Chris Cillizza calls this the five words that guarantee Bernie Sanders won’t be President. Those five words are so problematic that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz would rather fight with Tulsi Gabbard than acknowledge they exist. But are they also the reason that Sanders has stunned Hillary Clinton with his dark horse, far-Left bid for the nomination?
Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked Sanders flat-out whether the Democratic insurgent was watering down his Socialist origins:
CHUCK TODD: I hear you. And then the other day I noticed you said, “You know what? Don’t use the word ‘Socialist.’ I’m going to say I’m a progressive.” Are you pushing back on that idea? Or are you embrace “I’m a European Socialist.”
BERNIE SANDERS: No, no not at all, it’s not a question of– look. When one of your Republican colleagues gets on the show, do you say, “Are you a capitalist?” Have you ever referred to them as capitalists?
CHUCK TODD: Yeah. Are you a capitalist?
BERNIE SANDERS: No. I’m a Democratic Socialist. But what I mean is I’ve been elected as an Independent throughout my political career. I am running now in the Democratic nomination process and will support– I hope to win, I expect to win, but–
CHUCK TODD: But you’ll support the Democratic nominee?
BERNIE SANDERS: I will.
Cillizza thinks this will disqualify Sanders — at least in a general election:
And, in those five words, Sanders showed why — no matter how much energy there is for him on the liberal left — he isn’t getting elected president.
Why? Because Democrat or Republican (or independent), capitalism remains a pretty popular concept — especially when compared to socialism A 2011 Pew Research Center showed that 50 percent of people had a favorable view of capitalism, while 40 percent had an unfavorable one. Of socialism, just 3 in 10 had a positive opinion while 61 percent saw it in a negative light.
Wrote Pew in a memo analyzing the results:
“Of these terms, socialism is the more politically polarizing — the reaction is almost universally negative among conservatives, while generally positive among liberals. While there are substantial differences in how liberals and conservatives think of capitalism, the gaps are far narrower.”
In addition, a recent Gallup poll showed that half of Americans said they would not vote for a socialist. It was, in fact, the least acceptable characteristic tested, behind Muslim and atheist.
In fact, it’s so poisonous that Wasserman Schultz can’t even bring herself to address the fact that Sanders endorses socialism. Instead, she discusses the “dramatic contrast” between all of the Democratic candidates and the Republicans:
It’s not the first time that the DNC chair has ducked the issue of Sanders’ unabashed embrace of socialism. It’s pretty clear that she still hasn’t come up with an answer for it, even after more than two months of being put on notice that it will become an issue in these primaries — and beyond, if Sanders knocks Hillary off the throne. CNN’s Dana Bash doesn’t provide any follow-up on the question, but other interviewers won’t be as kind, especially since Chris Matthews set the bar on the issue.
On the other hand, it’s at least arguable that Sanders’ unwillingness to spin his political beliefs is part of why he’s in position to challenge Hillary at all. Better an authentic Socialist than an untrustworthy politician only out for herself, right? Voters have watched the Clintons spin for more than two decades, and they want to see some authenticity in this cycle — at least for now, and not just among Democrats. Unapologetic authenticity works, even for political ideologies that might not win votes in a general election. That’s a lesson that Republicans need to learn too, and that Hillary and the DNC are in the process of learning the hard way.