I mean, I knew Bernie was done but I didn’t realize he was done-done.
Nah, I’m just kidding. Surely there’s enough statist garbage in our national electorate to give this old pinko a fighting chance in the general election. There’s certainly enough such garbage in the Democratic primaries to make him viable there. For instance, when Monmouth asked in its new survey whether people’s view of capitalism is positive, negative, or neutral, Americans split 39/17/40 overall and Democrats split just 18/24/53. In both groups, in other words, more people view capitalism neutrally than favorably. And on the left, more people view it *negatively* than positively.
And socialism? That’s a 10/42/45 proposition among all Americans thanks to strong opposition from indies and overwhelming opposition from Republicans. But among Democrats it’s 15/15/67, a neutral verdict. Just 38 percent of Dems agree with the statement that socialism takes away too many individual rights (55 percent disagree) whereas a supermajority of 76 percent(!) agrees that “socialism is a way to make things fairer for working people.”
You don’t think Bernie can win a primary with those numbers? Check this out:
You can see why the S-word will figure strongly in Trump’s message next year and why even lefty candidates like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are staying away from it. It’s a liability — in the general. In the primary, though, they’re facing voters who split 50/32 on the issue with another 10 percent willing to say “it depends.” I’m tempted to call that a “Bernie effect,” with Sanders’s 2016 run and his ostentatious self-branding as a socialist responsible for mainstreaming the ideology among the left. If you like Medicare for All and it so happens that Medicare for All is the centerpiece policy of a guy who’s so devoted to socialism that he won’t even join the Democratic Party because of it, then maybe you end up concluding that socialism’s okay.
But I’m not sure there is a “Bernie effect.” I googled for some old polls on this subject and ran across this one from Gallup:
Fifty-three percent of Democrats had a favorable view of socialism in 2010. It so happens that that poll was taken in the thick of the ObamaCare wars, at a moment when tea-party Republicans were warning Democrats that a government revamp of the health insurance industry was the first step in the eventual socialization of medicine even though private insurers would stand to gain financially from this round of reforms. Democrats may have internalized that message: “I like ObamaCare, the right says ObamaCare is socialism, therefore I guess I like socialism.” Call it the “Obama effect.”
Monmouth actually asked about universal health care as part of today’s new poll and got an interesting result, though. A majority of the public supports the goal — 58 percent overall, with 60 percent of indies in favor — but their views of whether it’s a socialist or a capitalist policy differ:
Republicans, who strongly oppose universal health care, are highly likely to view it as “socialist.” Democrats, who strongly support UHC, are highly likely to view it as neither socialist nor capitalist. So maybe the “Obama effect” isn’t as strong as we suspect either. The ObamaCare wars may not have convinced Dems that the particular policies they like are socialist — there may still be enough of a stigma of radicalism around the term that liberals flinch when it’s applied to programs which they personally support. But clearly the stigma has weakened enough that they’re willing to say they view socialism favorably in the abstract. Bernie’s task this coming year will be to shred what’s left of the stigma by convincing Democratic voters that their own preferred policies are actually quite socialist indeed. Whereas Trump’s task will be to have a sort of “values” referendum on the subject, reinforcing the stigma by insisting that “socialism,” however you define it, just can’t be compatible with making America great again.