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Last week, I invested $3.75 in my first “Sanders 2016” button. Like Senator Sanders, I usually caucus with the Democrats. I am also like the senator in that I am a democratic socialist.
My beloved is a little worried. She asks, “Aren’t you worried that Bernie Sanders will siphon off the liberal vote from the Democratic party?” To which I respond, “If the Democrats are worried about a defection of liberals, they maybe they could be more… well, liberal.”
I’ve been a socialist all my adult life. Some of my friends here in St. Louis, find my socialism a mystery. Were I in in England, were I to tell someone that my father was a railroad worker, my mother a secretary, that I’m a retired school teacher, a proud union member – Oh, yea, and I vote Labour! – their only response in England would be, “That figures.” But here it’s a big mystery.
So why am I all in for Senator Bernie Sanders?
First, I’ll be damned if I am not going to miss out on my generation’s Eugene Debs. It is an historical moment, the first serious socialist candidate since Norman Thomas. More importantly, however, Sanders could move Democratic polices to the left. The Democratic Party hasn’t elected a serious liberal to the White House since Lyndon Johnson.
I don’t want to go into the ideology of democratic socialism. The Wikipedia entry is fine. Sanders himself, in his declaration for high office, focused on several issues. “An economy that works for all the people, rather than a small class of billionaires. … We have a Republican Party that, with a few exceptions, doesn’t even recognize the reality of climate change. … We need to create millions of jobs, and the best way to do it is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.” As a war veteran, I was moved, frankly, when Senator Sanders said, “I don’t believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation wherein billionaires own the political process.”
These are just some of the issues Sanders will address. But I think there is something vastly more vital to a functioning republic. True dialogue.
Many Americans are socialists and just don’t know it. They support national health care, free education, collective bargaining, and a whole host of other issues generally associated with democratic socialism. But they are scared-off by the long legacy of another senator, Joseph McCarthy, who persecuted socialists. A Sanders campaign will reacquaint the American public with the positions of moderate socialism.
What would the public see in such a campaign? A well organized and modestly financed attempt to elect an articulate socialist. They will hear a critique of capitalism that has, as its basis, moderate socialist values such as the promotion of a mixed economy. They will hear a United States senator, who is comfortable with hierarchy, infrastructure, loyal opposition, and raising money. They’ll see a curmudgeon with wild hair and a rumpled blue suit. They’ll see an old socialist. And they won’t be afraid.
copyright 2015 John Samuel Tieman