Sorry Trumpers, Bernie Sanders Is Not A Socialist

Some media outlets would have us believe that Trump can use the word, “socialism” against Sanders.

Slate says that Bernie Is the Opponent Trump Wants. They say that if we nominate Bernie Sanders to run as the Democratic candidate for president, that we’re playing right into President Trump’s hands. Slate, The Atlantic, and New York Magazine are all saying we’d be crazy to nominate Sanders. Why? Because they fear that Trump will use the word “socialist” to scare Americans into voting for Trump.

It would seem then, that some very serious people think that Joe Biden, the ultimate compromiser, is exciting, maybe even more exciting than Trump. These same very serious people seem to imagine that Joe Biden is better than Hillary Clinton when he’s just another politician riding on his family name. I’ve seen a few parallels between Biden and Clinton, and though it’s likely that he’s learned from Hillary’s failure, he’s not very exciting.

Still, if Trump wants to paint Sanders as a “socialist” he’d have to also note that when Bernie talks about “socialism”, he’s talking about the Nordic model of governance. According to Wikipedia, in that model:

The Nordic model comprises the economic and social policies as well as typical cultural practices common to the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). This includes a comprehensive welfare state and multi-level collective bargaining, with a high percentage of the workforce unionised and a large percentage of the population employed by the public sector (roughly 30% of the work force). The Nordic model began to gain attention after World War II.

There is something else that voters should note about the way that Trump disparages socialism or apparently socialist countries:

In 2019, all five of the Nordic countries ranked in the top 10 on the World Happiness Report.

There is one other thing that should be noted:

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland all have billionaires, despite their highly progressive taxation regimes.

And they have a pretty decent life over there. Universal health care, free or nearly free college, universal daycare for kids, and worker involvement in business governance all serve one main purpose: to increase the social and economic mobility of the people who live there. The bottom line is that the universal welfare state provided by the Nordic model is intended to increase personal autonomy. If you’re living here in America and you’re working 2 or 3 jobs just to keep the necessities, you don’t have personal autonomy.

But there is more to this story. Trump is counting on American ignorance to win against Bernie and anyone else who follows him. Trump is counting on an intended confusing foisted upon us by the mainstream media. Fortunately, at least one outlet has figured out that the Nordic countries are still very capitalist.

Forbes, in their article, Sorry Bernie Bros But Nordic Countries Are Not Socialist, (I object to the “Bernie Bros” label, but I like this article) clears the confusion rather well. I’m surprised that Forbes would publish such an article. In that article, Forbes notes that the Nordic governments are smart enough not to interfere in the market so much that they kill tax revenue. They also note that the wealth created by free, productive and autonomous people pays for the generous benefits provided by the welfare state. And none of the Nordic countries has a minimum wage precisely because unions are allowed to thrive and they participate in business governance. The Nordic countries are capitalist in every sense of the word. They just practice capitalism with compassion. And compassion is not a word I associate with Donald Trump.

For as long as I’ve known about Bernie Sanders, he has referred to himself as a Democratic Socialist, a rather obscure reference to the compassionate capitalism practiced in the Nordic countries, or, Scandinavia. While it is true that in the past, Bernie Sanders has called for the nationalization of major industries, I don’t see him making such claims now.

What I do see in Bernie is someone who is willing to stand in picket lines with voters. Someone who is willing to stand up for the weak and disadvantaged. I see in Bernie, someone who would add some restraint to capitalism in the way that the Nordic countries do. He would work towards redistributing wealth such that we have universal health care, free higher education and maybe even help out with daycare for young families. He would also help redirect some of that wealth currently being siphoned from the economy by the top 0.01% to a green economy. It’s hard to have an economy at all if you don’t have air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat.

Bernie has also said that he wants workers to have a say in how companies are governed, break up monopolies and root out corruption here (instead of Ukraine). He also wants corporations to pay their share of the tax burden. In light of a $1 trillion federal deficit forecast for this year, that’s not an unreasonable ask.

So if Trump wants to use the term “socialist” to label Bernie Sanders and his supporters, Trump will have to add a ton of caveats to his statements. He will have to acknowledge the benefits of the economic and social forms of governance that Bernie has been promoting, the Nordic model. Trump will have to remind us that all 5 of the Nordic countries have ranked in the top 10 of the happiest nations in the world. He will also have to admit that economic and social mobility is greater there than here, despite the fact that all of them are monarchies. And we know how much Trump loves monarchies.

Write on.

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