That, at least, is the view of some political observers. One of the reasons for their pessimism is Sanders’ political ideology: He’s a self-described "Democratic Socialist."
And the S-word frightens a lot of Americans.
A Pew Research Center survey conducted in December 2011, shortly after the Occupy Wall Street protests, which highlighted the growing wealth gap between the rich and the poor, found half of all Americans still had a positive view of capitalism, while 60 percent had a negative perception of socialism.
“Socialism is a far more divisive word (than capitalism), with wide differences of opinion along racial, generational, socioeconomic and political lines,” Pew said.
“Fully nine-in-ten conservative Republicans (90 percent) view socialism negatively, while nearly six-in-ten liberal Democrats (59 percent) react positively. Low-income Americans are twice as likely as higher-income Americans to offer a positive assessment of socialism (43 percent among those with incomes under $30,000, 22 percent among those earning $75,000 or more).”
A Gallup survey this summer found similar anti-socialist views among American voters, half of whom said they wouldn't vote for a socialist candidate.
It's not hard to see why this is. For many Americans the word "socialism" still carries the associations with authoritarianism that it acquired during the Cold War. That explains why some opponents of Obama's Affordable Care Act were calling it the same thing Ronald Reagan called Medicare in 1961: "socialized medicine." Combine those negative Cold War associations with the fact that a significant portion of the American electorate wants to shrink government, limit spending, and cut taxes, and you realize that Bernie Sanders has his work cut out for him if he's going to proudly wave the socialist flag.
One thing Sanders has on his side: social welfare policies enacted overseas in nations that consistently rank more highly than the United States in terms of happiness and prosperity. If Sanders can convince Americans voters that this is what he's talking about when he talks about "socialism," maybe he'll have a shot.
Here are five things other countries do that could change American minds about socialism.
Free baby stuff
More than a year of paid parental leave
Generous unemployment benefits
Free healthcare for everyone
And it’s particularly generous to expecting mothers, as American Claire Lundberg found out when she got pregnant while living in Paris.
“From the sixth month of pregnancy to 11 days after a child’s birth, the government covers a woman’s medical expenses in full,” Lundberg wrote in Slate.
“… had I managed to book a bed in one of the public wards (of a hospital), my birth would have been completely free, paid for entirely by the government’s Assurance Maladie.”
Long holidays (that are paid)