Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) the 72-year-old Vermont socialist is surging in the Democratic Primary against Hillary Clinton with “free education in one fist, single-payer healthcare in the other.”
Bill Curry of Salon wrote that “Hillary Clinton is going to lose: She doesn’t even see the frustrated progressive wave that will nominate Bernie Sanders” in an article a couple of weeks ago.
A few days later, Huffington Post published an article entitled “Bernie Sanders Has Overtaken Hillary Clinton In the Hearts and Minds of Democrats.”
More interesting is the fact that some Republicans are jumping on-board the Bernie Sanders bandwagon. Michael T. Hertz of Nation of Change wrote an article in March discussing Everett Clifford who commented on a pro-Bernie post that Hertz had posted on Facebook. Clifford related that
[I] have been living in Vermont for many years, have voted for Bernie every time, very proud of him, he tells us what’s wrong, and how to fix it, never ran a dirty campaign, so as a Republican, Marine vet, and Minister, I’m voting for Bernie Sanders.
This phenomenon of gaining Republican support isn’t new for Sanders. Check out this campaign ad from his 2006 Vermont Senate campaign that begins with a gentleman stating: “I’m a lifelong Republican and I support Bernie Sanders and the work he’s done for the seniors and also for his honesty.”
Back to the present, there’s the “long-time GOP supporter” whose Reddit post, My story as a Republican that is supporting Bernie Sanders for President, exploded in May. The post was rather lengthy and the author closed the post by noting he or she was “amazed by Bernie Sanders’ policies. Everything he did was for the American worker, from protecting them from outsourcing and cheap foreign labor, to fixing the budget deficit by hiking taxes on the rich, to boosting the minimum wage. He’d be considered a centrist back in the 80s, which is why he has my vote.”
CNN’s New Day aired pre-recorded segments in June in which co-anchor Chris Cuomo spoke with six New Hampshire voters about the presidential race. The panel consisted of two each of Democrats, Republicans and Independents and, interestingly, one of the Republicans complimented Sanders’ proposal for free college. When Cuomo warned that such a proposal would be unpopular, she persisted in talking up Sanders’ plan.
There is even a “Republicans for Bernie Sanders” Facebook page – albeit a small one with only 1600 fans so far.
As to Sanders being a self-described “democratic socialist from Vermont,” The American Prospect reported last week that “Over the years, Gallup found significant increases in the proportion of Americans who say “yes” to voting for a woman, an African American, a Jew, a Catholic, and a gay or lesbian candidate,” but didn’t add socialists to that list “until this June, no doubt in recognition of Sanders’ campaign.” In that poll “47 percent of Americans say they would vote for a socialist for president and 50 percent say they would not. In the poll, 59 percent of Democrats, 49 percent of independents, and, perhaps surprisingly, 26 percent of Republicans say they’d vote for a socialist for president.”
Then there’s the matter of the older Republicans. In a 2011 segment on MSNBC Rachel Maddow discussed the subject of Sanders and old-school Republicans stating that if Eisenhower were running for office today, “he’d be a Bernie Sanders independent.”
The story of modern American politics writ large is the story of your father’s and your grandfather’s Republican Party now being way to the left of today’s leftiest liberals. If Dwight Eisenhower were running for office today, he would have to run, I’m guessing as an independent, and not as some Joe Lieberman, in between the parties, independent. He’d be a Bernie Sanders independent.
Interestingly, Sanders laid out a comparison of the Eisenhower era Republican party vs. today’s Tea Party Republicans himself in a press release posted on his official Senate website and Facebook page back in September 2013. In it, Sanders compared the Republican Party Platform of 1956 to the modern Republican Party.
In that release, Sanders takes on six planks of the 1956 Republican Party that to today’s ears sound very much like current Democratic Party talking points:
- Extend minimum wage;
- Protect Social Security;
- Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of sex;
- Improve the unemployment benefit system so it covers more people;
- Strengthen labor laws so workers can more easily join a union;
- In 1956 Republican action created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
The American Prospect elaborated on many aspects of Sanders’ six planks using recent polling.
Here are a few quick bullet points from their coverage.
A recent poll by Hart Research Associates found that 75 percent of Americans (including 53 percent of Republicans) support an increase in the federal minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020. Sixty-three percent of Americans support an even greater increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 by 2020.
The Gallup poll found that 67 percent of Americans want to lift the income cap on Social Security to require higher-income workers to pay Social Security taxes on all of their wages. […] Legislation introduced by Senator Sanders and Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon would apply the same payroll tax already paid by more than nine out of 10 Americans to those with incomes over $250,000 a year.
A significant majority of Americans support the right of workers to unionize, despite several decades of corporate-sponsored anti-union propaganda. Eighty-two percent believe that factory and manufacturing workers should have the right to unionize.
Over 50 percent of Americans (including one-quarter of Republicans and nearly 80 percent of Democrats) say they support a single-payer “Medicare for All” approach to health insurance, something Sanders has long advocated. […] Seventy-one percent Americans support a public option, which would give individuals the choice of buying healthcare through Medicare or private insurers.
There are other areas where recent polling shows Sanders could fare well with Republicans, such as:
Today, 60 percent of Americans believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry, according to Gallup, a figure that is likely to increase following the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. But in 1996, only 27 percent felt that way. That year, then-Congressman Sanders was one of only 67 House members to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of gay marriages.
More than three-quarters (79 percent) of Americans think that education beyond high school is not affordable for everyone in the U.S. who needs it. Seventy-seven percent believe that higher education institutions should reduce tuition and fees, while 59 percent and 55 percent respectively agree that state governments and the federal government should provide more assistance. […] Sanders introduced legislation to make four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free, paid for through a tax on Wall Street transactions.
The Atlantic summarizes Sanders’ run for the presidency in an article entitled “The 2016 U.S. Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet,” writing that while “It remains extremely difficult to see him winning the nomination […] he’s proven an ability to poll well into double digits, and he has a fired-up grassroots base.” They conclude writing: “If nothing else, his campaign seems to be succeeding in getting his progressive ideas into the mix.”