Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


July 27, 2015: What's So Great About Bernie Sanders?

By Rob Tenery, MD on July 27, 2015

Since Senator Bernie Sanders first announced his candidacy for the Presidency, his meteoric increase in popularity raises several serious concerns that must be examined closely. First is his popularity about him and his message? Or, is it more a backlash to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton?

Hillary Clinton, for all her years on the national stage, as wife of the sitting President, Senator from New York and Secretary-of-Sate of the current President, has very little to show for her efforts. Even her strongest proponents have trouble piecing together an impressive dossier of her accomplishments. Her questionable past from Whitewater, the Rose Law firm, the deleted emails, lack of the proper response during the Benghazi attack when she was the Secretary-of-State, appearing to hide in a choreographed campaign and the questionable dealings of the Clinton Foundation, make her a flawed candidate.  Currently, she is upside down on the issue of trust by the American public. The Democrats are worried, if she is their best candidate in the upcoming Presidential election.

If Sanders’ popularity was just about the concerns over Hillary Clinton’s viability as the Democratic candidate, then Martin O’Malley should be doing better in the polls. The 52-year-old (versus Saunders at almost 75) O’Malley was a popular governor from Maryland who championed issues such as same-sex marriage and college tuition for undocumented immigrants. The former chairman of the Democratic Governors Association from 2001-2013, O’Malley should be the logical alternative to the front-running Clinton, but, so far, he is not. The other nominees, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee and possibly Vice-President Biden haven't caught on either.

Sanders', a self-described democratic socialist, message seems to be resonating, at least, in the Democratic Party. The senator from Vermont, although he caucuses with Democrats, calls himself an independent, and, currently, is the ranking minority party member on the Senate Budget Committee. He aligns himself with the social democratic leaning countries in Europe, particularly Scandinavia. His past involvement as a member of the Young People’s Socialist League and a youth affiliate of the Socialist Party of America, have propelled him to the level of the leading progressive voice.

Excerpted from a recent speech: Sanders said, “the billionaire cliques, the Koch brothers, the lobbyists, the corporate interests, are so powerful that nothing will get done unless millions of people stand up and loudly proclaim--- this country belongs to all of us and not a handful of billionaires… Income inequality is the great moral issue of our time…There is something profoundly wrong with the top one-tenth of one per cent owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 per cent. ... And together we will end it!”

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Social democracy is a political ideology that officially has as its goal the establishment of democratic socialism through evolutionary methods….Social democracy advocates the promotion of democratic decision-making beyond political democracy to include economic democracy to guarantee employees and other economic stakeholders sufficient rights of co-determination? and support for a mixed economy that opposes the excesses of capitalism such as inequality, poverty, and oppression of underprivileged groups, while rejecting a fully free economy or a fully planned economy. Social democratic policy favors universally accessible public services such as education, health care, workers' compensation, child care and care for the elderly.? Social democracy is strongly connected with the trade union labor movement and supports collective bargaining rights for workers.?                          Wikipedia July, 2015

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“Medicare for all will become a single-payer program that would declare medical care a human right in the United States. A minimum wage increase to an unspecified 'living wage'… A massive government jobs program to rebuild crumbling U.S. bridges, highways, dams and ports…Let's rebuild our infrastructure!” Sanders continued, then pledged two things: He would nominate only Supreme Court justices who agreed to strike down a ruling that opened the floodgates of money into American politics. And he promised that he “would make certain that every public college and university in America is tuition-free.”

Two of the most respected leaders of the free world would disagree with Senator Sanders’ philosophy on socialism. Margret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979-1990, probably described it best when she said “socialism is a great system until you run out of other peoples’ money.” Former President Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying, “a socialist is someone who has read Lenin and Marx. An anti-socialist is someone who understands Lenin and Marx.”

Disputing the concept that big government can do a better job are testimonies from three successful individuals from the business community:

Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl's and Hardee's restaurants states, “when the government steps in and try's to control things, you lose jobs…The only way you can reduce poverty and increase economic opportunity is economic growth…There's one system in the history of the world that produces enough economic growth to meaningfully increase opportunity and that's free market capitalism.”

Star Parker, who runs the Center for Urban Renewal and Education is quoted as claiming, “early on, I bought the narrative of the left. Freedom lovers understand American exceptionalism. They understand the American dream. They understand what we were founded on. The principles of traditional living, of free markets, of limited roles of government... When you buy the lie that the government will take care of you, then you're not moving to self-sufficiency and then you get trapped… When the government begins to reward you for ill behavior, you are really stuck.”

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods puts it succinctly. “Capitalism is so dynamic and so competitive that you can get temporary advantages. But people come along and imitate that. They innovate and leapfrog beyond you… You don't need the government to protect you from monopolies, the (free) market protects people from monopolies… All businesses are guilty of some kind of anti-collusion practices… That's how the government wants it.”

Under capitalism, economic inequality is essential to encourage innovation and economic development. Whereas under socialism, the purpose is redistribution of resources from the rich to the poor. This insures equal opportunities, but also equal outcomes. The argument for individual ownership versus the state, argues for more efficiency and better products. The argument for socialism is unemployment is no longer based on market forces, but government control. Under capitalism, market forces determine price and availability, while socialist systems frequently fall prey to shortages and surpluses.

Senator Sanders’ rise in popularity mirrors the attitudes of a growing segment of the population that is becoming more dependent on the government entitlement teat. As a democratic socialist, his vision replaces opportunity with equality that is run by big government and not by the free market. Each has its advantages. Capitalism built this country into the greatest superpower of the twentieth century and democratic socialism into Europe.

Hopefully, there will still be enough of us to keep America’s dream of opportunity alive!




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