Bernie Sanders and ‘the American mainstream’

(AP)

The headline at Politico is pointed and seemingly ominous:

The Socialist surge: The rise of Bernie Sanders is proving awkward for the Democratic Party”

Certainly, Bernie Sanders is surging.  In Iowa, Wisconsin and most recently in Maine, the Vermont senator is drawing the largest, most passionate crowds of the political season. Polling indicates that while he is still well behind Hillary Clinton, the gap is closing.  He has also raised some $15 million, which may not sound like much in the post-Citizens United world. But unlike Clinton, Jeb Bush and others, Sanders is drawing most of his contributions from small donors, and $15 million is more than enough to sustain a modest campaign.

It’s interesting watching the political world try to account for it all. The Politico story, for example, cites Sanders’ statement that the economic crisis in Greece should not be resolved by cutting programs for “the poor, the children, the sick and the elderly.” Those comments, we are told, “are a reminder of just how far the second-place Democratic presidential candidate stands from the American mainstream on some issues, and the looming reckoning Democrats face with their party’s leftward drift.”

The story goes on to note that Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other liberals have pushed the Democrats leftward on issues such as same-sex marriage, equal pay and paid sick leave. The result is allegedly a party that is being drawn away from the American mainstream, with a “looming reckoning” ahead.

But there’s one very large problem with that argument:

When you poll people on same-sex marriage, equal pay for women, the minimum wage, paid sick leave for lower-income workers, and yes, higher taxes on the rich, the positions taken by Sanders almost always get majority and in some cases overwhelming public support.

As Sanders puts it, “I don’t believe it is a terribly radical idea to say that someone who works 40 hours a week should not be living in poverty.” And 78 percent of the American people agree with him. Go through the list of issues, and the story repeats itself:

The attempted redefining of the mainstream on taxation issues is particularly awkward, to use Politico’s term. An Associated Press poll earlier this year found that 68 percent of Americans think the wealthy pay too little in taxes, which is Sanders’ position; 11 percent said the rich pay too much, which is essentially the position taken by Republican presidential candidates.

Gallup reports almost identical numbers, with 11 percent saying the wealthy pay too much in taxes and 62 percent saying they pay too little. And with both the Dow and corporate after-tax profits at near-record highs, 69 percent of Americans told Gallup that corporations pay too little in taxes; just 9 percent agreed with the Republican position, which is that corporations pay too much

It takes an impressive amount of “interpretive jiggery-pokery” to classify a candidate espousing views shared by two-thirds of Americans as “out of the mainstream,” especially when compared to a party bound to economic policies supported by just one in 10 Americans. It’s even more telling when Politico resorts to a quote from Gov. Bobby Jindal — the man with the support of 1.3 percent of GOP voters — to confirm Sanders’ standing outside the mainstream.

In short, the Politico piece and others like it pose a fascinating question: Can a politician who espouses positions that are supported by a majority of Americans also be outside “the American mainstream”?  And the answer is a surprising yes.

You see, “the American mainstream” is an entirely artificial construct. The “mainstream” is defined not by polls or public opinion, but by what is deemed acceptable by those in positions of power and influence. It has not been acceptable to say the things that Sanders is saying, especially not the way that he is saying them; it has not been “mainstream.” He’s saying them anyway, and by doing so he is redefining and broadening that mainstream. It’s a wonderful thing.

That said, I don’t believe that Sanders will be or even should be the Democrats’ nominee; in his quieter, private moments, I suspect Sanders himself might agree. He’s not really running to become president, he’s running in the long, honored tradition of people trying to communicate a message. And in his case, the response that message is drawing is telling us all something important, even if a lot of people are trying to ignore or misconstrue it.

Reader Comments 0

592 comments
juliainatlanta
juliainatlanta

I've contributed money to Sanders, and will continue to do so.  if the election were tomorrow I'd vote for Bernie!!  As it stands I suppose I'll have to hold my nose when i cast my vote for Hillary.  I'm sick of the politicians being beholden to Wall Street at the expense of the average American.

riverview
riverview

@juliainatlanta Yeah, Sanders is another "living, breathing document" believer of the Constitution. Like a rubber yardstick. The Constitution provided for a limited government, but his is one where taxes can never be too high, government spending never be too much. No thanks.......

juliainatlanta
juliainatlanta

@riverview I'll take Bernie any day of the week over that clown car of GOP fools.  keep getting your 'facts' from Faux News, where it is all about the bankers and the captains of industry, and to hell with the average working stiff.  rock on with your bad self, sport.

jude folly
jude folly

"A voter's manifesto"

http://judefolly.com/votersmanifesto

'Given the massive amount of funding needed for media buys, political consultants and other campaign “essentials” crucial to winning election, one must see the imprint of a disengaged electorate; a supremely inert body of voters requiring the shock and awe of hyperbolic attack ads to jolt them to a decision between the lesser of two evils.' 

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

Bernie Sanders is for the Dems what Donald Trump is for the GOP, a sin-eater who articulates the most extreme positions of his party for the benefit of the hard core but who no one takes too seriously. The other candidates can contrast with more moderate positions that appeal to the majority of the electorate, somewhere around the middle.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Jill Stein, hoping to be The Green Party candidate, says Bernie's biggest flaw is that he's clearly stated he will support the dem party nominee, whether it be Hillary or whomever.

As far as Stein's concerned, that, in and of itself, tells everyone that Bernie is willing to support the status quo.

Either he's about real change or maintaining the status quo. Can't have it both ways.

Interesting way of looking at it. 

King_of_Kolob
King_of_Kolob

@FIGMO2 He caucuses with the Democrats so why is that a surprise? Was she under a rock all this time?

fiftythreepercenter
fiftythreepercenter

"Problem really is that people cheat so much on their taxes that they aren't paying that much. Rather like Italy. Much of business is done under the table to hide it. The GOP is managing that for us by cutting our enforcement budget so eventually we can be like Greece. Isn't that special?"


Gee, can anybody or everybody figure out why people might want to avoid paying 75% of their income in taxes?


How about YOU, Kitty?  Are you willing to fork over 75% of your income in taxes or do you think you might decide to cheat the system and keep a little for yourself?  Be honest, Kitty.  You paying 75%?

King_of_Kolob
King_of_Kolob

@fiftythreepercenter As someone who lived in liberal New York and conservative Florida i can tell you without a doubt that taxes are not only very high in GA, buit you get nothing for your high taxes as opposed to NY where there are services and infrastructure available. Where else would you pull up to a major intersection but there is no street signs to tell you where you are going to or coming from, or even street lights.


Everytime the 1% gets a tax break, we get stuck with the tax bill. If everyone pays their fair share then no one will have to pay 75%. On paper the corporate tax rate may be 35% but do your home work (or see Romney, GE, Exxon) about how much they actually pay the IRS after all the loopholes and special breaks. $0. 

josef
josef

Stained SHEETZ

josef
josef

VC


Cherchez le sens de poutrage. Je ne pense pas que cela signifie ce que vous pensez que cela signifie! LOL

gotalife
gotalife

Hillary will be on cnn today answering their biased questions to show why she avoids rw media.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@gotalife 

Press:  "Hillary!  Why do you avoid answering questions!? Can you just answer the question?" 


Hillary: "Do you have a real question?" 

Peachs
Peachs

It is like this word liberal which is a new word meaning void of conservative ideas.  It stops a debate before it begins like religion, where you find yourself arguing with God if you disagree and who could be that dumb.  The next thing you know you are hanging a man for what he was going to say and you thought he was.

Doggone_GA
Doggone_GA

"No, by all means please push a nominee who treats the press like cattle"


They were SO MEAN to Sarah Palin, asking all those difficult questions like what has she read lately.

gotalife
gotalife

Basically. Bernie is a Dem that never went corporate so he can't raise the billions to run like Hillary can.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

Obama concedes: ISIS 'long-term campaign'

I wonder how long the campaign would be if we were not fighting the JV team?

Bulls_3y3
Bulls_3y3

@LogicalDude  did you see Obama's ISIS strategy yesterday while at the pentagon???  

Me neither...  Guess he is still leading from behind...

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@LogicalDude @DownInAlbany

Sure ISIS was JV at the time Obama said it.

no no no.

JV Team was the Worstest Gaffe Ever and we should all hide our bleeding-heart heads in shame and allow a Godly War Preznit to run things again. Apparently!

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@DownInAlbany I wonder how Republicans would act if they didn't think on such simplistic terms as the old label "JV team"?  Sure ISIS was JV at the time Obama said it.  Then the Iraqi army basically up and left huge amounts of military equipment for ISIS to pick up and use. 

Iraq needs to help solve this.  Not let the Army just up and leave whenever they feel threatened. 

Bulls_3y3
Bulls_3y3

@LogicalDude  how many innocent citizens have been murdered since the JV team remark???  How many more people will Obama turn his back on???
  Failed leader!!!

gotalife
gotalife

@DownInAlbany  Until they stand up and defeat isis on their own or give them a State. Derp.

Peachs
Peachs

@DownInAlbany  the whole thing puzzles me, I understand Nazi Germany taking over Europe, but half these guys don't even have uniforms, why do we get so jack up about troop trains leaving for war if a rag tag crowd of budget challenged unconditioned moose lodgers can make war with us. It sure makes all those generals living large with those crazy boy scout uniforms hanging around the White House look silly, if part time military can get the job done.

Bulls_3y3
Bulls_3y3

@Doggone_GA  i asked first doggie..  So I guess you can't answer it or you just cannot read...

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

No, by all means please push a nominee who treats the press like cattle and won't give a real unstaged interview for fear of being trapped by her lies and sordid past.


" It’s even more telling when Politico resorts to a quote from Gov. Bobby Jindal — the man with the support of 1.3 percent of GOP voters — to confirm Sanders’ standing outside the mainstream." Bobby Jindal does have the support of 1.3 percent of GOP voters, that is his current polling percentage among this current field of candidates (trusting your numbers here, which I understand is a stretch). If there were 2-3 candidates and Jindal was one of them he'd be polling a lot higher.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@DawgDadII

treats the press like cattle

yesterday's poutrage. You're supposed to be back to Skeery Messicans again.

fiftythreepercenter
fiftythreepercenter

Interesting look at taxes in Greece.  


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_Greece


If I'm reading that right, a low income worker would have 22% taken out for income tax, plus 16% for social security.  The employer would pitch in another 28% on behalf of the employee.  That total is 66%.  And then there's a VAT on goods on top of that is 6.5% to 23%.  


Taxing the hell out of people and they still can't pay the bills.  I wonder why???? Oh, wait, the unemployment rate is 25%.  You friggin' libs are just plain stupid.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@fiftythreepercenter 

"If I'm reading that right, a low income worker would have 22% taken out for income tax, plus 16% for social security.  The employer would pitch in another 28% on behalf of the employee.  That total is 66%."

I see that simple mathematics is beyond your understanding.  When you add the employer contribution of 28% to the numerator you need to add 28% to the denominator. 

LeninTime
LeninTime

@fiftythreepercenter 

And then there's a VAT on goods on top of that is 6.5% to 23%.  

**
VAT is very regressive. Keep in mind also that since the crisis a disproportionately high number of the Greek workforce is self-employed. 

Ever greater shares of tax burdens thus are falling on the backs of those few lucky to have jobs in an economy already miserably depressed (by austerity).

kitty72
kitty72

@fiftythreepercenter 


Problem really is that people cheat so much on their taxes that they aren't paying that much. Rather like Italy. Much of business is done under the table to hide it. The GOP is managing that for us by cutting our enforcement budget so eventually we can be like Greece. Isn't that special?

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@fiftythreepercenter @PaulinNH 

ROFLMAO - what an arrogant blowhard - who do you think looks at the finances in my company???

We count a whole bunch of things as part of employee compensation - SS, worker's comp, health & dental, life insurance and more. What we don't do is calculate percentages on faulty arithmetic.

I hope you use professional accountants in your business because you are obviously innumerate..