There’s a movement happening inside the Democratic party that no doubt has some Republicans wryly suffering flashbacks to the 2016 election: populist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is improbably gaining ground with voters, much to the chagrin of establishment Democrat party leaders. What’s more, his ascendency has left progressive-leaning political pundits who aren’t shaking in their boots lauding Sanders’ socialist platform as something other than what it is: which is a strategy that would employ command economy, Marxist authoritarianism to governance.
Ezra Klein, for example, suggested on Twitter that Sanders wasn’t “running on socialist economics. He’s running on a socialist ethic.” But, as Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio reminds us on Twitter, quoting from Karl Marx’s book, “The Poverty of Philosophy,” Marxist economics and ethics are inextricably linked. They’re the same thing.
So if Marxism informs Sanders’ “Democratic Socialist” platform, then it is, by definition, an economic philosophy. Which brings us back to the comparison between the rise of Trump and Sanders, and, frankly, the absurdity of comparing the two. Because while the populism might look similar, the economic goals of the two men couldn’t be more distinct.
Elaine Parker, the Chief Communications Officer of the Job Creators Network – who just got back from a bus tour promoting capitalism that took her to New Hampshire and Iowa during the chaos of the Democratic primaries in both states – says that while Sanders looks to be gaining popularity among left-leaning voters, she simply doesn’t believe there’s a real ascendency for the socialist candidate, primarily because the economic policies enacted by Trump – who’s candidacy his is absurdly being compared to -- have been so successful.
“For the most part, the media doesn’t want to talk about the fact that we’re continuing to see more jobs and more people to fill them, as well as wages rising at a faster rate,” Parker says. “They’re forced to talk about it, however, every time a jobs report comes out.”
Parker, who notes that nearly every single demographic is seeing gains under Trump’s growing economy – women and felons are two she mentions especially, while noting that the bottom 10 percent of wage earners are growing at double the rate of the national average – says that she had the opportunity to interview one of Sanders campaign advisors on the economy during the JCN bus tour.
“I asked him something along the lines of: ‘There’s no doubt small business is doing great in this economy. If Bernie Sanders were to become president, how does he keep that going or top it?’,” Parker says.
“Do you know what his answer was? Medicare For All! Because it would eliminate the stress surrounding health care and allow people to start small businesses,” she laughs.
While Parker doesn’t see a real challenge to Trump from the Bernie camp, others aren’t as confident. South Carolina GOP Senator Tim Scott told CBS’ Gayle King on Monday that he believes Sanders would be the “toughest” challenger for Trump.
“I would say that the biggest threat to President Trump is President Trump,” Scott added on “This Morning.”
“If he's on his game, as he was at the State of the Union, I don't think there's a candidate in the country that can beat him,” Scott said of Trump. “If there is a second choice other than himself, it would be Bernie Sanders.”
Scott said Sanders brings “that outsider game in a similar fashion” to what Trump did in 2016, adding that “Republican wisdom said there’s no way in the world out of the 17 candidates, Donald Trump will be the president.”
Parker, however, after chatting with voters on the road, says there’s reason to think “Bernie Rising” might not be as dramatic as it looks right now.
“I just don’t agree that there’s an ascendancy happening,” says Parker. “He has his faithful and they’re coming out to see him, but you just don’t see his support growing. He hasn’t really had the ability to appeal to moderate Democrats. And NPR just released a poll showing that 57 percent of those polled have a positive view of capitalism. That doesn’t look good for a socialist.”
Sarah Lee is a freelance writer and policy wonk living and working in Washington, DC.