More than nine in 10 Americans recently told Gallup pollsters they would vote for a presidential candidate who was black, Catholic, Hispanic, Jewish or a woman. Eight in 10 said they would vote for a gay or evangelical Christian candidate, while six and seven in 10 would vote for someone who is under 40 years of age, over 70, a Muslim or an atheist.
Just one group tested — socialists — receives majority opposition. Less than half of Americans, 45 percent, say they would vote for a socialist for president, while 53 percent say they would not. Why, then, is a self-declared Democratic socialist the clear front-runner to win the Democratic nomination for president?
The other candidates have warned voters during debates and on the campaign trail that Bernie Sanders cannot win the 2020 general election for president, and that he will be a disaster for down-ticket elections. But self-introspection is never easy. They don’t like to talk about the “why” part of Sanders’ dominant front-runner status.
James Carville, the bombastic Democratic strategist behind Bill Clinton’s 1992 comeback presidential campaign, wants to though. The “Ragin’ Cajun” is absolutely apoplectic about Sanders’ rise and blasts his fellow Democrats whenever someone puts a microphone in his face. He believes that Sanders’ surge reflects an unfocused and undisciplined party with a short recall. Democrats need to remember that they recorded historical victories in 2018 congressional and gubernatorial campaigns by “stressing real things to real people.”
“Don’t argue about giving illegal people health insurance or felons voting from jail cells. No one gives a crap,” he said. “You’ve got to give people an alternative.”
Carville is partly right. The Democratic party has become an objectionist rubber stamp against Trump bereft of new ideas. But the fuel behind Sanders star power runs deeper than that. If they want to find the boogeyman, the Democratic brain trust should look in the mirror, because they have been laying the groundwork for this moment for decades.
Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, says liberal elites like Sanders are “perpetually aggrieved.” Incessantly shaming Western culture and predicting its certain demise has been their intellectual security blanket since the early days of the Cold War.
In the late 1950s, Hanson writes, many American elites in the United States bought the Soviet Union line that the march of global communism would “bury” the West. Then, as Soviet power eroded in the 1980s, Japan Inc. and its ascendant model of state-sponsored industry became the preferred alternative to Western-style democratic capitalism.
Once Japan’s economy flailed, the new utopia of the 1990s was going to be the European Union. “Americans were supposed to be awed that the euro gained ground on the dollar,” Hanson writes. Europe’s borderless democratic socialism and its “soft power” were declared preferable to the reactionary United States.
By 2015 — several years before Brexit — the EU was a mess, so China was preordained as the inevitable global superpower. “Its high-speed rail transportation, solar industries and gleaming airports were an inspirational contrast to the hollowed-out and grubby American heartland,” Hanson says.
“Now the curtain has been pulled back on the interior rot of the Chinese Communist Party,” Hanson writes, “its gulag-like re-education camps, its systematic mercantile cheating, its Orwellian surveillance apparatus, its serial public health crises and its primitive hinterland infrastructure.” Today, after the undressing of the Soviet Union, Japan Inc., the EU and the Chinese superpower, there is no new alternative for liberal elites to bash American democracy over the head with.
But shifting demographics and generational change have finally created a sizeable and receptive audience to embrace socialism in the United States.
Sanders’ base is disproportionately green. Around a third of his supporters (32%) are under the age of 30 — a much higher share than among supporters of Warren (18%), Buttigieg (8%), Bloomberg (7%) and Biden (6%). They are too young to have experienced first-hand the fall of the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro’s bloody revolution in Cuba or Hugo Chavez’s brutal Bolivarian takeover of what is now the disaster known as Venezuela.
As products of America’s liberal education system, the Sanders kids haven’t really been taught that his message is as old and disproved as he is. In fact, according to results from the 2019 Harris Poll, which has measured U.S. public opinion and advised presidents since 1963, 49.6 percent of young voters (ages 18 – 39) would prefer to live in a socialist country.
“There is a certain part of the Democratic Party that wants us to be a cult. I’m not interested in being in a cult,” Carville said. “Some people in this country want a revolution, they want disruption. They scream at people. They go and bully people. And I don’t know how you want to lecture them — 78-years-old standing up screaming at the microphone about the revolution.”
Carville is right. Long-surviving socialist regimes have always been built around a cult of personality – Castro, Chavez, Stalin to name a few.
Using the star personalities of today’s Democratic Party, Sanders has white-washed and rebranded socialism. He may not know how to type, but his leftist cheerleaders — Reps. Alexandria Ortega-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar — rule social media. If you think Trump rallies are singularly wild, roll the tape of thousands gathered to “feel the burn.” Sanders can whip up a crowd just like the president can. It’s a perfect storm of ignorance, allegiance and enthusiasm. Together, they have created a sect and turned the 78-year-old Senator into its messianic hipster.
Those armies of volunteers that knock on doors to get the vote out? They’re overwhelmingly staffed by fervid, young activists. The kids are turning out big-time for Bernie during the primaries. And most people answering the door are open to the message — the same Gallup poll about socialism showed that 76 percent of Democrats would vote for a socialist.
What might Carville tell Sanders’ huge volunteer army if he could gather them into one stadium?
“The Democratic Party is out in some goofy la-la land waiting on Bernie Sanders’ revolution or the proletariat to rise up or some other (expletive),” Carville said. “Come on people, get real. We’ve got real work to do here. We don’t have time for left-wing fantasies in this country.”
George Bernard Shaw famously said, “If you don’t begin to be a revolutionist at the age of twenty then at fifty you will be an impossible old fossil. If you are a red revolutionary at the age of twenty you have some chance of being up to date when you are forty.”
If Shaw is right, then Sanders and his leftist squad have their young mob right in the sweet spot. In 2020, voters under the age of 37 will make up 37 percent of the electorate. If Sanders loses the nomination, his kids are not all going to automatically fall in line and throw their collective zeal behind another candidate.
For Republicans and never-Bernie Democrats like Carville, the next presidential election might truly tell whether youth is wasted on the young.