Brian Beutler looks at the Bernie problem
in The New Republic.
Polling this far removed from the general election means very little, which should chasten both Sanders supporters and critics. The polling that shows Sanders beating Republican candidates by wider margins than Clinton is just as suspect as polling that suggests a socialist is unelectable. The term “socialism” is highly unpopular, but it does far more damage when it’s deployed generically than when it’s rendered as an attack ad against a well-known candidate.
No evidence whatsoever buttresses that last statement. Only a fool would dismiss the importance of a poll like this one
Voters lean solidly against electing a socialist, which is bad for self-described “democratric socialist” Bernie Sanders.
The one good thing for Sanders: The groups most open to a socialist include parts of the Democratic Party base most likely to vote in primaries. That includes liberals, with a plurality of 39 percent definitely willing to vote for a socialist, and “strong” Democrats, with a plurality of 37 percent.
But should he win the Democratic nomination, the general election could be hostile territory for his brand.
“Socialist is an automatic no,” said Ryan Uehling, 44, a Republican who works in pharmaceutical sales in Fresno, Calif. “It doesn’t work anywhere, it’s never worked.”
A solid 50 percent of voters say they would definitely vote against a socialist. That is driven by a solid no from 77 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents.
I'll say it again: Another poll, cited in earlier posts, holds that 69% of the country thinks that our greatest problem is Big Government. A socialist cannot win in such a culture.
Even though Trump is not popular with with much of his own party, and even though most Americans consider him a self-absorbed dolt, support for him will solidify if the alternative calls himself a socialist.
Yes, I know that Bernie isn't a real
socialist, if we define that term to mean the advocacy of state ownership of the means of production. And yes, I know that socialism has always come in different flavors. I know these things and perhaps you know these things, but the people who live next door to you do not
. And they will not listen to you if you try to set them straight.
Words have set meanings -- they are born of history; they fire off associations within the mind. Americans will always associate the word "socialism" with the USSR and China. When you say the S-word, Americans do not think of George Bernard Shaw, Martin Luther King, Helen Keller or Albert Einstein -- they think of Mao and Stalin.
This will always be so. This will never change.
Do not fool yourself into thinking that mere argument, mere logic can counter a century of indoctrination. Most Americans aren't fans of logic. If Sanders supporters think that they can re-educate the public on the meaning of the S-word, they are wrong. Hell, even the term "re-educate" conjures up images of tyrannical Bolshie robot factories.
Noam Chomsky and others have fixed on the label "Democratic socialism," but that won't do. We need a new word altogether. A different concept demands a different terminology. Do you want to convey the impression that what Bernie Sanders and Noam Chomsky stand for is somehow related
to what Mao and and Stalin stood for? No, you do not. Therefore, you should try to come up with a completely un
Suppose I said: "I'm a serial killer -- but I'm not like Ted Bundy or Jack the Ripper. I'm a nice
serial killer -- a Democratic
serial killer, a patriotic
serial killer, a jovial
serial killer, an anti-racist
serial killer, a charitable
serial killer." Would you continue to read this blog? Probably not (unless you work for the FBI). The term "serial killer" cannot be redeemed, even if that hated term comes garlanded with much nicer words. A serial killer will always have, at best, a niche popularity.
For a solid majority of your fellow Americans, the word "socialist" equals "serial killer." That's a reality. Instead of wasting your time trying to convince yourself that this reality is not real, you should spend the next few minutes trying to think of a better word.