There’s a piece by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver asking people to stop comparing Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump. Silver hits several points in the piece, but one of his key ones was saying Bernie Sanders is a “typical liberal Democrat.”
6. Sanders holds policy positions of a typical liberal Democrat; Trump’s are all over the place. While Sanders doesn’t officially call himself a Democrat— a fact that might annoy Democratic elites — he takes policy positions that are consistent with those of Democrats in Congress. In the previous Congress (113th), Sanders voted the same as liberal Democratic senators Barbara Boxer, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Sherrod Brown 95 percent of the time or more.1 He voted with party leader Harry Reid 91 percent of the time and the expressed position of President Obama2 93 percent of the time. He also voted with Clinton 93 percent of the time when the two were in the Senate together.
That’s right, Bernie “Mr. ‘I’m a democratic socialist‘” Sanders is a typical liberal Democrat. This shows how far left the Democratic Party has actually gone. Zell Miller and Ronald Reagan were right when they pointed out the Democratic Party left them. But does this even matter to the Republican Party? Not just the establishment, but the grassroots as well? Both yelled “socialism” during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns to no avail. The word has as much effectiveness as those who screamed “fascist” towards George W. Bush and other Republicans in 2004. A part of the reason is because the American public has become so deadened to the word socialism. They don’t understand it and what it means for their lives. Socialism is just a grand ideal to some people, and no one bothers to explain WHY it’s bad in a way that resonates with an audience. The USSR is extinct. China is known for its cheap goods more than its politics. Cuba is just that island 90 miles off the coast of Florida which caused some crisis in the 1960s. Hugo Chavez was just a guy who made “funny statements” about Bush at the UN. No one understands what socialism did to these countries and the horror it caused.
But there’s another reason why the American public doesn’t understand socialism: the party which claims to be the alternative doesn’t really seem to be the alternative. Republicans approved the bailouts, the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, Sarbanes-Oxley, Medicaid Part D, and the VA System. Republicans massively increased spending, instead of cutting government. The GOP Congress discovered a surplus in 1998 or 1999, so they spent it. Mitt Romney increased spending as Massachusetts governor, while John McCain did McCain-Feingold. Mitch McConnell allows ExIm and the Trans-Pacific Partnership to pass. It’s not just a GOP establishment problem. So-called Tea Party Republicans like Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Marco Rubio endorsed an amendment increasing military spending, and voted against one which would have cut other programs to pay for the increased military. Newt Gingrich talked about writing executive order after executive order to undo some legislation. Mike Lee co-sponsored a bill which would ban online gambling. Rick Perry approved the cronytastic Texas Enterprise Fund and Texas Emerging Technologies Fund, mandated HPV vaccination, and tried to get the Trans Texas Corridor passed. John Kasich ran against Medicare expansion in Ohio, then went ahead and expanded it. Thomas Massie voted for the Farm Bill. There are times the only thing which differentiates Republicans from Democrats is WHERE they want to control peoples’ lives.
This shouldn’t be surprising at all because it’s all about power. The Founding Fathers ran into this problem too. Patrick Henry was rightly called a hypocrite during Virginia’s debate over the Constitution because of the Josiah Philips affair involving a bill of attainder. Thomas Jefferson told James Monroe to spend more money on Louisiana instead of adhering to what Congress appropriated. John Adams pushed through the Alien and Sedition Acts. John Marshall put judicial review into Marbury vs. Madison, which isn’t found at all in the Constitution. Lord Acton was right, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
This is why there has to be a definite alternative to the Democrats that has nothing to do with what fiscal golden calves are going to be protected. If both the establishment and Tea Party wings of the Republican Party are interested in smaller, weaker government then they have to fight larger government. It means fighting against foreign aid. It means fighting against cronyism. It means fighting against things like Common Core and No Child Left Behind, even when it’s other Republicans proposing it. But those in the freedom and liberty wing of the GOP have to propose actual solutions and explain why they’ll work. Being the “Party of No” only goes so far. It means explaining why it’s a good idea to get rid of the VA system because it allows vets to have more health care choices. It means explaining why free market-based health care works and how letting people buy their own insurance without government mandates is better. It means explaining why slowly phasing out Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will save more money long-term. It means explaining why free trade is better than foreign aid because money goes directly to businesses (through the sale of goods and services) instead of just a bribe to government officials. It means explaining how lowering the corporate tax rate will help smaller businesses and workers in general. It means explaining why cutting government spending will save money and keep the government from going bankrupt. It means explaining why getting the government out of students loans and education funding will lower college costs. It also means not panicking when things seemingly go awry and a new crisis rears its ugly head. If the GOP is going to pounce on the fact socialist Sanders is a “modern liberal Democrat,” then they have to have alternative solutions which actually show how smaller, weaker government can help. If not, then they’re just exactly like the Democrats whether they want to admit it or not.