Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Slouching Toward Socialism

The Democratic Party is having a strange debate initiated by Bernie Sanders’s surprising successful presidential run in the invisible primary. What’s the difference between a socialist and a Democrat? Most Democratic Party leaders, including national chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Senator and next Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, have avoided defining a difference because of a fear of alienating a surprisingly high percentage of Democrats who have a supportive view of the word.

Rating of Socialism
  • 56% positive Democratic views of socialism as governing policy
  • 69% positive Sanders’ supporters
  • 52% positive Clinton’s supporters
  • 63% positive Democrats under 30 years old
  • 32% positive all voters
  • 52% negative all voters
         Source: NYT/CBS News, Nov. 2015          
         Format: Ciruli Associates 2016

Needless to say, this debate isn’t academic. Forty-three percent of Iowa Democrats describe themselves as socialist leaning and Clinton is apparently in a very competitive race in Iowa. The Clinton campaign is attempting to claim Sanders’ socialist label is a handicap in the general election. She is running as the experienced candidate who will win and get things done. Clinton’s challenge, of course, is that a substantial percentage of Democrats want to shake up the system more than be pragmatic about electability.

Just as the Republican establishment fears Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Democrats in D.C. see Sanders as a disaster for their chances of winning back the Senate and picking up gubernatorial seats.

Both parties’ establishments are being challenged by their grassroots – a balance between attracting passionate true believers and avoiding extremes that turn at the middle.

New York Times: Alarmed Clinton supporters begin focusing on Sander’s socialist edge
Time: The Democrats stumble toward 50 shades of socialism

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