New York Times Magazine has found somebody to ask Bernie Sanders some of the more interesting questions which are on the lips of many Americans, even if it wound up being Ana Marie Cox. She caught up with the Senator on the trail and took the plunge, asking him, in essence, why it is that he actually thinks Americans are ready to elect a self-professed socialist as leader of the free world. First she asks him if he thinks that Barack Obama is a socialist (he doesn’t) and then she gets down to the meat of matter. (New York Times Magazine)
What is your elevator pitch for socialism?
My elevator pitch is that the United States has a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality where the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, where almost 20 percent of our children are living in poverty, 40 percent of African-American children are living in poverty. We are moving rapidly toward an oligarchic form of society where a small number of families control not only the economy but our political system as well. It is imperative that we develop a strong political movement that says to the billionaire class they cannot have it all.
A recent poll showed that Americans are more willing to vote for a Muslim or an atheist for president than a socialist. Do you think you could take back the word ‘‘socialism’’ and keep it from being what it is right now, which is almost a nasty word?
Actually, what surprised me about that poll was, given the negative publicity that the word ‘‘socialism’’ has, that — what was the number of the people who were prepared to vote for a socialist?
It was in the high 40s.
Yeah. Well, that’s pretty good, and it’ll get higher.
You know, you really do have to give the guy credit. Unlike most of the Democrats he doesn’t pull any punches and tells you right where he’s coming from. America needs a good, strong dose of socialism and Bernie is just the man for the job. But just on the off chance that Bernie thinks he can still win this whole thing, how in line is he with the rest of the country? The article doesn’t specify which poll they’re talking about, but I suspect that it was this annual survey from Gallup taken back in June. In it, voters from both parties, as well as independents, were asked if an otherwise well qualified candidate from their party were also a [fill in the blank] would they consider voting for them.
It turns out that Americans are a pretty open minded bunch across the board. If you’re a woman, a Catholic, black, Hispanic or Jewish, more than 90% of the country is willing to give you a shot at the job clear across the board. If you’re gay you still can ring up 74% support. Heck… well over half are willing to give an atheist a chance. But the one thing they don’t tolerate is a socialist. 47% say the might, but 50% say no. That’s the worst score of all the offerings. But when you dig deeper into the numbers, that might not be a prohibitive factor in the Democrat primary.
As it turns out, the Democrats are a lot more socialist than they generally care to let on in interviews. 59% of them are willing to give a socialist a go which would be more than enough to drag Bernie across the finish line in a contested primary. (I was kind of shocked to see that a quarter of the Republicans said yes.) So… how hilarious would it be to see Bernie win a three way race only to turn around the lose the general because he represents a repressive vision of governmental theory?