For a great period of time, Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist,” was the front-runner of the Democratic National Convention’s (DNC) bid for the 2020 presidency. Despite being a heavyweight candidate and maintaining front-runner status for a long duration of time, Bernie Sanders eventually lost the Democratic nomination to former Vice President Joe Biden. As we approach the 2020 election, many Americans have found themselves wondering why Joe Biden won the nomination. Why did Bernie’s apparent popularity stagnate? The simple answer is that Bernie is an independent: his stance on the issues and ideologies are far too extreme for the political climate of this country. Functionally, both Republicans and Democrats fear his success.
Bernie Sanders’ policies and line of thinking are precisely why Republicans dislike his political presence. Although Bernie Sanders conveys himself as a “democratic socialist,” he is, in reality, a Marxist at heart. Regardless of whether his intentions stem from the pursuit of a Marxist society, socialism has dire consequences which ultimately perpetuate Marxism. Vladimir Lenin, communist theorist and former Premier of the Soviet Union, once stated, “The goal of socialism is communism.” Miller of the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania elaborates that “Socialism really only has two options: collapse a society, or switch to communism and destroy it almost immediately.” History has proven that many communist societies have ultimately become totalitarian, witnessed plummeting economies, contributed to genocide, faced international condemnation, etc. The same applies to socialism. A prime example is Nazi Germany. The Nazi regime was officially known as the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party.” This party utilized socialist tactics, such as disarming civilians and increasing their reliance on government, to facilitate their genocidal efforts.
Moreover, because—as shown throughout economic history—it is unsustainable to communally distribute the means of production, communism is not an effective political approach, nor is socialism. That is precisely why the People’s Republic of China is increasingly moving towards a capitalist economy and away from Mao’s communist precedent, for instance. When Chairman Mao of the Chinese Communist Party was in power (1949-1976), China ran a state-controlled economy with 88% of people living in harsh poverty. Conversely, with a booming contemporary private sector, during the leadership of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping (2003-present) that figure has dropped to 1%. During the period of lessened state control, China introduced property rights and reduced state-involvement in the economy. Much like in China, there are many economic ramifications to Sanders’ socialist ideology. For example, abolishing the cost of education insinuates exorbitant tax increases, reductions in the quality of the education itself, and a plethora of economic detriments. “Free” healthcare has similar effects. Increasing taxes on the “top 1%” from 33.4% to 45%, as Sanders advocates for, would generate $276 billion in revenue. Needless to say, however, the Center for Health and Economy estimates that universal health care would cost a whopping 36 trillion dollars over the course of ten years (3.6 trillion annually). It would cost thirteen times the amount that Sanders can generate by increasing taxes. Furthermore, in Canada, universal healthcare has unilaterally caused a decrease in surgeons’ pay and therefore caused issues within the field. According to Frakt, a Harvard Professor, wait times have dramatically increased, and the quality of healthcare has plummeted, despite the fact that Canada is a first-world country. These are all consequences of a socialist economy. Delivering “free” benefits actually has a cost: debt spikes, taxes are extortionately raised, businesses are forced to lay off workers or file for bankruptcy because of newly regulated wages, etc. Republicans fear Bernie’s political activism because they principally disagree with his economic policies; when Bernie campaigns on “free” benefits, the young populous fails to understand the associated ramifications.
Democrats, on the other hand, fear Bernie for two, different reasons. First, Bernie has ruined the image of the Democratic Party. Second, and consequently, nominating Bernie as the DNC’s candidate effectively fractures the party. It will exacerbate the political differences between moderate and comparatively left-wing Democrats, and thus expedite the split of the DNC.
Sanders is massively losing popularity in the public sphere due to his controversial statements regarding communism. Historically, Cuba, China, the Soviet Union, and East Germany were all communist countries. North Korea and Venezuela are key modern-day examples. Unfortunately, all of these countries have engaged in totalitarian and authoritarian policies. The aforementioned countries have faced many instances of international criticism due to human rights infringements, violence, and greater dictatorial policies. Yet, despite this, Sanders continues to praise these nations. There are countless examples of this. While the United States was controlling communism from spreading and checking the Sandinista National Liberation Front, Nicaragua’s left-wing political party, Sanders visited the country and acclaimed the party’s leaders and policies. He effectively entrenched the credibility of the Sandinistas, the nemesis of the United States and the party that the US was attempting to withhold from power. Absurdly, Sanders held his honeymoon in the Soviet Union during the Cold War; this was during an intense rivalry between the US and Soviet Union that many feared would escalate to nuclear war. After returning, he wholeheartedly praised the USSR. Recently, in an interview with Anderson Cooper, Sanders commended notorious Cuban leader, Fidel Castro: “[Castro] had a massive literacy program.” Sanders acclaimed Castro’s venture to increase literacy throughout Cuba; problematically, however, Sanders failed to address that Castro’s ulterior motive was to spread propaganda. Providing masses the ability to read is effectively futile because the Communist Party controlled what the people were permitted to read. In essence, Castro sought to condition the Cuban people to favor the Communist Party. This is clearly abusive on the part of Castro, as he was not trying to better his nation’s literacy skills, but only moving to secure his position of power further. This—along with a multitude of other controversial actions and remarks made by Sanders—are simply demolishing the credibility of the Democratic party in the eyes of the public. According to Nicolae of the Harvard Crimson, 100 million people have died at the hands of communist regimes in the past century. These events and statistics induce a well-deserved stigma against communist ideology; unfortunately, Senator Sanders’ praise of these regimes merely discredits the Democratic Party as a whole.
Secondly, if Bernie Sanders were to triumph in his bid for the presidency, the DNC would become divided, and an impending intraparty split would be aggravated. Currently, the DNC is witnessing a division: some are compelled by socialist ideas, whereas others prefer a more centrist approach. This highlights the exact difference between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. If Bernie were to win in 2020, he and his campaign would have effectively set precedent that socialism can and will prevail. This would ultimately split the DNC into two parties, one of which being a socialist party. If not formally split, the DNC would fracture to an irrecoverable extent. In the 2016 election, a surprising 10% of Sanders supporters voted for Trump after Hilary was nominated; an immense amount did not vote at all. This shows the excruciating loyalty and dedication Bernie’s base has. Nevertheless, this loyalty is harmful to the DNC—they lose support for the candidate they have nominated and therefore lose the election to a stronger and more unified Republican party. The Democratic Party will try to avoid this outcome at all costs. For example, in the 2020 Iowa primary, the DNC released results that were 62% complete, declaring Pete Buttigieg the winner. By releasing incomplete results, the DNC effectively provided Buttigieg—a more desirable and centrist democrat—lots of momentum. Ironically, once the results began showing Sanders in the lead for Iowa, the Chair of the DNC, Tom Perez, suggested recanvassing the votes. It is clear that the DNC is attempting to annex any momentum and popularity from Sanders because he is unfavorable for the party’s goals in the long term.
Bernie Sanders was quite a unique presidential candidate. A long time Independent, he is unfavorable to both Republicans and Democrats in the status quo. Republicans fundamentally disagree with Bernie’s political views, as they believe he is campaigning on a flawed and devious motif of “free” benefits. Democrats view Sanders as a threat to their party’s prevalence and long-term success: not only do his controversial comments elucidate negative impressions of the DNC, but his nomination would threaten to dismantle the Democratic Party altogether. All in all, one can only ponder: will Bernie Sanders ever overcome his challenges and take his socialist agenda to the executive branch, or will he merely remain an outspoken individual without effective outreach.