Bernie's Socialism & the American voter

One of the stories I find most interesting about the 2016 presidential race is Bernie Sanders’ head-on engagement with his self-described identity as a democratic socialist. Most rational observers would have predicted Bernie would distance himself from the label as he launched and then ramped up his presidential campaign last spring. But like nearly everything else about Bernie’s campaign, he defied expectations and did exactly the opposite, leaning in to the label, and even going so far as to give a high-profile speech devoted to defining what he means by the label.

Here’s the fascinating thing: across a huge swath of Bernie’s positions, his views align with the majority of Americans. In other words, while most Americans don’t identify as democratic socialists (as Bernie does), and while the label itself might sound radical, most Americans actually agree with Bernie on a wide range of issues.

To wit:

This is obviously a snapshot, and the story is much more complex and nuanced, but I think one of Bernie’s most important insights is that more Americans than not genuinely believe much of what he believes. This is an insight that has carried him over the years from low single digits in his early statewide races in Vermont to reelection in the U.S. Senate with more than 70% of the vote. The extent to which he can communicate this to enough voters (and overcome the power of the party establishment) to win the primary and then the general election remains to be seen (although he has so far shredded every prediction about his ability to draw crowds, raise money, and earn support among voters). But if his policy and political views sound radical I think it’s largely because there is a sizable gap between how far rightward electoral politics has shifted (and the way the media reports on American politics) and the things that Americans actually believe.

(Big h/t to Fusion for pulling a bunch of these links together.)