Anyone who has paid attention to the mainstream media cannot help but note that the meme that socialism has become more popular than it has traditionally been as of late, especially among young people.
Social scientists explain this phenomenon by suggesting that memories of the Cold War have started to fade, and economic insecurity has inspired the desire for the government to take the more proactive care of people, providing free healthcare, education, and so on.
But is this meme real or is it based on hype? A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll suggests that the latter is the case. CNBC explains:
“More than half of registered voters, or 52%, have a positive view of capitalism, the survey found. Meanwhile, 18% have a negative perception. At the same time, only 19% of voters have a positive view of socialism. A majority, 53%, have a negative perception.
So how does one explain the rise of Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, an unabashed democratic socialist? A Gallup Poll from August 2018 provides a clue. Only 47 percent of Democrats view capitalism positively while 57 percent view socialism positively. Naturally, if the same numbers hold up in 2020, Bernie has an edge that could be unstoppable for his quest for the Democratic nomination.
NBC notes, referencing their poll, that while Democratic voters have a favorable impression of socialism, especially younger voters, general election voters are far less likely to support the concept. These include suburban and swing-state voters and independents.
However, as CNBC notes, the fact that the general public has a low opinion of socialism will be a factor in President Donald Trump’s reelection strategy, especially if he winds up facing Bernie Sanders in the general election.
The Hill notes another poll taken around the same time as the Gallup Poll that suggests that Bernie has an insurmountable barrier to winning the general election.
In a new Hill.TV/HarrisX American Barometer poll released Tuesday, an overwhelming majority of respondents, 76 percent, said they would not vote for a socialist political candidate, while only 24 percent of those polled said they would vote for a socialist candidate.”
To be sure Bernie has been elected and reelected as a senator in deep-blue state Vermont with ease. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another out, and proud socialist won a surprise victory in a heavily Democratic district in New York City. But the polling data suggests that the label of socialism is a massive loser in a nationwide general election.
So, as CNBC notes, Trump is going to use the label of socialism to degrade the support of whomever he winds up facing in the fall, not just Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Pete Buttigieg will have the moniker hung upon them, even though neither of them is, strictly speaking, a socialist. Warren comes closest, as she espouses some of the same views as Bernie Sanders, but she has specifically denied she is a socialist.
Of course, it doesn’t take a professional pundit to note that the strategy might not work if Michael Bloomberg is the nominee. Bloomberg is a self-made billionaire, albeit with a boatload of authoritarian impulses.
The huge advantage that Trump would enjoy if Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee certainly explains why some establishment Democrats are gaming the system against the senator from Vermont.
The Democratic National Committee is already altering the debate rules to allow Bloomberg to participate in the next candidate’s debate. Some Bernie supporters suspect that part of the mess in Iowa, in which the caucus results have been delayed, is part of a nefarious plot to deny their guy a victory in that contest.
The fact that the snafu is likely the result of an insufficiently tested computer app has not stopped people on social media from stoking the theme that the fix is in. In the meantime, Bernie is favored to win the New Hampshire primary, when may set up momentum to carry him into South Carolina and the Super Tuesday contests.
The late President Richard Nixon once opined that a presidential candidate should run left or right (depending which party he or she belongs to) during the primaries and then head for the center during the general election.
The strategy likely worked better before the era of YouTube and social media. Another advantage Trump will have if he faces Bernie is that no one thinks that Sanders is likely to follow Mr. Nixon’s advice.