I am old enough to remember when being educated was considered a desirable thing. Believe it or not, there was a time when words had meaning and facts mattered. Oh, those were the days!
In seventh grade social studies, I remember learning about different types of world political and economic systems. We were taught the differences between capitalism, socialism and communism.
Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, recently called Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, a “socialist-slash-communist.” Now I know that can’t be true; that those labels have different meanings; that Sanders is not a communist. But it doesn’t seem to matter. The Republican base that Trump is pandering too just loves it! The moniker has two scary words side by side!
To Bernie’s credit, he calls himself a democratic socialist.
“What democratic socialism means to me,” Sanders said during a recent speech in New Hampshire, “is having a government which represents all people, rather than just the wealthiest people, which is most often the case right now in this country.”
Bernie Sanders believes “democratic socialism” is just an extension of the New Deal and the Great Society, both of which defined the Democratic Party in the 20th century.
But can any candidate in the United States win an election with the word “socialist” attached to their name? Or was Bill Maher right when he told Sanders on his cable show, “They hear ‘socialist,’ and they think ‘herpes,’ Bernie.”
In a recent Gallup poll, Americans say they are more likely to support an atheist than a socialist for president next year. Just 47 percent of Americans would vote for a socialist if their party nominated one, while 50 percent said they would not, while 58 percent said they would have no problem voting for an atheist in their party.
Bernie Sanders is not a communist nor a true socialist, as Trump has accused him of being. But perhaps Bernie needs to lay off the socialist label, even if he tones it down with the “democratic” modifier. He may be overestimating the average voter’s knowledge of different political systems and underestimating their gut hatred of the dreaded “s” word.
Bill Maher could be right. No one likes herpes. And very few Americans know the differences between socialism, capitalism and communism anyway!