At DC Rally, Sanders Bravely Ignores the Writing on the Wall … and the History of Socialism?

By The Stream Published on June 10, 2016

“This campaign is listening to young people,” said Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a rally in Washington, D.C. Thursday. “And young people are catching on. They are the future of America and they are d***ed determined to shape the future of America.”

Sanders spoke to a crowd of supporters at the RFK stadium Thursday just hours after President Barack Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and amidst a growing chorus of Democrats urging him to concede defeat and exit the race.

Sanders was having none of it. He hit on many of his favorite stump themes to cheers and chants from the high-spirited crowd, and repeatedly emphasized the power of young voters in the election process. “We have won, by very large votes, the young people,” Sanders said.

“This campaign is about learning the most important lesson American history can teach us,” he said, that “real change never takes place from the top down, but always from the bottom up.”

This might strike some as a curious statement on two counts.

First, Sanders is an unapologetic champion of socialism, and socialism advocates top-down government control of the economy. That approach stands over against a conservative vision of a smaller role for government to afford individuals, families and civil society the freedom to find solutions to local problems and create wealth entrepreneurially from the bottom up.

Also, his critics argue that Sanders won among young voters partly because many of them are unaware of socialism’s failures in other countries over the past hundred years. “Many people of mature years are amazed at how many young people have voted for Senator Bernie Sanders, and are enthusiastic about the socialism he preaches,” commented economist Thomas Sowell. “Many of those older people have lived long enough to have seen socialism fail, time and again, in countries around the world.”

Jay Richards, executive editor of The Stream and author with James Robison of Indivisible, makes a similar point:

Over the last century, national socialism murdered tens of millions; international socialism murdered or starved at least a hundred million; and a softer socialism impoverished nations stretching from Europe to Latin America (see Venezuela). But apparently that’s all old and stupid history stuff. According to a new Harvard IOP poll, around 1 in 6 young voters identify as socialist, and a whopping 1 in 3 say they support socialism.

And this is just the latest in a long line of polls showing millennials warming to socialism. This is the same group who have felt “the Bern” for democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, and a big reason crony progressive Hillary Clinton found herself forced to veer hard left in order to outpace Sanders in their race for the Democratic nomination.

It’s true, of course, that Sanders isn’t advocating the openly violent totalitarian socialism of the Soviet Union or North Korea, but what about the softer forms of socialism such as we find in much of Western Europe? Samuel Gregg, a senior fellow with the Acton Institute and author of Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Futurewarns that history also sounds a warning alarm here as well.

These societies have market economies, but they are highly regulated, deeply permeated by endless government interventions, and overlain with large welfare states,” he writes. “Unfortunately for American social democrats, the briefest of surveys of European social democracy’s history illustrates how these policies invariably induce the type of slow-motion decline that’s turned much of today’s European Union into the sick man of the global economy.”

Lisa Barton, a Maryland resident who attended the rally with her twenty-something daughter, told The Stream that Sanders is “bringing the Democratic party back to what it was during the FDR era instead of what it is becoming.” She added that if Sanders does not make it to the final ballot in November, she will be voting for Jill Stein, a socialist running for president as the Green party candidate.

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