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Would Americans Elect a “Socialist”?

A lot of people believe that Bernie Sanders cannot get elected because he identifies as a “democratic socialist.” Last night I heard John Nichols argue that before Reagan got elected, many people thought he was too extreme to win. I found that argument persuasive. People’s views change over time, and the political center shifts.

A recent survey asked people about their views of socialism:

26% of those surveyed have a very or somewhat favorable view of socialism, including

  • 36% of those 18-29
  • 27% of men
  • 24% of whites
  • 41% of Blacks
  • 25% of Hispanics
  • 43% of Democrats
  • 22% of Independents
  • 25% of those making less than $40,000
  • 23% of those making $40-80,000
  • 27% of those making over $80,000

This is remarkable, even before realizing that an additional 23% of people said they weren’t sure whether they support socialism.

Granted, people may have no idea what socialism entails, but that hardly matters when it comes to elections. Indeed, 28% say they would be enthusiastic or comfortable voting for a self-identified socialist for President, including:

  • 37% of those 18-29
  • 45% of Dems
  • 28% Independents
  • 24% of whites
  • 34% of Blacks
  • 33% of Hispanics

Clearly, the supporters of “socialism” are  not a majority, but we haven’t yet had the conversation about what the term means — and we don’t know who the Republican nominee will be either.

Perhaps those who think the label “socialist” will kill Bernie Sanders’s chances of getting elected are living in the past. Perhaps the right-wing has done itself in with its vitriol. When everyone is a Nazi and/or a socialist, why worry about. If President Obama is a socialist, perhaps socialism is a good thing.

Whatever happens, I hope the Left is building a sustainable movement that will outlast the Bernie campaign. We definitely need long game.

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