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US-Wahlkampf Warum Bernie Sanders kein Sozialist ist

Bernie Sanders: Der Kandidat präsentiert sich im Vorwahlkampf der Demokraten als Alternative zu Hillary Clinton überraschend stark

Bernie Sanders ist weit davon entfernt, ein "Sozialist" nach europäischem Verständnis zu sein. "Sozialdemokrat" trifft es besser. Das Label "Socialist" jagt unterdessen vielen US-Wählern Angst und Schrecken ein.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has proven himself to be a surprisingly formidable candidate in the Democratic primary for President of the United States. Unlike his opponent, Hillary Clinton, he has also proven to be near pitch-perfect in terms of his political communications.

There is, it would seem, just one big thing that is anything but pitch-perfect and that has certainly contributed mightily to hold him back with regard to capturing the nomination: His proud self-identification as a "democratic socialist."

Democrats who otherwise agree with his agenda, but who remain fearful that this label could cost the party the White House, have chosen to stick with Secretary Clinton.

It is not a label that Sanders could shake off easily, given that he has identified as a "socialist" for so many decades. That genie cannot go back into the bottle. In that sense, it is probably better to embrace it, explain it and hope for the best.

But it is odd that he has identified as a socialist for so long, given that he is far from being a Socialist.

Is Sanders actually a social democrat?

In the European - and particularly the postwar German - political tradition I come from, there would be no question that Sanders is, in fact, a "social democrat." That is not a radical or controversial label in the least.

Stephan Richter
  • Copyright:
    Stephan Richter ist Herausgeber und Chefredakteur von The Globalist. Wir veröffentlichen diesen Beitrag mit seiner freundlichen Genehmigung.
These days in fact, he would qualify on many (though not all) issues as a middle-of-the-road member of Angela Merkel's CDU, the largest party in the German government (and supposedly right-of-center).

Germany aside, most of Europe's major center-left parties have been social democratic - not socialist, democratic or otherwise - for nearly 70 years, if not well over 100.

Social democrats believed they could use government, selected by democratic elections, to achieve social improvements via reforms of (or expansions to) government aid programs and regulation of the marketplace and big business. Democracy, properly harnessed, and not a socialist state, would fix social ills.

Democratic socialists, by contrast, believed in pushing explicitly socialist goals via democratically-elected governments - goals such as widespread public ownership or nationalization of resources and a government explicitly of the working class.

They made a point of distinguishing themselves from Eastern Bloc "fellow travelers" or interwar radicals by emphasizing ballots over bullets as the means by which socialism would eventually be achieved.

There are, of course, blurred areas between democratic socialism and social democracy. Public provision of universal goods such as healthcare and education can be found in both, although the precise mechanisms for reaching them may be different.

Flashes of these elements can be seen in the Sanders platform, but they are still far from radical or truly socialist.

Lest we forget, Germany's arch-conservative founder, Otto von Bismarck, introduced universal health insurance in Germany back in the 1880s. The United States only caught up a few years ago.

Senator Sanders also shares the convictions of class-based politics and the beliefs in the importance of popular political action outside of the legislative branch that characterized democratic socialist movements in postwar non-communist Europe.

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