The Problem with Bernie

Some never Trump conservatives are having a field day playing concern troll, using this to back their assertions up.

I’ve debunked such things before, and I’ll do it again. That poll does not show the public’s ideological proclivities. It shows their ideological labeling proclivities; it is asking people what ideological label they prefer to see attached to themselves.

Most people are not strongly ideological, yet most political pundits are strongly ideological (it tends to be a big part of what motivated them to become political pundits in the first place). Pundits, like everyone else, tend to often make the blunder of projecting their own circumstances onto others. In other words, they tend to conclude that the average American is more of a political animal than he or she actually is.

Interesting things happen if you dig a bit deeper: many of those self-professed “moderates” and “conservatives” are actually sympathetic to many distinctly leftist ideas about inequality and economic justice. There’s plenty of self-professed “conservatives” who seriously distrust the wealthy and powerful.

So there is actually plenty of space for leftist success in electoral politics. But (and this is an important), labeling matters. Many of these same quite-open-to-leftist-ideas people aren’t even aware that they are potential leftists; their idea of what the political left consists of has been shaped by omnipresent anti-left propaganda in the media and education systems to the point that they see the so-called “left” mainly in negative terms.

Who wants to attach a negative label to themselves? Nobody, that’s who. So those people instead label themselves “moderate” or even “conservative.”

And it is here that Sanders has an Achilles heel. He has chosen to embrace a political label (“socialist”) that is toxic to many voters. Yes, it’s rapidly becoming less toxic. But it’s still toxic to many. It’s an exercise in labeling that creates an unfair battleground for Bernie.

Bernie will be able to cope with that self-imposed handicap to a remarkable degree (he’s repeatedly won the votes of many self-professed “conservatives” in rural Vermont for decades). But don’t kid yourself that it’s not a liability at all. It very much is.

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