How Mainstream Is Bernie Sanders?
Bernie Sanders, making the One Percent wish he were gone (image source; image artist; more images here)
by Gaius Publius
How mainstream is Bernie Sanders? This question will come up a lot as Sanders gains traction in Iowa and elsewhere. The charge will be that a "socialist" is too far to the left for American voters.
Buried in the question is an assumption — that the "mainstream" opinions of those asking the questions and funding the campaigns (the billionaires and their millionaire employees in the media) are also the mainstream opinions of the American voters. That assumption could not be more wrong.
It's clear that Bernie Sanders, with his message of reversing economic inequality, is to the left of the Chuck Todds and Wolf Blitzers of the world. But where does he stand with respect to the people? I'll offer two data points of my own, then turn the stage over to Juan Cole.
First, 87% of Republicans want TPP (widely seen as "the next NAFTA") to fail, for a large variety of reasons, from executive overreach to job loss to loss of sovereignty. Even the new Reuters/Ipsos poll, which TPP proponents are touting, shows Americans solidly against TPP-type deals when American jobs are at stake.
About that poll, Public Citizen reports:
Today’s Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that a majority of the U.S. public “support[s] new trade deals to promote the sale of U.S. goods overseas.” This is not surprising. Who would be opposed to trade deals framed as simply boosting sales of U.S. goods? (Never mind that exports of U.S. goods have actually grown slower, not faster, under existing U.S. trade deals.)Second, I challenge you to find one Tea Party voter who approves of the Wall Street bailout. Not a Koch- or Wall Street-bought Tea Party office-holder; a Tea Party voter. There are no good words on the right for that atrocity.
The poll did not ask whether respondents “support new trade deals that could offshore U.S. manufacturing jobs.” We do not need to rely on hypotheticals to guess how the U.S. public would respond to this question. Just three weeks ago, another Ipsos poll stated: “International trade agreements increase Americans’ access to foreign-made goods and products but at the risk of American jobs being lost. What would you say is more important...?”
Eighty-four percent of the U.S. public said that “protecting American manufacturing jobs” is more important than “getting Americans access to more products.” Based on Ipsos' own polling, if today’s Reuters/Ipsos poll had presented not just the claimed upsides of trade deals, but the documented downsides, the results likely would have been quite different.
The same Ipsos poll from earlier this month also asked, “If the Obama administration supports an international trade agreement that does not specifically prohibit currency manipulation, do you think the United States Congress should support or oppose that trade deal?”
Seventy-three percent of the U.S. public said that Congress should oppose any trade agreement that does not prohibit currency manipulation. The TPP, of course, fits that bill. The Obama administration has repeatedly dismissed Congress' bipartisan, bicameral demand for the TPP to include binding disciplines against currency manipulation.
Today’s Reuters/Ipsos poll did not address this fact about the TPP. ...
Juan Cole makes the same point I do above, that One-Percenters have no use for Sanders' policy proposals:
How Mainstream is Bernie Sanders?In Cole's view (and mine), Sanders is "mainstream" on a variety of issues. For example, the wealth gap:
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination, has trouble being taken seriously by the corporate media, what with him being a democratic socialist and all.
If you go to Google News and put in his name, you get headlines about him being nothing more than a protest candidate, or having “odd views,” or promoting “dark age economics.”
But Sanders’s positions are quite mainstream from the point of view of the stances of the American public in general. Of course, the 1%, for whom and by whom most mainstream media report, are appalled and would like to depict him as an outlier.
Sanders is scathing on the increasing wealth gap, whereby the rich have scooped up most of the increase in our national wealth in the past twenty years. The average wage of the average worker in real terms is only a little better than in 1970; the poor are actually poorer; but the wealth of the top earners has increased several times over.On getting money out of politics:
Some 63% of Americans agree that the current distribution of wealth is unfair. And in a Gallup poll done earlier this month, a majority, 52%, think that government taxation on the rich should be used to reduce the wealth gap. This percentage is historically high, having been only 45% in 1998. But there seems to be a shift going on, because Gallup got the 52% proportion in answer to the question on taxing the rich both in April and again in May of this year....
Sanders wants to get big money out of politics.On student debt:
A majority of Americans oppose the Supreme Court “Citizens United” ruling, one of a number of such rulings that have increased the ability of the super-wealthy to influence politics. A good half of Americans support federally financed political campaigns so as to level the playing field.
On this issue, Bernie Sanders is the most mainstream of all the candidates. The others are in a part of the political spectrum that by the polling represents a tiny lunatic fringe, in opposing significant campaign finance reform.
Some 79% of Americans believe that education beyond high school is not affordable for everyone. And some 57% of people under 30 believe student debt is a problem for youth.On global warming and climate change:
According to a very recent Yale/Gallup poll, Some 71% of Americans believe global warming is occurring, and 57% are sure that human activity (emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide) is causing it, while another 12 percent think the warming is at least partly human-caused. That’s 69% who blame human beings wholly or in part.And reinforcing my point that like Warren, Sanders could easily pick up votes from traditional Republicans in the general election:
Even among Republicans, 48% say that they are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to fight climate change.It would be hard to find an economic issue on which Sanders is not squarely in the mainstream of bipartisan voter thinking.
Is Sanders Too Mainstream for the One Percent?
I've argued before that Sanders' biggest problem may not be that his views are unpopular — his biggest threat is because he's too popular with ordinary people. Sanders as a dismissible "fringe" candidate is acceptable, even desirable for the One Percent that funds and feeds off our elections.
Dismissible fringe candidates foster the illusion of choice. But actual populists are a danger to the world of insiders who scratch each other's well-moneyed backs. Even though the New York Times has recently broken radio silence on the Sanders campaign, I still look for the billionaire-owned media to do everything it can to tank the one candidate running against billionaire ownership of the country.