Legs are becoming tangled in the race for the Democratic nominee, as ‘Super Tuesday’ ushers in a surprise comeback for candidate Joe Biden. After winning only 4/14 States on Tuesday March 3rd, it feels time to re-assess the reality of the ‘Sanders campaign’ and consider whether the United States of America is ready to endorse such a divisive figure.
A prime issue for Bernie Sanders is dealing with the American nervousness surrounding his declared position as a ‘Democratic Socialist’. Recent history has proved a continued scepticism of anything which may be misconstrued as (or genuinely be) socialist. The backlash faced by President Barack Obama for the passage of 2010’s ‘Affordable Care Act’ (or ‘ObamaCare’) which aimed to reform Health Insurance within the US captures this conflict. The attempts of socially progressive Presidents to extend Federal power and legislate perceived ‘moral obligations’ seem to always rub uncomfortably against the socially conservative population’s suspicion of a strong central government.
To his credit, Sanders has changed his rhetorical strategy to re-define the US’ economic principles.
Descriptions of the ‘Land of Opportunity’ and the Constitutional promise of ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness’ seem to justify its place as a free-market economy (within which government intervention should be limited). However, for 20th February’s Democratic debate Bernie drew instead from the words of Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which suggested America already practiced ‘socialism for the very rich’ and ‘rugged individualism for the poor’. By associating the politically loaded term with corporate tax cuts, rather than the red-flagged waving and manifesto flogging threats to ‘Americanism’ of 1940s/50s, Sanders makes the idea of Democratic Socialism more palatable for the sceptics,
The question persists though. Is this enough? Sanders’ promise of Universal healthcare, though playing catch-up with the endlessly referenced examples of Sweden, Norway, or Finland, is perhaps radically a few steps too far beyond the already controversial ObamaCare. As nuanced as Sanders’ explanation of Democratic Socialism may be, the crass Twitter-fingers of Trump which may just as easily throw the word ‘SOCIALIST’ out may reduce the opportunity for genuine dialogue, and for Sanders to get his point across to both the Republican and Democratic bases if he does indeed win the nomination.
Perhaps the moderate and sensible air of Biden may serve as an antidote to Trump’s populism, but first he needs to shake off his ‘Sleepy Joe’ tag and up the charisma if he is to compete for media attention if he instead becomes the nominee.
Last modified: 12th March 2020