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Taylor writes: "There was a time in America when being called a socialist could end a political career. Not anymore."

Bernie Sanders. (photo: Christopher Lee/NYT)
Bernie Sanders. (photo: Christopher Lee/NYT)

Don't Think Sanders Can Win? You Don't Understand His Campaign

By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, The New York Times

11 December 19

There was a time in America when being called a socialist could end a political career. Not anymore.

s the Democratic primary elections get closer, the party leadership has begun to fret in public about universal health care and other ambitious proposals. Even former President Barack Obama tried to assuage donors’ fears in November when he said that the “average American” doesn’t think we need to “tear down the system and remake it.” His comment captured the essence of tensions that have roiled the party for months. Party elites believe focusing squarely on President Trump’s record will end his presidency, while others counter that the Democrats also have to champion bold policies.

The surprising resilience of the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vindicates the latter approach. Mr. Sanders’s improbable rise to Democratic front-runner began in 2015 when he organized his campaign for president around a redistributive agenda of universal health care and free college, along with a number of other progressive reforms. Party insiders dismissed this as fanciful and out of touch, but Mr. Sanders aggressively challenged Hillary Clinton for the nomination while picking up 13 million votes.

Mr. Sanders has not diluted his message since then, but has instead recommitted to his promises of “big government” socialist reforms — all the while pulling other candidates to his side. Although Mr. Sanders grows in popularity, neither the Democratic Party establishment nor the mainstream media really understand his campaign. That’s because it disregards conventional wisdom in politics today — tax cuts for the elite and corporations and public-private partnerships to finance health care, education, housing and other public services.

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