Sanders “Democratic Socialism” is More Like Scandinavia and Western European Models
Venezuela is what you are going to get if, as a party, the Democrats can’t stop the bickering feud that is going on now and start showing that their sense of purpose is making sure Donald Trump doesn’t get a second term. Because Venezuela is what you are going to get if he gets a second term. Did you see his disregard for the rule of law in the pardons and in his declaration that he is now the nation’s chief “law enforcement officer?” You can buy pardons in Venezuela. I guess you can do that in the US now.
With Bernie Sanders becoming the apparent Democratic front runner, we’re starting to see conservatives try and come up with an argument that turns the Scandinavian countries into pure Capitalist economic models all based on profit motive and push the Socialist label on to Venezuela or the former Soviet Union or Cuba so they can tie that to Sanders and hopefully re-elect an unelectable president. Well, with Trump’s close friendship to Vladimir Putin, the right wing extremist media is staying away from references to the Soviet Union. And if you drag out the “Communist” label too much, that brings up Trump’s coddling and pussyfooting around North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, “A really nice guy” according to Trump. A murderous madman to the families of the thousands he’s killed and a major danger to the security of our South Korean and Japanese allies. But the right wing media hasn’t ever shied away from sheer hypocrisy.
And while Venezuela is currently practicing a form of Socialism that isn’t working, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, along with France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Ireland and Canada, all also practice a combination of economic systems that include a large measure of Socialism. They are far more “socialist” than the United States, with majorities of voters who fall into the political category of “democratic socialist.” You can’t deny that. Nor can you deny that what Sanders advocates is much more like Denmark and Norway, or France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, than it is anything like Venezuela.
It would be more valid to compare Venezuela, racked by corruption, to Trump than to any Democrats seeking the presidency.
In Venezuela, “socialism” as an economic system isn’t working because the country is also a corrupt dictatorship, not a democratic republic of, by and for the people. Big difference there, especially when the government is distributing resources it owns which are intended to benefit the people. That’s not happening in Venezuela, for a number of reasons, including the country’s past history of political turmoil and corruption. In Scandinavia, the countries are “social democracies,” that have transitioned in the 20th century into stable republics. In Venezuela, it would be hard to argue that it’s ever been anything but an oligarchy or dictatorship. It’s not economics that is causing the failure of Venezuela, it’s a political system that is causing economic and social failure. Nothing Sanders promotes or advocates leads to anything that resembles Venezuela, or to any other “socialist” country that has failed. Venezuela is the result of what happens when the kind of corruption exhibited by Trump and his administration has power and control over the economy and there is income redistribution from the bottom to the rich.
Sanders advocates for the United States to become the kind of social democracy that exists in Scandinavia, Western Europe and Canada. His economic proposals, including where he puts the tax burden, are based on a recognition of the true value of labor and the mutual benefits of an infrastructure that gives private businesses an advantage because everyone pays to support it. Placing a tax rate on private, corporate business and the accumulation of wealth that is proportionate to the consumption of public resources is not necessarily a “socialist” idea, but is part of his political platform and something that this country has yet to achieve.
We could make a long list of the things that follow a Socialist organization that are part of the United States government, state governments or local government. We already have plenty of “Socialism” in various forms in various places. Our national defense would be a good example. I don’t know very many military personnel who would give up their commissary for the grocery store, or their medical care, dental care, or even the barbershop in the headquarters building for what’s available to the public. If we’d depended on profit margins and economic growth to bring electricity to Appalachia and most of the South and rural areas of the Midwest, some places would still be waiting. We have public education. We have medicare, and of course, Social Security if the corporate interests can be kept out of wanting to get their hands on it.
All I see from Sanders is that he wants to add some things to the list, mainly health care and health insurance, education and a tax structure that is equitable and doesn’t place the burden on the middle class to pay for benefits the corporate world enjoys tax free or close to it. Compared to Scandinavia, Canada or most of the developed world, we are way behind with our hospitals and our insurance. The US has moved backward as costs soar. Corporations are buying up the remaining hospitals and medical care facilities operated non-profit by churches and religious groups. Sanders has this nailed down well enough to hold town halls in West Virginia coal country and fill the venue with attentive, interested listeners. Even hard line conservatives are interested in something that will lower their health care costs and make insurance affordable and Sanders is right to point out that the only way to do that is to take the profiteering out of operating costs and insurance premiums and get the government to recognize health care as a basic human right.
Politics being what it is, these polls which show that “45% of the electorate won’t vote for a ‘Socialist'” are a factor. But as Sanders puts forth his campaign, it’s clear that more Americans are likely to vote for him than for the current occupant of the White House. Polling data during the week of February 28 puts Sanders between 6 and 10 points ahead of Trump nationally, and ahead by at least the margin of error in 23 states with 315 electoral votes. Maybe ultra-right wing conservatives wouldn’t vote for someone who calls himself a “democratic socialist,” but 48% of the coal miners in McDowell County, West Virginia say they would vote for Bernie, while only 40% now say they’ll vote for Trump. Maybe the retired rich, or the folks that live on the fringes of Florida’s Everglades will say they won’t vote for a “democratic socialist,” but 47% of likely Florida voters say they’ll vote for Bernie. Only 39% now say they’ll vote for Trump. (Morning Consult, Feb, 19, 2020)
Here’s the bottom line. We are more likely to become Venezuela if Trump is re-elected than we would be under Bernie Sanders. I haven’t made my mind up yet about which Democrat I prefer. It will be someone who wants to overhaul health care and drive down the prices. And it will be someone who wants to make sure our tax burden is equitable and fair, and not slanted toward billionaires and corporations. But I also want someone who will effectively end the Trump Presidency and have long enough coat-tails to teach the Republicans an unforgettable lesson about putting their party over country. The landslide coming needs to slap some people silly.