Remember Eugene Debs? If you do, congratulations for passing your 100th birthday. The powerful labor leader ran for the presidency five times as a Socialist, peaking at 6% of the vote in 1912.
How about Norman Thomas? He did Debs one better, running for President of the United States six times on the Socialist Party ticket. Persistence did not engender popularity. Thomas' best showing came when he got about 2% of the vote in 1932, in the throes of the Great Depression. In 1944, with our troops fighting in Europe and Asia, he received 0.16% of the popular vote, convincing all of 79,000 Americans that he was the right man for the job.
So you can see that Americans, unlike Europeans, have not been all that fond of avowed socialists. The Socialist Party actually stopped running presidential candidates after a fellow named Darlington Hoopes captured a grand total of 2,000 votes in 1956. His percentage of the popular vote, to borrow from Animal House: 'Zero-point-zero.'
And yet now, 60 years after Darlington Hoopes, many Democrats are embracing the self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders. According to one poll, the 74-year-old leads Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire by a whopping 27%!
Bernie doesn't just talk the talk, the guy is the real deal. Right after his second marriage, Bernie and his new bride traveled to the Soviet Union. He says it was not a honeymoon, merely a trip to foster cooperation. He also paid a visit to communist Nicaragua, where he apologized for U.S. foreign policy and attended what was described as an 'anti-U.S. rally.'
Sanders called for a political revolution and denounced America as a nation where everything is 'based on greed.' His solution, naturally, was a government takeover of various industries.
But that was way back when Bernie Sanders was a mere pup in his 40s. What about now that the junior senator is a senior citizen? Well, Sanders advocates 'Medicare for all' and the abolishment of private insurance plans. The details are fuzzy, but let's just say that if you like ObamaCare, you'll absolutely adore BernieCare.
He relishes bashing Wall Street and wants to tax 'the rich' and profitable corporations at some undefined astronomical rate. Bernie might take a cue from his neighbors in Connecticut. General Electric is moving its global headquarters from the Nutmeg State to Massachusetts, largely because of onerous taxation.
If you tax companies excessively, they take their business and their jobs elsewhere, often offshore. If you tax individuals excessively, they have less to spend and the economy suffers. There is simply no way for Bernie Sanders to pay for the trillions of dollars his policies would require. Nevertheless, according to a Gallup poll, 6 in 10 Democrats say they would vote for a socialist. Meanwhile, 43% of Iowa Democrats describe themselves as 'socialist.' Unfortunately, the poll did not ask whether those self-proclaimed socialists even know what the word means.
As has been said many times on The Factor, Bernie Sanders seems to be an honest man who genuinely believes what he says. And despite his flirtation with despotic regimes, Sanders took some extraordinarily brave and principled positions here in the USA, especially on civil rights. But history has proven that his economic policies are misguided and would seriously damage the country.
Democratic bosses are trembling at the prospect of a Sanders nomination. Who would he pick as his running mate? Michael Moore is out because he is obviously averse to running. Truth is, Bernie Sanders will not be the nominee, the party just won't let that happen. But he has managed to move a major American political party far to the left. So far that it will be hard for Hillary Clinton or the eventual nominee to jog back to the center.
Perhaps Bernie Sanders can take some solace from Norman Thomas, the aforementioned six-time presidential candidate. For many decades there was actually a Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan. The school was recently shut down because it was performing so poorly, which could be seen as a metaphor for socialism itself.
And in all likelihood there will someday be a Bernard Sanders High School, probably right there in Burlington, Vermont. It will be named for a former Mayor, Congressman, and Senator, a man who spoke his mind and inspired a legion of young followers. But it will not be named for a former President of the United States.