How Mainstream is Bernie Sanders?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | –

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination, has trouble being taken seriously by the corporate media, what with him being a democratic socialist and all.

If you go to Google News and put in his name, you get headlines about him being nothing more than a protest candidate, or having “odd views,” or promoting “dark age economics.”

But Sanders’s positions are quite mainstream from the point of view of the stances of the American public in general. Of course, the 1%, for whom and by whom most mainstream media report, are appalled and would like to depict him as an outlier.

Sanders is scathing on the increasing wealth gap, whereby the rich have scooped up most of the increase in our national wealth in the past twenty years. The average wage of the average worker in real terms is only a little better than in 1970; the poor are actually poorer; but the wealth of the top earners has increased several times over.

Some 63% of Americans agree that the current distribution of wealth is unfair. And in a Gallup poll done earlier this month, a majority, 52%, think that government taxation on the rich should be used to reduce the wealth gap. This percentage is historically high, having been only 45% in 1998. But there seems to be a shift going on, because Gallup got the 52% proportion in answer to the question on taxing the rich both in April and again in May of this year.

Bernie Sanders’ position is that of a majority of Americans in the most recent polling!

Even Socialism is coming up in the world. Some 36% of Millennial youth (born in the 1980s and 1990s) have a favorable view of Socialism, compared to 26% of the general population.

Sanders wants to get big money out of politics.

A majority of Americans oppose the Supreme Court “Citizens United” ruling, one of a number of such rulings that have increased the ability of the super-wealthy to influence politics. A good half of Americans support federally financed political campaigns so as to level the playing field.

On this issue, Bernie Sanders is the most mainstream of all the candidates. The others are in a part of the political spectrum that by the polling represents a tiny lunatic fringe, in opposing significant campaign finance reform.

Sanders is very concerned about student debt and wants to do something practical to combat this problem.

Some 79% of Americans believe that education beyond high school is not affordable for everyone. And some 57% of people under 30 believe student debt is a problem for youth.

Bernie Sanders’s hair is on fire about the dangers of global warming and the need to take practical steps to combat it.

According to a very recent Yale/Gallup poll, Some 71% of Americans believe global warming is occurring, and 57% are sure that human activity (emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide) is causing it, while another 12 percent think the warming is at least partly human-caused. That’s 69% who blame human beings wholly or in part.

50% are very or somewhat worried about global warming, while another 28% is at least a little worried. About 48% believe that global warming is either already having a bad effect on people or that it will do so in the next decade.

Even among Republicans, 48% say that they are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to fight climate change.

Sanders is again squarely in the mainstream on this issue from the point of view of public opinion.

So when you hear Republican candidates say that there is no global warming or that it isn’t for sure human beings are causing it, and in any case nothing needs to be done about it, they are not mainstream. Less than 30% of Americans and as few as 22% hold those views. This is the percentage of Americans who believe a UFO crashed in Roswell, N.M.

Climate change denialists are kooks, and if we had an honest media, it would call them kooks.

Instead, Bernie Sanders, whose positions are shared by strong majorities of Americans, is being depicted as the one who is out of step.

Related video:

The Young Turks: “Bernie Sanders Continues To Champion Progressive Ideas”

27 Responses

  1. Amazing that so many Americans belive that GW/CC is mand-made and dangerous. Think what the stats would be if a number f serious politicians (think: President Obama) made discussion if CC/GW the center of their agtenda and talked persuasively and with concrete illustrations at every speaking opportunity! I’m not sure the oligarchy would allow this, but times seem to be changing slowly. (OTOH, Obama allowed shell to drill in Arctic water and so forth.)

    • Maybe they think that because, well, that’s the conclusion that virtually EVERY major scientific organization on the planet is coming to. And the only people who aren’t, are politicians, the lobbyists lining their pockets, and their scientifically illiterate base whose opinions on the subject are entirely irrelevant.

    • “Serious politicians”? “Serious” meaning what: legitimate, respected, establishment-approved? Democratic and Republican politicians, the Beltway media propagandists, and the pro-empire intellectual class are our class enemies. They’re not looking out for us. We shouldn’t dignify them or give them legitimacy. They’re trying to devour the 99%.

      The POTUS is not a public servant. The POTUS serves the ruling class, the capitalist class, the 1%. The POTUS is an enemy of the 99%. Does it make any sense to ask that the POTUS who has illegally escalated the terrorism, clandestine operations, and wars by the US is going to make GW/CC the center of his agenda? He’s revealing through his war crimes, his criminal defense of the Bush administration officials, and Washington’s disregard for law, what the agenda is: world domination. Look: link to

      Why care what the liar in the WH says? Presidents are not change agents who bring about improvements in living and working conditions. Social movements, mass action, class struggle is.

      Recall your Howard Zinn:
      “The result of having our history dominated by presidents and generals, and other ‘important’ people, is to create a passive citizenry; not knowing its own powers, always waiting for some savior on high, God or the next president, to bring peace and justice.”

  2. Finally a candidate I can vote for and not have to choose between the lesser of two evils. I think Bernie is going to do a lot better than the MSM give him credit for. He isn’t polling so good against Hillary right now because most people don’t know who he is. But once his message gets out it is going to seem reasonable to a LOT of people.

    • Finally a candidate I can vote for and not have to choose between the lesser of two evils. I think Bernie is going to do a lot better than the MSM give him credit for.

      Two points: (1) Sanders is probably genuine in his populist statement, but, like Elizabeth Warren and others who give hope to the people, he is caught in the tentacles of the Israel Lobby and, possibly, the war armaments industry, and (2) In the unlikely event he were elected president he would be like Jimmy Carter and have the Establishment – mainstream media, GOP, Wall Street AND the oligarchs in the Democratic Party gang up on him and he would go nowhere. But I’ll probably vote for him in the primary against HRC.

      • Good points; however, Jimmy Carter ran against government and was a very “weak sister” as president. He began the deregulation of industry via the airlines. Bernie Sanders is the polar opposite in those regards.

        • I think you might look at the successes of Jimmie Carter’s legislative efforts. Not to mention his near success in the Middle East. He was a very competent president and only the disingenous efforts of Ronald Reagans campaign team made him seem otherwise. You will remember that team cut a deal with Iran to hold on the U.S. Hostages ’till after the election which is how Reagan managed to win that election. Carter was awesome and, not all de-regulation is bad.

        • I_Buttle…. have the forces that scuttled Carter lost any momentum… Sanders is good mainly for bringing up issues …. largely the unfairness of the system.

  3. The only problem I have with Sanders is his Israel First belief. His solution is the same as everyone else’s: Hand money to Israel while holding one’s nose.

    • This isn’t entirely true. While he does lend an ear to Israel, he was also one of the members who willingly skipped out on Netanyahu’s address to congress – he’s also publicly spoken out against him. So while he may have some love for the country, he has none for its current leadership. And that is fine – because that tells me he is completely reasonable and able to look at issues subjectively. Some have even accused him of being pro-Palestine. So how can he be both? Maybe he’s just a reasonable human, I know – in politics? Its crazy talk!

  4. Thanks Juan. Sanders is the only candidate that speaks to the urgency of leadership we need now. Instead we get the usual players and their monied backers clouding our judgement! Why should he be the only one?

    • The 1% isn’t afraid of Sanders. The 1% is confident that Sanders can deliver millions of people to the Democratic party, which will ensure perpetuation of the Empire. The 1% isn’t threatened by Sanders’ candidacy. What, are voters going to read and learn about socialism, when Sanders himself is not a socialist? Are people who vote for Sanders going to commit time to study capitalism, militarism, racism, and imperialism–something that Sanders himself doesn’t advocate? Are Sanders proponents going to find ways to fight the Israel lobby and combat Islamophobia? Are Sanders’ supporters and cheerleaders going to do anything to dismantle the Empire after they cast ballots for their fake-socialist Great Hope? No. The ruling class knows that once people think that Sanders will save them, once enough people can be duped into thinking that he’s some kind of savior, they’ll stay pacified and demobilized, erroneously thinking that “Bernie’s got it”.

  5. “Even among Republicans, 48% say that they are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to fight climate change.”

    I don’t believe them. I see no evidence of their claim in their actions so I think they’re just trying to fool someone, maybe themselves.

    Things like this make me skeptical of opinion polling on issues generally and I wouldn’t consider it a good measure of whether a candidate is ‘mainstream.’

    • I recently read a preview of the book “Don’t Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change”, by George Marshall. The part that got my attention was a description of it being “common knowledge” among conservatives that all liberal leaders were using Global Warming as a weapon to destroy conservatives and all they hold dear. Thus, even though they may be worried about AGW, they place a far higher priority on tribal loyalty and the war of their tribe against liberals/socialists/blacks/gays/Moslems. There’s also been a study that shows that conservatives become bigger climate deniers after they see famous liberals warning about AGW.

      Pretty much their attitude is that in a vacuum, it would be fine to save lives from AGW, but if those lives must be sacrificed to defeat the greater evil (us) then it’s worth it. And if they have to believe a lie or claim to do so to accomplish that, then it’s worth it.

      I would argue that many, many things we find insane about American politics are due to exactly this zero-sum culture war mentality. What’s the matter with Kansas? They’re willing to be poor, polluted and backward if that’s the price of defending their monopoly on Americanness from us evil usurpers. Somehow they will be rewarded after they eradicate us.

  6. Not so long ago, Sanders was presented as irrelevant, then as a merely local oddity

    First they ignore you,
    then they laugh at you,

    you know how it ends, right?

    • “Those captive to images cast ballots based on how candidates make them feel. They vote for a slogan, a smile, perceived sincerity, and attractiveness, along with a carefully crafted personal narrative of the candidate. It is style and story, not content and fact, that inform mass politics. Politicians have learned that to get votes they must replicate the faux intimacy established between celebrities and the public. There has to be a sense, created through artful theatrical staging and scripting by political spin machines, that the politician is “one of us.” The politician, like the celebrity, has to give voters the impression that he or she, as Bill Clinton used to say, feels their pain. We have to be able to see ourselves in them. If this connection, invariably a product of extremely sophisticated artifice, is not established, no politician can get any traction in a celebrity culture.”
      – Chris Hedges

  7. Bernie supported Obama vocally on Iran negotiatians and castigating republicans for “itching to go to war” Seems solid to me.

  8. he has a chance if democracy returns to America, but right now USA is a plutocracy , money politics and neo-con influence decide the president of the US who is remote controlled by hidden forces

  9. Bernie sanders is very likely one of the maybe three totally honest congressmen in Washington ….tammy duckworth of Illinois is the other one…and there is bound to be one other..

  10. All Professor Cole says is true.
    However the harsh reality is there is no way a Democratic convention will present Bernie as their candidate.
    If Senator Sanders should run as an independent in the presidential election he would split the vote of non Republicans thereby assuring a Republican victory.
    It’s the shitstem.
    I’d like to hear Prof. Cole’s suggestions on how that system can be changed , short of revolution.

    • Sanders has mentioned if he does not win the primaries, he will not run for president as an independent. The way I see it is you have nothing to lose for voting for him, as it’s not a wasted vote if Hilary were to be the democratic nominee anyway (assuming you vote for democrats).

  11. Dan Ariely and Mike Norton did a study that showed that most Americans would prefer a system like Sweden, though they don’t realize it. Here’s a link to a video about it. link to

    • They probably do, but will they vote for a candidate who makes a serious proposal to do something about it? I suspect not. Firstly these egalitarians don’t vote as much as those on the right end of the spectrum. Then we have voter suppression. Then we will have media plus the conservative noise machine in full attack mode. People tend to be suckers for lines like “That’s not the American way”, “freedom (license for rich people) is what makes us special.” The later argument can be devastating, since its true, and admitting it admits we are a worse place to live which is easily tarred as unpatriotic, so anyone making the argument will be asked “why do you hate America?”. I think its a very tough sell to get the people to vote their interests.

  12. Sanders is mainstream on many domestic issues. Like the way you described “others” as the “lunatic fringe.” Which is the case. Sheldon Adelson , Koch brothers greedy “lunatic fringe” Although sad to say that Sanders falls into the PEP category when it comes to the I/P conflict. Votes with Israel every time. Basically supporting an apartheid state.

    Thank goodness he supports the P5+1 at this point, which does go up against Israel and the I lobbies agenda to take down the P5+1. So a bit of a stand against the warmongering crowd

  13. Sanders would make a wonderful POTUS…he would try to run America in a honest and fair way…as far as support for Israel …all US presidents ,even Obama really support Israel ..especially when it comes push time…also being Jewish ,sanders could not be expected to drop Israel ,.nor should he

  14. This is Peta Lindsay. She’s a real socialist, which is why you haven’t been told about her by the corporate media. This interview is from 2012: link to

    This is Michael Prysner, a veteran, a multimovement activist, and brilliant war abolitionist. He’s a socialist, not a fake socialist like Sanders. The establishment isn’t going to tell you about Prysner because he’s actually a threat to the ruling class. The establishment ain’t afraid of Sanders, which is why you’ve been sold the lie that Sanders is a Savior. link to

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