People within the Democratic Party have been fake whispering about Bernie Sanders for a while now. Saying thing like “Well… he’s a socialist, he has no chance” or “It’s only a matter of time before the GOP start running ads with a hammer and sickle.” These people have been saying this just loud enough to try to encourage this narrative and the conservative right to start making these attacks, but this is yet another attempt of mud slinging that just won’t work.
The first reason this won’t work is because Sanders 100% owns the fact that he’s a Democratic Socialist. He wears the title like a badge of honor and openly admits as much. He shows that there’s no shame in socialism. As Americans, we know this is the truth. When you list out how socialism has made America better, there’s something for everyone: our military, post offices, interstate system, social security, police force, fire departments, schools, public transportation, and so much more are all practical examples of socialism working in America today. I’m sure just out of this short list provided, there’s at least one thing that people want, love, or use. The fact is that socialism has given a lot to America over the years and Bernie Sanders understands that. More importantly, there is a growing segment of America that understands this and that brings us to the large point I am trying to make.
I was born in 1982, so in March I will be turning thirty-four years old. I am one of the last Cold War children. I’m not sure if many of my class mates will remember, but in my local school district my class was the last one to practice any form of bomb drills. Of course we continued holding drills for fire and tornado, but that first year of class I distinctly remember mention of a foreign bombing attack and the bomb shelter signs posted in the hallway the first time we conducted a drill. Within three years the Soviet Union would fall and our chief nuclear antagonist seemed to disappear. By the time I was able to really form permanent memories, we were out of the Cold War. I still heard the word “Communism” thrown around a bit, but overall, America had “won.” Freedom was now a worldwide phenom and it belonged to everyone! My generation was the first to live without the fear of a communist boogieman hiding in their closet, and this is an important concept to keep in mind during this election.
Joseph McCarthy successfully worked the US Government into a frenzy by implying there were Communists hidden among us. The very real threat of war with Communist Russia instilled a fear of communism into multiple generations so well, that an unpopular politician could lie and begin a witch hunt. However, we’re no longer “at war” with communism. China, Cuba, Russia: one by one our old communist enemies have either fallen or have demonstrated that co-existence is possible. The scars of the Cold War only live on in those older than myself or those who had it instilled in them by people who originally lived through it. A large majority of people my age and younger have no idea what it means to live in an artificially created fear of communism and don’t buy into the lie that socialism leads directly to communism.
Today’s youth looks at the socialist programs the United States already have and towards Europe to see examples of successful acts of socialism that have yet to lead the region to mass communism. They understand that a system of government is only as good as the people it represents. This is the very reason that attacking Bernie Sanders as a socialist isn’t going to work. The largest portion of his supporter base are young, first time voters that have no fear of socialism. In fact, many of them have actually embraced the title of “socialist” and adopted it as their own. In this regards, Bernie’s socialist nature actually works in his favor.
It’s a trend that we’ve seen all through the Democratic Primaries. Sanders takes a stand on the fringe of the current political climate, he gets rewarded by the youth vote. Establishment politicians attack Sanders on these fringe stances, which results in these newly engaged activists to feel like they’re being personally attacked. This solidifies and mobilizes his base. It’s the very reason that every time the Clinton Campaign seems to make a “valid attack” and Sanders magically raises millions of dollars in response from donations. That is the direct correlation between these events. The passion and identity of these voters, both young and old, are galvanized when they feel they’re own ideals are being personally attacked.
The tone in politics has shifted. Once people could say a candidate could never win because they were black, gay, female, etc. All these labels have eventually become less of an issue of electability as candidates and their constituents embraced these outlying descriptors. It’s now time for America’s socialist to come out of the woodwork and own their existence. It’s time for us to be proud and say clearly that our mutual defining political trait isn’t something to be feared or attacked. That we stand under the ideals that it’s alright for us to provide services and own property as a public.
Attacks are already coming, but they will continue to be ignored and hopefully everyone soon learns why.