A few weeks back, former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina waded into the 2020 primary fight by warning Democratic voters that the broader electorate does not have an appetite for the socialist agenda that Bernie Sanders would espouse as a general election nominee. Messina said that Republicans would relish drawing the contrasts Sanders would provide, and that for Democrats up and down the ballot, "socialism is not going to be what [they] are going to want to defend" on the trail. Indeed, President Obama himself is reportedly discussing the possibility of issuing a public admonition to his party over the perils of Bernie-ism, should the Vermont Senator's momentum continue.
Fresh polling from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal demonstrates that these fears are well-founded. It's true that younger voters -- who are disproportionately drawn to Bernie -- hold increasingly favorable views toward the failed project of socialism, and are growing more hostile toward capitalism. But they are very much not representative of most Americans, particularly the independent swing voters who decide elections:
Net favorability of socialism, among:— Carrie Dann (@CarrieNBCNews) February 2, 2020
Sanders backers: +56%
Biden backers: -4%
All Dem primary voters: +17%
All registered voters: -34%
Independents: -45% https://t.co/zt5atd1Bp0
The swing (101 net percentage points) between Bernie supporters' views of Socialism, and those of independents, is absolutely massive and jarring. That tweet also illustrates how far apart the Biden base is from Sanders', with average Democrats falling somewhere in between. Clearly, rank-and-file Democratic partisans are significantly more amenable to socialism than the median voter, with Bernieites positively enamored with the idea. Some quotes from young supporters at a Sanders rally ahead of last night's Iowa caucuses:
“I am big into socialism,” says Kate Hughes. A college student, she learned in class that the rich were once taxed at nearly 70%. And, she asks, wasn’t Franklin Roosevelt a socialist? He was one of the best presidents in her estimation, and the young fan believes “we need more taxes to fund programs that are necessary for a thriving economy.”...“You know what, man?” he says, shouting to be heard over the music. “They can be scared if they want, but my mom is 65 and she collects Social Security and she talks s--- on socialism all the time, but that’s what that is. At the end of the day, that’s essentially a socialist program. “If that means taking care of sick people and mentally unwell people and not making them go bankrupt for treatment,” he continues, “then, I guess, sign me up.”...“I still get why it scares people based on their experiences or the hysteria in the United States. I know why people can be afraid of the word,” she concludes. “I’m not.”
President Trump called Bernie a "communist" in a pre-Super Bowl interview with Sean Hannity -- and no matter what label one affixes to his hard-left ideology, the fact remains that Sanders honeymooned in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He and his wife loved it, evidently:
BREAKING: @SenSanders like you’ve never seen him!!— M. Mendoza Ferrer (@m_mendozaferrer) January 28, 2019
Bernie and Jane on their honeymoon in Russia singing “This land is Your Land” with their Russian comrades!!
Trigger Warning: Bernie is sitting at a table shirtless in his briefs. So are most of the rest of the men... pic.twitter.com/2DPyDY2WV0
Astounding! After a 1988 trip to the USSR, @BernieSanders & wife Jane praise the Soviet system. When I visited Moscow the same year, the decrepitude overwhelmed me. The Sanders are 20 years older than me. To a shocking degree, they are blinded by ideology. pic.twitter.com/7KmHz4D8hf— Mike (@Doranimated) February 23, 2019
“You don't know how much your plan costs?"@BernieSanders: "You don't know. Nobody knows. This is impossible to predict."— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 25, 2020
“You're going to propose a plan to the American people and you're not going to tell them how much it costs?"pic.twitter.com/XZlrrt7ONL
I'll leave you with this, from Nancy Pelosi:
“I just say to all of our friends, you know, you want to go to the left? You want to win the election? Let’s make a decision to win the election. And when you make a decision to win the election, you have to make every decision in favor of winning,” Pelosi told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We all understand what is at stake.” Pelosi called government-run health care “lovely in concept,” but “not a winning message,” and said “this is not going to happen.”
It's surreal to see figures like Obama and Pelosi emerge as relatively 'moderate' voices, but with Warren and Sanders in the field, dynamics are shifting. The so-called establishment should tread lightly; moves like this could delegitimize the process in the eyes of many progressive voters.