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Bernie's Dilemma 

There’s a lot of talk, usually in the form of advice, to Bernie Sanders about how he should conduct himself, how he should explain “democratic socialism” to America and how he should deflect charges from the right that he’s (almost?) a Communist. Some of it well thought through (see piece in The Nation).

Though no one listens to me, here’s my offering. Emphasize the simple fact that America is already a Socialist land.

In the minds of Republicans and devotees of Faux News, “Socialism” is equivalent to Communism. They seem to think that socialists want government to be the primary owner of, using the Marxist term, the means of production. Historically you can find individuals who treated socialism this way but it’s not what’s meant by “Democratic” socialism.

Here the government is in control of a rather specific cluster of programs and agencies that serve the general public — in a host of different ways. These programs and agencies are all found within a group of specific functions:

a. defense and protection (police, military, Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, NSA)

b. education (public schools, state-supported colleges and universities)

c. health (public hospitals, the FDA, CDC, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid)

d. environment (parks, EPA, roads, transportation)

e. justice (courts, judiciary, DOJ)

f. support and pensions (Social Security, welfare programs, food stamps)

g. scientific funding (NASA, NFS, NIH)

That’s it. That’s Democratic Socialism. The U S of A is very much a “socialist” country already.

Bernie needs to emphasize this, to defuse the highly charged, negative associations that many have with the term.

Where the radical elements of his message enter is not with these “socialist” components that are hallmarks of every complex, modern state, it’s with his call to, among other things, reduce income inequality, bring back a sensible, progressive tax code, establish effective regulations over Wall Street and the banks and strengthen existing “socialist” agencies like the EPA and the FDA.

The right wing is deeply disturbed by Sanders’s platform, but not because he’s a “socialist” (they’re not stupid, they know that the country is quite definitely already deeply entwined in these socialist programs).

Their goal is to remove these programs and agencies from the government and, except for the military, privatize them.

There is a name for this form of government: Fascism.

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