat but also the one who most helped divide the american left and helped open the way to konservative control of this country in '68......

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Interesting. Seems folks like to say they are of one persuasion, but by their actions they are actually something else.


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