Bernie's last card to play to take out Hillary: It's time to unleash his inner socialist

Sanders has to start using the S-word if he wants to breathe life into his flatlining presidential campaign

Published March 18, 2016 3:28PM (EDT)

Bernie Sanders   (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
Bernie Sanders (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Throughout his campaign, Bernie Sanders seems like he has been holding back. It’s like he has been afraid of the S-word: Socialism.

Sure, he has flirted with it, dabbled in it, and tiptoed around it. But he has not thrown down and gone all in with it.

No doubt, Bernie’s fear of the S-word is for good reason. Most, if not all of us, associate “socialism” with being “bad,” “un-American,” and “against freedom.” Boo, hiss!

Since the first “Red Scare” 100 years ago, we have been subjected to relentless campaigns to frighten us into believing that social movements to protect ordinary citizens, the workers, pose some sort of a radical threat to our free society.

Hmm. It’s funny how we could become so thoroughly convinced of something when that something is such a disadvantage to us while simultaneously being such a great advantage to the corporate ruling class promulgating it.

But Sanders knows the risks all too well. He has championed causes of protecting ordinary workers for decades now as what he calls a “democratic socialist.” So we are not even talking about the kind of hearty socialism where the government owns the means of production, like the factories, farms and banks. Not even close. We are only talking about a society that simply protects the working people against exploitation by the vast power of the corporate ruling class. It’s like “socialism light.” Actually, it’s more like democracy than socialism.

Yet just as the notion of any sort of socialism has been beaten out of us, the notion must also have been beaten out of Bernie that any sort of a socialist, even a lite democratic socialist, could ever be elected president.

So Bernie backed off. He only put one toe into the water. He did not really provide us with a grand vision and a big solution to our problems.

Bernie’s candidacy is now in trouble. Hillary Clinton has won 18 primary states compared to only  nine states for Bernie, and with the math clearly stacked against him, pundits are rightfully chattering that Sanders probably won't be able to catch her.

So Bernie is on his last leg here. If he doesn't shake things up, it’s curtains. His noble candidacy is about to be swept into the dustbin of history.

But in fact, there is one last thing that Bernie could try to keep his candidacy alive, and maybe even turn it around. He could stop holding back and allow his inner democratic socialist to burst free into the open and sing his heart song for all to hear.

Bernie's candidacy has ignited an explosive movement, particularly with younger voters. He put his finger directly on the pulse of America with his focus on of the biggest issues of our time: income inequality. This catapulted Bernie out of obscurity to suddenly become a real competitor to the dominant political machine of Hillary Clinton.

This same widespread discontent among the middle and lower classes is what also vaulted Donald Trump to prominence on the Republican side. Nationwide, people are suffering from the disastrous effects of income inequality and are desperate to find a candidate who will ease the burden.

Sanders' campaign took off because he addressed income inequality openly and directly. And people responded.

But he stopped short He addressed the defining issue of income inequality, yes, but he failed to follow through by proposing any meaningful solutions. So as a result, voters left high and dry lost confidence he could actually deliver results.

But it’s not too late  — the truth is, no candidate in either party has offered a real solution for income inequality. Some support Donald Trump because with no other option for a real solution, they might as well let this billionaire tyrant give it a try. And others support Clinton just because they feel comfortable with the established insider. But, amazingly, the majority of the population is not inspired by either frontrunner of their parties,

So if any candidate from either party were to offer a viable solution to income inequality, he or she could grab those critical undecided voters while switching allegiances for others.

This leaves Bernie with one last chance. He could come out and start advocating for a socialistic solution to income inequality.

Even though people still fear socialism, it is clear that socialism does offer a very real answer to income inequality. This would be a fresh entry into the political discourse. This would be the first time that the voters would actually hear a real solution — and one that they would instantly grasp.

Sure, Bernie would be mercilessly attacked with the S-word. But he could attack right back with the C-word. Capitalism.

And in this climate of economic suffering, it is quite possible that the C-word might actually have become more scary for many Americans than the S-word.

The simple and obvious truth that so many are in denial of is that capitalism is what caused massive income inequality in America. And under our current capitalist system, the problem will indeed continue to spiral us downward. This is clear. People understand this on a very visceral level.

America cannot compete with low-cost labor around the world — it's that simple. Vietnam provides labor at 65 cents an hour. And more countries are becoming available locations for this sort of cheap labor. We are experiencing the globalization of capitalism. It is the inevitable future, and we cannot stop it.

If Bernie sings this tune, people will understand it instantly.

Neither Trump nor Hillary is offering a realistic solution to this problem. Trump says he will bring back jobs to America from these foreign countries. Yeah, right. This obviously will not work.

Even if Trump were to magically force companies to manufacture everything in America, which, of course, he cannot do and will not do, no one would buy the American products anyway because they would be so much more expensive than the equivalent cheaper products made by foreign competitors and shipped into America.

And simply shutting down trade with the rest of the world and trying to make all products in America is obviously absurd and not an option.

Hillary’s solution is no better. She opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Big whoop. Opposing this deal will not improve anything inside America. Vietnam will still provide their cheap labor and the rest of the world will make products there that Americans will want to buy.

Bernie could then articulate how a more socialistic approach would, in fact, solve the crisis.

Sure, we would go ahead and allow American corporations to continue shifting manufacturing jobs out of America to overseas locations to utilize the cheap foreign labor. This would enable American companies to compete on a global basis.

But then, America would enact policies internally that would prevent all of the cost savings to flow into the pockets of the top corporate executives and shareholders. Instead, these profits would be required to be shared more equally among the middle and lower classes throughout America, including those Americans who lost their jobs to cheap labor overseas.

The idea is simple: Spread the wealth more fairly.

This sharing could be achieved in all sorts of ways. The middle and lower classes could receive subsidized or even free health care, housing, daycare, utilities, and on and on, to lower their cost of living. If we open ourselves up to sharing the wealth, the possibilities become endless for creating a more fair, free, and secure society for everyone.

So Sanders should let loose here and begin advocating for this solution. It is understandable why he previously held back, but at this point, his campaign is heading off into the sunset anyway so he has absolutely nothing to lose. And he has everything to gain because people might just be ready now for this sort of solution, and it might just catch-on like wildfire.

But if Bernie does not, at least, propose this choice to the American people, well, then, we will never know.

By Cody Cain

Cody Cain is the author of the new book, "Mend or Spend: How to Force Rich People to Solve Economic Inequality," available here. Follow Cody on Twitter @codycainland.


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Bernie Sanders Elections 2016 Hillary Clinton Socialism