Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist with the charisma of a rudely awakened snapping turtle, almost wrested the 2016 Democrat presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton. Recent polls show him easily defeating both Clinton and President Donald Trump in head-to-head matchups, which helps explain why the 75-year old is reportedly considering another try in 2020.
Its long been a political axiom that Americans won’t support socialist candidates on the national level and, aside from minor showings in 1920s and ’30s presidential contests, socialism has been less than a fringe element. The term has historically been a pejorative, one that the left-leaning Clinton quickly distanced herself from early in the 2016 campaign by describing herself as a “progressive.”
But the widespread support for Sanders suggests a political sea change. In a 2015 Gallup poll, 47 percent of respondents expressed a willingness to vote for a socialist, while just 50 percent said they would not. Another poll later that year showed that Democrats favored socialism over capitalism by a 12-point margin.
So what’s going on?
American socialists like to trace their roots back to the Founders, noting that the Constitution provided for some free or very low-cost services to the masses. They note that Article 1 provides for a postal service, postal roads, and an army and navy, all to be paid for by taxation. A socialist friend of mine argues that insurance is already socialist because it is so heavily regulated, and so we should just relax and adopt Medicaid for all.
But they conflate the social compact, where some liberty is conceded in return for order, with socialism, the Marxist notion of government ownership of the means of production and the redistribution of wealth through predatory taxation or outright confiscation. Public libraries do not a socialist society make.
The U.S. has proven to have the harshest climate for the growth of socialism among the western…