Opinion: No, Bernie Sanders’ Campaign is Not “Full-Blown Socialism”


A closer look at an outlandish claim

An actual email from the Trump campaign: “Bernie Sanders announced he will be running for President in 2020 on a very simple platform: FULL-BLOWN SOCIALISM.It’s clear that Trump (and a good portion of Americans) have no idea what socialism actually is. After decades of Republicans branding any expansion of government as “socialism,” that’s not terribly surprising.

What Sanders is proposing in his platform is far more akin to social democracy than democratic socialism, two terms that are mistakenly used interchangeably. An oversimplified explanation of socialism is that it’s a system entirely separate from capitalism that gives workers, not owners, control over the actions, decisions, and resources of companies. Advocates of social democracy, by contrast, seek to reform capitalism and lessen economic inequality by providing things like education and healthcare. While Sanders does identify as a democratic socialist, his definition of the term in a 2006 interview falls more in line with FDR-style social democracy.

“I think [democratic socialism] means the government has got to play a very important role in making sure that as a right of citizenship all of our people have healthcare; that as a right, all of our kids, regardless of income, have quality childcare, are able to go to college without going deeply into debt; that it means we do not allow large corporations and moneyed interests to destroy our environment; that we create a government in which it is not dominated by big money interest. I mean, to me, it means democracy, frankly. That’s all it means,” said Sanders.

Sanders’ main focuses of his campaign – universal health care, access to education, higher taxes for companies and the top earning brackets – have far more in common with countries like Norway, Denmark, and Sweden than Venezuela (which can hardly be called “full-blown socialist” in any case, with about 2/3 of its industry being privately owned according to a Central Bank estimate.)

It’s disingenuous, if not a complete falsehood, to claim Sanders’ policies constitute “FULL BLOWN SOCIALISM”. This lazy attempt by the Trump administration to tap into lingering Red Scare fears is laughably transparent, and ironically enough, has been made even less effective by the GOP’s effort to decry everything from minimum wage increases to single-payer health care as ‘socialism’.

If the trend of throwing the ‘socialism’ label at ostensibly good policies continues, I wouldn’t be so sure that, as Trump triumphantly claimed, “America will never be a socialist country”.