I like Bernie Sanders a lot. He seems intelligent and sincere. I love that he’s not in the pocket of big money interests.
But it bugs me that he calls himself a socialist.
Everyone says that shouldn’t matter. We live in a socialist nation, with Social Security, Medicare, and now the Affordable Care Act. Everyone is a socialist! — at least, everyone who doesn’t advocate shutting down the above programs immediately.
But calling yourself a socialist is a choice, and a rare one in this country. Most Democrats believe in the above programs, but don’t call themselves socialists. If you self-apply that label, it seems like you must do so for a reason. You must be different in some way from a run-of-the-mill Democrat, or for that matter even most Republicans, who overwhelmingly support those programs.
So it makes me wonder: what socialist policies would Bernie Sanders implement that justify calling himself a socialist?
For instance, is Bernie Sanders for a 100 percent employment program, where everyone gets a job, either from the private sector or the government? Would he implement Soviet-style collective farms? Would we get five-year economic plans?
Would he support a 90 percent income tax rate? A wealth cap? Confiscation of property above the cap?
Is he for nationalization of major industries, or even all industries? Would he oppose a corporation owning significant means of production, like farm equipment, or computers?
Is he for government ownership of all land, in which housing would be doled out by the government and private homes abolished?
Should we expect the implementation of a “dictatorship of the proletariat”? Would Sanders support abolition of competing parties, or speech critical of the government? Would he support sending political opponents to the gulag?
All of these positions have been adopted widely by socialist governments in the past century, and all are well outside the American political mainstream. So when Sanders calls himself a socialist, I wonder what kind of socialist he is. What particular out-of-the-mainstream policies does he advocate and which ones does he repudiate?
And if his policies are more-or-less indistinguishable from, say, Barack Obama’s circa 2008, then how about dumping the “socialist” label and just calling himself a Democrat?