March 20, 2019 | 28° F

Sanders associated with myopic definitions of socialism

Opinions Column: Waxing Philosophical

“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living … We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people … is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed and insecure.” The latter quote seems to be the rallying cry of the ever-popular Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), full of hope and a guarantee for economic equality social reform. However, such is not the case, considering the latter is actually an excerpt from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address on Jan. 11, 1944. Why bring FDR into the fray of modern politics? Because Sanders is, simply put, not a socialist, as is often charged by those right-of-center — and even those new to the Left.

The New Deal, as coined by Roosevelt, was an attempt to sway the growing industrial monopolies and the burgeoning weight of a recession economy. Now, there are many facets to effectiveness and overall structure of New Deal social and economic benefits, but these facets are not the point of this article. Sanders, despite many mislead citizens, is not trying to push a socialist agenda, but rather a very, well, American one.

Radical change and political revolution are not something unique to Sanders, and I would even go as far to say that he is not even promoting anything outrageously Marxist. Free education and universal healthcare may seem like a radical solution to a modern problem, but as anyone who has read New Deal policies will notice, there is a noticeable layer of dust residing on these ideas — nothing new in other words.

This is not to say the presidential hopeful Sanders is not taking up a noble cause. I would, despite my Marxist tendencies, much rather enjoy the dated American system of social beneficence as proposed by Sanders than anything the liar and racist Donald Trump could ever offer — not to mention anything that the comparably ugly and incompetent former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could offer as well. Thus, the real radicals in Washington, D.C. are those of the right.

Sure, "socialism" is a scary word to some, especially those who only see it as part of a formula for fascist dictatorships and rogue states, while strangely disregarding the many true socialist states available, but overall American leftist programs such as Social Security and unemployment benefits are usually overlooked and often enjoyed. Mentioning government involvement and social programs, and suddenly one is perceived as a communist, as if McCarthyism was still fresh in the minds of the population — although no one seems to be aware of why the previous is inherently a bad thing.

Aligning with corporate interest, God, guns and the supposed golden years (often strangely attributed to the Bloody Thursday instigator and FBI snitch, Ronald Reagan), the Grand Old Party (GOP) and all of its strange evolutions have moved far right, while the American Left has become slightly more conservative. Consider this, Sanders’s views on political paradigms were once the norm for the democrats, which were also supported, mind you, by a majority of southerners, before the invention of Walmart, camouflage tuxedos and Reagan worship. Jokes aside, this shift to the Right, and in some cases the Far Right, is more radical than anything Sanders proposes.

Although I will not elaborate on the possible causes of the right-side shuffle here, I wish only to stop the outcry of socialism and communism associated with Sanders. Yes, I will add that Bernie is a proponent of some European democratic socialist policies, but this is still America, and Europe will always be Europe. No domestic program aimed at the increase of social benefit or economic reform could ever be associated with just a political quagmire, but rather more or less a reaction to the modern desire for security and wealth equality.

Perhaps Karl Marx was right when he insinuated that free democracy was an essential step for the flowering of socialism, but Sanders is most likely not that major step cresting the upper landing. Most recently, I saw an article from Investment Watch on my fraternity brother’s social media page which made the poorest attempt to compare Sanders’ proposed tax system, which was actually that of Ralph Nader to the modus operandi of North Korea and Nazi Germany. Next, assertions of genocidal populations mislead by the government and dire poverty at the hands of a few were made and contributed to effects of socialism rather than the sociopathic and histrionic dictators and strongmen who probably couldn’t spell “socialism.” Actually, it seems almost safe to say that many of these qualities have already surfaced under right wing fear-mongering, but I’ll save that for another discussion. If one truly believes that an independent senator from Vermont, who supports some very libertarian ideas — such as less-restrictive gun rights — is going to be the next Kim Jong-Un or Hitler, then one may have bigger issues at hand.

So, remove those Margaret Thatcher pins that seem to be popping up and stop buying into whatever Fox News tells you. Bernie Sanders is not a socialist, and his economic and social program is older and more American than the so-called Reaganomics. Marx isn’t for everyone, but then again, that’s half the problem anyway, catch my drift?

Jonathan Finnerty is a School of Arts Sciences junior majoring in classics and philosophy. His column, "Waxing Philosophical," runs on alternate Fridays.


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Jonathan Finnerty

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