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Transatlantic Blog

Bernie Sanders drops out, but socialism marches on

Senator Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign on Wednesday. Sanders faced insurmountable problems in the Democratic primaries, but his socialism was not one of them. Arguably, the substance of his campaign, with his enthusiastic speaking style, was his greatest selling point.

Had the 78-year-old white male belonged to a different sexual, racial, or age demographic, he almost certainly would have cleared the field. Even suffering from the burden of “privilege,” it's not totally inconceivable that Sanders could have closed his 303-delegate gap with the ever-addled Joe Biden, if states had not postponed their primaries due to coronavirus, and if he had the strength for the fight. None of these conditions held, and he called a ceasefire in the revolution. Others have already positioned themselves to command its next skirmish.

Future candidates might eschew Sanders' habit of showering fulsome praise on communist despots past and present. But they will use his platform as bait to attract the party's base. We know this, because they already have.

In the 2020 primaries:

  • At least 10 Democratic presidential hopefuls in this election cycle embraced Medicare for All, including its provision to eradicate private health insurance plans (although some candidates' positions proved self-contradictory);
  • A dozen candidates endorsed the Green New Deal;
  • More than a dozen candidates supported “free” college tuition and/or proposals to write-off all student loan debt. Only one, Andrew Yang, had the courage to say that college should not be “free”; and
  • Another candidate, Elizabeth Warren, preceded Sanders in introducing a wealth tax. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. Sanders' “Tax on Extreme Wealth” would destroy $11.5 trillion in U.S. wealth.

True, the candidates eventually closed ranks around former Vice President Joe Biden, whom the media dub a “moderate.”

But consider that, in order to be viable in this primary, Biden has had to endorse:

  • a version of Sanders' College-for-All plan, making all colleges and universities tuition-free for families making less than $125,000. (Hillary Clinton adopted the idea in 2016.) That built on Biden's previous policy of providing two years of community college for “free”;
  • a taxpayer-funded daycare via universal pre-K for three- and four-year-old toddlers; and
  • a “public option” on health insurance, which would nationalize healthcare more slowly. But the destination remains the same.

These positions reflect the ethos of the Democratic Party. A recent poll found that nearly two-thirds of Democrats view socialism favorably and even more support wealth redistribution for its own sake.

If anything, these positions are more deeply ingrained in America's young people. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation's annual survey revealed:

  • 70 percent of millennials say they would vote for a socialist candidate;
  • 45 percent of millennials and Generation Z believe “all higher education should be free”;
  • More than one-third of millennials have a positive view of communism; and
  • 22 percent believe “society would be better if all private property was abolished.”

A Cato Institute survey discovered that “[y]oung people are considerably more likely than older people” to envy and resent wealthy people. And a Gallup poll found that millennials and Generation Z viewed socialism as favorably as they do capitalism.

The revolution happened while Beltway pundits apologized for taxpayer-subsidized bailouts to huge corporations. Rather than object, Americans asked, “Where's my bailout?” And a significant portion of them still believe that under a socialist government, they will collect.

Sanders' closest political analogue, UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, wrote that, although Boris Johnson won last December's general election in a landslide, Corbyn and his fellow “socialists” had “won the argument.”

Sanders may soon make the same boast.

People of all faiths have joined members of all historic branches of Christianity—Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox—in recognizing that socialism replaces true religion with a materialist worldview. The ideology becomes all-consuming, devouring the nation's wealth, resources, and liberty. At its core, it is an anthropological failure that values the individual too little and the state too much. It is a miasma all people of goodwill must fight against with as much vigor as the Bernie Bros and the Squad fight for it.

For further reading:

The key to understanding Bernie Sanders

What you need to know about Bernie Sanders’ ‘Tax on Extreme Wealth’

This policy would destroy $11.5 trillion of U.S. wealth

Bernie Sanders, AOC would ‘cure’ COVID-19 with ‘short-term’ socialism

Sen. Bernie Sanders tweets blueprint for a housing crisis

Bernie Sanders’ pagan view of charity

Bloomberg and Sanders are both wrong about money in politics

Bernie Sanders: ‘Thank God’ for capitalism

Alejandro Chafuen in Forbes: Fighting socialism in the US today

Bernie Sanders' socialist utopia crumbles

Sanders’ Policies Won’t Get Us Scandinavian ‘Socialism’

Video: Rev. Sirico on Sanders at the Vatican

Samuel Gregg: How Bernie Sanders spins a papal encyclical

Are Pope Leo XIII and John Paul II ‘feeling the Bern’?

When Bernie Sanders met Pope Francis

(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 3.0.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.