Sanders is not really a socialist

He is a left-progressive – what in Europe would be called a social democrat. There is a difference. Social Security, Medicare, publicly-funded schools and libraries and roads, even single-payer health care, are not instances of socialism, but of social democracy, or welfare-statism. Socialism, even democratic socialism, requires, at minimum, public ownership and management of some substantial part of the means of primary production.

The difference between democratic socialism and Stalinist socialism is that in democratic socialism, the socialized economy is administered by a freely and fairly elected government. Democratic socialism, so defined, has never been tried, unless you count Venezuela.

There are many political parties in Europe, some in power, that still call themselves “socialist,” but they’re really social-democratic – that is, they’ve given up on thinking of socialism as something that is to come after capitalism; they just want capitalism tamed and civilized for the public good.

I agree.

Aside from the ever persistent overton window shift, there’s no sense in letting one’s opponents define what one is or is not.

The flip side of this is that many Americans are now looking at Obama (then) and Sanders (now) and saying “if this is socialism, it kind of makes sense.”

Don’t get me wrong, America is not going to accidentally go full socialist over this misunderstanding. But IMO, conservatives are exhausting their supply of effective boogeymen terms through overuse.

Whenever I hear nit-picking like this, I just have to ask: what’s the point?

Sanders says he’s a democratic socialist. I’ll take him at his word unless he were to say something totally unbelievable, like that he was a conservative Mormon salamander. I call myself a liberal, but surely there are other liberals out there who will say I’m not a REAL Scotsman for some reason in Europe or whatever.

I learned a term the other day: gatekeeping. As far as I can tell, it’s about arguing why someone used a word wrong for reasons. I can understand certain types of gatekeeping, like if someone says that they are a Native American on thin pretext and others see that as a very sensitive cultural matter for a part of society that has been seriously marginalized.

But arguing over whether off-white socialists are different than taupe socialists? Why, exactly, should anyone care?

Socialism is just an economic term that gets conflated with being an ideology, there are various forms of socialism the classic example I like to give is SNAP/Food Stamps. Which is a prime example of market socialism. Sanders is a self proclaimed democratic socialist because he knew he would be branded as a socialist anyways and decided to take up the flag.
However the arguments boil down to this. If M4A is socialism for example, then EU countries are hella socialist. If public goods are socialism, then every developed country in the word has forms of socialism.

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This thread being about a political figure currently running for office is probably more appropriate for Elections so I’ll move it there.


It’s a matter of the Overton Window. The RWs want to keep such common-sense reforms as single-payer health care outside of it – and it makes it that much easier if they can attach to it the label “socialism,” which has been a snarl-word in the U.S. for decades.

That point is entirely undercut when Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist. If you don’t want him tagged with the label socialist, you need to start with him, not his Republican opponents.

(My bolding)

Eh? Have you never looked at the list of industries nationalised by the British government? Wikipedia lists over 100 industries that at one time were nationalised and have since been privatised. Looks pretty much like “democratic socialism” to me, using your definition.

Socialist = I like the policies of Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela.

Social democrat = I like the policies of Norway, Denmark, Finland.

Its a pretty big difference. Also, confusing social democrats with socialists could theoretically be pretty offensive. Less so in practice since many social democrat parties started out socialist, and may still retain the label.

Sanders says:

Democratic socialist = I like the policies of Norway, Denmark, and Finland.

Tomato, tomato.

Sanders is a democratic socialist, who isn’t a socialist, and also isn’t a Democrat. So he’s not a Democratic socialist; he’s something else. But not a socialist. Presumably he’s a democrat, although not a Democrat.

IMO branding works better when you don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining that you aren’t what most people think you are when you say you are what you aren’t.


They never talk about modes of production, abolishing private property.

We cover K-12 already, so covering K-16 shouldn’t be looked at so radically.

My uncle (who is a Trump donor) said Trump is worried about Bernie, because of his Midwestern appeal, and all the free stuff he’s giving away would bring young people who usually don’t vote. Even Trump’s buddy, Eric Bolling, said the same thing. Unfortunately, the DNC is corrupt, and have so many candidates so it goes to a 2nd ballot, therefore having the Superdelegates decide again.

My god, that’s a pile of garbage. The DNC didn’t recruit the 20 candidates and Bernie lost when there was only one opponent. Whatever the current circumstances, it’s all a plot to stop Bernie in the minds of some of his followers.

Yep, garbage. Clinton won 54% of the non-super delegates. Sanders lost fair and square.

The DNC might be corrupt, but far worse than that (for politics, anyway), they’re incompetent. They tried to help Hillary Clinton win, and it was so obvious, hamhanded, and ineffective that it probably helped Bernie more than her. I’d find their corruption much more acceptable if they were competent at it. Smoky back room decisions are supposed to help the party, not hurt it.

Hillary won fairly, no thanks to the DNC efforts to try and tilt the contest towards her. Everyone saw through it.

Yes. I’ve been calling myself a social democrat since I learned about the term (on TVTropes’ Useful Notes page; hey, knowledge is where you find it). When Bernie ran in 2016, I realized he wasn’t strictly a socialist in the dictionary sense of the word, but a European-style social democrat.

However, to the great mass of American right-wingers, anything to the left of Richard Nixon is godless commie librul socialism, so I suspect Barak Obama is probably correct: Bernie’s making a virtue of necessity and trying to reclaim the term. Shodan’s point about branding is apposite, as well.

I wonder why he didn’t label himself a “social democrat” then. It might be easier to explain the difference between a Democrat and a democrat than between a socialist and a socialist.


Probably because language and politics are complicated, and like it or not, “socialist” means different things to different people.

This discussion is missing some of the relevant history. The term “Social Democrat” and “Democratic Socialist” have specific meaning in the American political context. They are two factions of the Socialist Party of America that split around the 1970s, with the Democratic Socialists being on the left flank of that split.

“Democratic Socialist” is what lefty socialists call themselves in American politics. It isn’t some weird branding cooked up by Sanders. Presumably at some point he decided it was better politics to defend and explain the label than to try to re-brand.