Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders: A Democratic Socialist Is Someone Who Looks to Scandinavia, Things Are Getting Worse, Only Government Can Make Them Better

Sanders wants people mobilized, but is he really interested in what they want?

|

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the self-described "democratic socialist" running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, had a curious answer to the first question in a long interview with Ezra Klein at Vox.com, about what it means to be a socialist. "What it means is that one takes a hard look at countries around the world who have successful records in fighting and implementing programs for the middle class and working families," Sanders responded. "When you do that, you automatically go to countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and other countries that have had labor governments or social democratic governments." Those countries (combined population: 26 million), Sanders says, have cheaper healthcare, free education, better schools, and less income inequality, therefore he's a democratic socialist.

Sanders keeps returning to those points, the "rights of all people" to free healthcare and education, but is never asked to articulate how government distribution of such "rights" would work. While the American left has elevated the welfare states of Nordic countries to mythic proportions, the people there have been giving those same welfare states the cold shoulder. Even the comparison on public education is deceptive—teachers unions in places like Finland tend to not resist reform and are more tethered to the fiscal health of the school systems in which they work than their American counterparts.

Sanders keeps returning to the point of "mobilizing" millions of Americans for a "progressive agenda," but it just sounds like your typical GOTV operation:

That's a great question. In terms of my campaign, on July 29 we will be holding, as I understand it, at least 1,000 organizing meetings simultaneously all over this country involving 20,000 or 30,000 people. What we will be urging our supporters to do is to go out, knock on doors, register the people to vote, talk about the important issues facing our country in a way that the media very often does not. Talk to our Republican friends and neighbors and ask them why they are voting for candidates who are prepared to send their jobs to China, deny their kids the ability to have health care or get a higher education, engage people in that discussion.

Sanders is running a political campaign, one that appears disciplined to focus on one message—rich people owe poor people. What kind of discussion does he expect? Progressives in power have found out the hard way that "regular people" don't accept their claims to care about the poor uncritically. At the start of his term as mayor of New York City, for example, progressive hero Bill de Blasio tried to go after charter schools, one of those policies progressives like de Blasio and Sanders can tie to their favorite billionaire bogeymen. He failed because of popular resistance. Parents like to have the choice to send their children to better schools, and aren't as willing to sacrifice their children's educational and future outcomes for the sake of shaky ideological commitments pushed by progressives.

I suspect this is why Sanders has largely avoided addressing the growing movement toward criminal justice and police reform. Asked about racism, Sanders said of course it existed, and so the working class had to be rebuilt. And although he waxes poetical about the power of mass movements, he didn't mention Black Lives Matter in the interview while talking about the power of popular movements on issues like gay marriage and higher minimum wage laws. At the end of the day, substantive police reforms are impossible without targeting police unions. The privileges extended to police officers are baked into the law by unions, which create rules that protect bad actors. Mass attention to individual instances of police brutality may win some measure of accountability at the moment, but it's only sustained attention to the policies that breed police brutality that can create an environment of accountability and less police violence. In the relationship between police officers and minority communities, the role exploitation of such communities played in "building a middle class" becomes too apparent. In the same way as a racist white cop or a sociopath of any color can manage to draw a regular paycheck and benefits while failing to serve and protect the community he's sent into, other public institutions, like schools and jails, have also proved to be "middle class" jobs programs operating at the expense of exploited communities.

It's obviously not a conversation Sanders wants to have. But the rhetoric about rich vs. poor he's been using since the Rockefellers were the bogeymen billionaires of the moment has worked for him so far because it's easier, politically, to promise people more stuff than to point to how things have gotten better and how less government intervention in the affairs of free people, not more, might make things better still. Despite his commitment to the lines, Sanders compassion for the poor isn't actually genuine. Ezra Klein pushed Sanders on the idea that when it comes to global income inequality the U.S. is at the top of the equation, and that open borders and lower-level jobs moving overseas play an important role in lifting the global poor out of poverty—Sanders said he's weighed his obligations and decided the people of Vermont (and, presumably, of the U.S. if he's elected president) come first. So how could he be interested in engaging in an honest discussion about, say, how free market forces work to alleviate poverty on a global scale? After all, there are billionaires to blame.

Advertisement

NEXT: On Immigration, Bernie Sanders Sounds Like Donald Trump

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Great Alt Text. So is reason like some SNL competition thing where you’ve got to TRUMP (see what I did there) the other dude’s article about said political topic of the moment?

    1. Also, the Rockefellers ARE the boogeymen.

      1. I thought it was the Bilderbergs.

      2. ^This. Draconian NYS anti-drug laws courtesy of Nelson Rockefeller.

    2. ‘I’m not wearing pants.’

  2. I know it’s been said, but: fuck this guy.

    1. I’m sure SOMEONE does…

      1. Please, no SF slashfic

        1. But the pervy uncle stare is so obvious!

          1. It’s those teeth, they creep me out.

            1. his union gave up its dental plan for a keg of beer.

              1. “Sorry, Mr. Burns, but I don’t go in for these backdoor shenanigans. Sure, I’m flattered, maybe even a little curious, but the answer is no!”

    2. Sanders or Klein?

      Meh. Both, I say.

  3. Ezra Klein pushed Sanders on the idea that when it comes to global income inequality the U.S. is at the top of the equation, and that open borders and lower-level jobs moving overseas play an important role in lifting the global poor out of poverty?Sanders said he’s weighed his obligations and decided the people of Vermont (and, presumably, of the U.S. if he’s elected president) come first. So how could he be interested in engaging in an honest discussion about, say, how free market forces work to alleviate poverty on a global scale? After all, there are billionaires to blame.

    Well, there are two types of socialist. The internationalist variety, and the other type, like Sanders.

    1. You mean like Trotsky and Stalin?

      1. How about Mao,what is he? Cheap grain,oh,wait

      2. You won’t even let me Godwin this, will you?

        1. I think we’re all Godwined out from the previous Bernie thread.

          1. I blame myself….

            *hangs head*

            1. You did lead us into Godwinpalooza, but we followed.

              1. You know who else willingly followed a charismatic leader into activities that involved Hitler…?

                1. The Monty Python troupe?

            2. You don’t need to blame yourself…. we’ll do that.

  4. The first and most important ingredient for Scandinavian socialism is a bunch of Scandinavians. Why does no one see that property when marveling over these tiny nations?

    1. The reality is Scandinavian countries are not that socialist; they’re capitalist with a generous welfare state. Relatively free markets with wealth redistribution is always going to come out on top of centrally planned shitholes like Venezuela and North Korea, conspicuously absent from Bernie’s comparison. He’s sure they just don’t have the right people in charge.

      1. Basically, this “Scandinavian Socialism” myth needs to die. It dilutes the actual definition of socialism.

          1. The dead-on satire of Scandinavian mores “Together” is a 2000 movie by Sweden’s Lukas Moodysson set in a multi-family commune in 1975, when the groovy Social Democratic ideal was utterly unquestioned in Sweden.

            In the film’s signature scene, a sensitive, apron-wearing man tells his niece and nephew as he is making breakfast, “You could say that we are like porridge. First we’re like small oat flakes ? small, dry, fragile, alone. But then we’re cooked with the other oat flakes and become soft. We join so that one flake can’t be told apart from another. We’re almost dissolved. Together we become a big porridge that’s warm, tasty, and nutritious and yes, quite beautiful, too. So we are no longer small and isolated but we have become warm, soft and joined together. Part of something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes life feels like an enormous porridge, don’t you think?”

            Then he spoons a great glutinous glob of tasteless starch onto the poor kids’ plates. That’s Scandinavia for you, folks: Bland, wholesome, individual-erasing mush.

            However, the movie’s dialog is clear that the communards are socialist:

            Elisabeth, the new communard: “A lot has changed since I came here. I quit shaving under my arms. And, I’m a socialist”
            Rolf, her estranged husband: “So am I.”
            Elisabeth: “You’re a social democrat. Big difference.”

            It’s a pretty amusing 1970s Swedish period piece complete with ABBA and Nazareth in the soundtrack.

      2. The reality is Scandinavian countries are not that socialist; they’re capitalist with a generous welfare state.

        My point is such a scheme only functions with a group of people who by and large go to work, pay their taxes, are averse to corruption, etc. – i.e. a bunch of Scandinavians. Trying ‘capitalist with a generous welfare state’ with a bunch of Greeks gets one Greece.

        1. Well there’s French taxi drivers

      3. ^This. Hell, even on far left socialist forums, this is almost universally admitted and in fact a source of major annoyance for many socialists that the Scandinavian states are what people think of when they hear the term. Very few of them view Sweden or Norway as some sort of model.

    2. The first and most important ingredient for Scandinavian socialism is a bunch of Scandinavians.

      And the Law of Jante that goes with it.

  5. What? What does this have to do with Donald Trump?

    YOU’RE SCREWING IT UP, REASON.

    1. Sanders is the Trump of National Socialists?

  6. Talk to our Republican friends and neighbors and ask them why they are voting for candidates who are prepared to send their jobs to China, deny their kids the ability to have health care or get a higher education, engage people in that discussion.

    Hilarious. That’s the kind of honest discussion that makes friends for life.

    1. Burn that strawman, BERN IT!

      DU eats this crap up.

      1. Yea im not a fan of pubs but i havent seen calls for denying health care, shipping jobs or denying higher education

        1. Gotta read between the lines.

          1. It’s all about the dog whistles. That only the left can hear.

        2. Yea im not a fan of pubs but i havent seen calls for denying health care, shipping jobs or denying higher education

          I’d make sure to mention to one of those people how the fracking revolution is bringing back mfg jobs from China just to see their heads explode…

      2. Burn that strawman, BERN IT!

        *stands and applauds vigorously*

    2. “When did you stop beating your wife?”

      1. “Her skill level improved, so it’s only about a 50-50 win ratio nowadays.”

        /gamer

        1. When I started being the Raiders and she the Seahawks.

          /Madden gamer

          1. When she got three blue shells in a row.

            /Mariokarter

    3. So his supporters will soon be knocking on our doors? Rather than slamming the door, let’s engage them and report, here, the most stupefying responses to our questions of them.

      1. “Runs away crying” will be the most likely response.

      2. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will be canvassing my neighborhood. ‘The rich owe the poor’ pitch won’t get you to far. To bad. I would love the opportunity to respond with a invitation to admire the gun collection my modest wealth affords me.

      3. “Excuse me. Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Saviour Bernie Sanders?”

    4. He’s suffering from catastrophic thinking.

    5. What’s your solution, Bernie? Gulags?

    6. Cheaper labor leads to cheaper products and lifts Chinese peasants out of destitution?

  7. If he’s trying to emulate Scandinavia, then why the nearly singular emphasis on the minimum wage? Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland don’t have minimum wages. Has anyone told Bernie that?

    1. NEEDZ MOAR CROSS COUNTRY SKIERS

      1. Here ya go (maybe NSFW):

        http://tinyurl.com/o6puzfb

    2. Only because they don’t need it. I mean, right?

    3. But only one brand of deodorant. And that’s all that matters – female orgasms and deodorant.

      1. Well……..

      2. Second!

  8. That grin.

    Disturbing.

    Like he has something up his sleeve.

    1. He’s thinking about the refusenik girls from the radio factory in Minsk that were just delivered to his dacha on the Black Sea.

    2. Old Man with Candy

      1. I read that 1st as “Old Man with Cosby”.

    3. “C’mon over here little boy and stroke my rabbit . . .”

  9. NEEDS MOAR “FREE” STUFF.

  10. TL;DR:

    Sanders is wrong about everything.

    1. Would be a great TL;DR video.

      TL:DR – Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Understand Scandinavian Socialism.

  11. “rich people owe poor people”

    What kind of discussion does he expect? Progressives in power have found out the hard way that “regular people” don’t accept their claims to care about the poor uncritically

    What most discover is that the reality is that, despite all the rhetoric, the policies are about taking huge bites out of the income of the “middle class” for the sake of funding horribly ineffective and inefficient social-welfare programs for the slightly-less than middle class, whom themselves tend to hate the services as well as the assholes who insist they’re for their own good.

    e.g. see how middle-class liberals insist that public schools are so *teh awesomes* for everyone, and cast charter schools as “stealing” from public resources – while poor people tend to see charters as an “escape hatch” from their failed urban public school systems.

    all these people moaning about the “poor” are hucksters pandering to the self-flagellating instincts of the liberal rich.

    1. Yep. The middle class tax burden in Scandinavian utopias is enormous. The dirty little secret that the “soak the rich” crowd doesn’t want to face is that the middle class is where the real money is. It won’t be long until politicians start salivating over all the money locked away in 401ks.

      1. ” the middle class is where the real money is.”

        Hell yes.

        All this bullshit about “going after billionaires” is a huge fake-out to get people to vote for huge punitive taxation on their 401Ks and any other kind of investment. Because with a slowing real-economy, the trillions locked up in investments are going to be the only real source of revenue expansion for the Federal Govt.

      2. It won’t be long until politicians start salivating over all the money locked away in 401ks.

        Already have: http://www.investmentnews.com/…..tax-breaks

        I’m also fascinated by socialists’ commitment to the middle class. The original socialists saw the middle class as useless, unproductive intermediaries.

        1. But now classes are defined by income scales rather than as to their roles.

        2. The textbook definition of bourgeoisie is “middle class”, and genuine socialists target it for destruction.

    2. STANDING OVATION.

      THROWS ZEGNA TIE IN THE AIR.

  12. Scandinavian countries have relatively small populations and operate on the same rules as small towns in the US — it’s called Jante Law.

    There was a large historical movement to make the US, UK, and other countries operate more like a small town in the 1920s until 1945.

    1. “The ten rules state:

      You’re not to think you are anything special.
      You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
      You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
      You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
      You’re not to think you know more than we do.
      You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
      You’re not to think you are good at anything.
      You’re not to laugh at us.
      You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
      You’re not to think you can teach us anything.”

      Well, world-leading alcoholism, depression, & suicide rates it is, then! Cheers mates.

      1. You’re going to give Tony a spontaneous orgasm with talk like that.

      2. Jesus, that could be straight out of the Little Red Book.

      3. Occasionally the Guardian actually does print some good Op-Eds

        (definitely an exception, not the rule – but better than the consistently bland-shittiness of the NYT)

        http://www.theguardian.com/wor…..way-sweden

        “The myriad successes of the Nordic countries are no miracle, they were born of a combination of Lutheran modesty, peasant parsimony, geographical determinism and ruthless pragmatism (“The Russians are attacking? Join the Nazis! The Nazis are losing? Join the Allies!”). These societies function well for those who conform to the collective median, but they aren’t much fun for tall poppies. Schools rein in higher achievers for the sake of the less gifted; “elite” is a dirty word; displays of success, ambition or wealth are frowned upon. If you can cope with this, and the cost, and the cold (both metaphorical and inter-personal), then by all means join me in my adopted hyggelige home”

        1. And the article does mention Jante Law as Jantelov.

      4. Rule #11 is most important: Perhaps you don’t think we know a few things about you?

    2. They are also a thoroughly homogenous people

  13. zra Klein pushed Sanders on the idea that when it comes to global income inequality the U.S. is at the top of the equation, and that open borders and lower-level jobs moving overseas play an important role in lifting the global poor out of poverty?Sanders said he’s weighed his obligations and decided the people of Vermont (and, presumably, of the U.S. if he’s elected president) come first.

    So he’s for socialism on a national scale. Perhaps we should start calling him by a different name then. Something that captures the fact that there is a “national” component to his “socialism”. I’m sure the label will help him greatly.

    1. So he should grow a tooth brush mushstash?

    2. His campaign manager should be Mr. Bimmler.

  14. What do those Scandinavian countries pay for national defense? Because that has a great impact on what their government is able to spend on other programs.

    Also, they live in largely localistic societies where they are perfectly fine with rarely traveling out of their communities due to burdensome fuel prices. That is nearly impossible in the United States merely because people prefer freedom of movement on their own terms as opposed to at the schedule of the state trains and buses.

    1. I think the national defense point is a good one. If the US didn’t spend as much as all the major competitors combines on defense, and maybe just more than the next biggest competitor, and left Europe and the rest of the world to fend for themselves, doubtful that any country would have a very robust social welfare state.

  15. If it is ok to let poor people suffer for the benefit of his constituents… Then why should my kids suffer for the benefit of unions? Or inner city poor?

    1. The consequences of Sanders’s proposed policies are irrelevant because he has the right feelz.

  16. What it means is that one takes a hard look at countries around the world who have successful records in fighting and implementing programs for the middle class and working families…”

    Somebody get that man some help, he’s having a stroke!

  17. When I think of the true beneficiaries of socialism, middle class “working families” are not even on the list.

  18. Sanders said he’s weighed his obligations and decided the people of Vermont (and, presumably, of the U.S. if he’s elected president) come first.

    The Albert Shanker defense.

  19. I still think the ‘Sanders thinks open borders is a Koch brothers’ plot’ point cannot be stressed enough (but please, don’t turn Sanders into the new Trump). I mean, that’s not as bad as, say, a 9/11 truther Presidential candidate, but the random conspiracy theory just calls back to the old days of anti-Masonic/anti-Zionist politics.

    1. “X is a Koch Brothers plot” is in fact a pretty mainstream conspiracy theory template both inside and outside the Democratic party.

      Sure it’s stupid, but the constituency he courts will totally buy it.

  20. Bernie Sanders: A Democratic Socialist Is Someone Who Looks to Scandinavia, Things Are Getting Worse, Only Government Can Make Them Better

    So a Democratic Socialist who wants the US to be Scandanavia is going to have to orchestrate some scheme whereby the population is drastically reduced, by about 290 million or so and natural resource extraction is nationalized and/or taxed heavily to support the welfare state of those who survive the genocide. Because the entropy of socialist economic policies sure as shit aren’t going to start producing wealth on their own.

  21. Even if he’s right what has Bernie done in 40 years of public service to push that. As far as anyone can tell the answer is nothing. Nothing at all. He’s content to complain with arms folded, toe tapping on the sideline like every either leftist who leaves 100% of the actual work to someone else.

  22. Hi im bernie i am concerned about youth employment…to fix i will raise the min wage to 15!!

  23. Hi im bernie i am concerned about youth employment…to fix i will raise the min wage to 15!!

  24. I think what they think is that if we had socialism then the teachers’ & police unions, etc. wouldn’t be so selfish, so wouldn’t fight reform.

  25. He is an old times socialist. A crack pot populist who will do what it takes to sooth the workers of the US ( or VT, because they come first). His message, ” you don’t have to work hard, be smart and solve problems to earn a living, I, Bernie will enrich you at the expense of the undeserving ( and also the deserving) wealthy. A pox on his voters.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.