A year or two ago, if you had told me Bernie Sanders - the Socialist - would be leading the Democrat primary polling in at least 2 states and, in many states, making a better showing against GOP candidates than Hillary, I would have told you you are smoking crack. But here we are. Why, in 2016, is Bernie Sanders now the Left's new, bright, shiny object? What has happened to make this guy an acceptable candidate to Democrats?
Let's step into the Wayback Machine, all the way back to 2007/2008, when Hillary was the inevitable, the sure thing, the one who was going to take it all. In mid/late 2007, she was blowing away the field. Numerous stories talked about the inevitability of Hillary. No one thought twice about any other candidate winning the nomination. And along came young Barack Obama, the handsome black candidate who was "clean and articulate" (thanks, Joe), and whose velvety prose (as fake as it was), bedazzled an electorate that was aching to vote for The Guy Who Would Make History. And away went Hillary, off into the sunset of defeat.
Fast-forward to 2015/2016. This time around it isn't really a "new", bright, shiny object. It's an leathery, bad-haired old man who has captured the imagination of leftists everywhere. Once again, Hillary is being tossed to the curb, but this time it appears to be of her own making. Finally, the proverbial chickens seem to be coming home to roost - those chickens being Benghazi and her private email server and blatant disregard for national security.
But is it that?
It's possible that there are multiple factors at work in the Rise of the Socialist.
The leftward lurch of the electorate - Eight years of Barack Obama's left-wing agenda has no doubt numbed much of the population to the ills of leftism. The freebies keep coming - entitlements are at a record level. Why worry about being unemployed if you can still eat and have a roof over your head? Obamacare is now part of life and the numbers are starting to balance out - the latest polling shows an almost equal % of Americans like it vs. those who do not. While those who still possess a bit of moral fiber remain staunchly opposed to the infanticidal tendencies of the Left and of their hijacking of millennia-old Biblical marriage values, the Left has made us to care on these and chipped away at traditional values almost across the board. Thankfully, the pro-life position seems to be going the right direction, but the leftward motion is happening in few other areas. And as the nation moves left, a socialist President seems less and less of an issue. Sanders is the logical extension of the direction set by Barack Obama.
Capitalism is old and out-of-style - One of my colleagues theorized that the fall of the Soviet Union eliminated the once-unthinkable thought that maybe communism and socialism aren't all that bad after all. It's been going on 27 years since the Berlin Wall fell, and with it went the most prominent example of the failure of socialist/communist doctrine. Even the Chinese have adopted capitalist practices - but continue to succeed as a semi-communist/socialist nation. Cuba is the new darling nation, even though they remain more-or-less socialist. Heck, we'll all be going there for beach vacations soon, right? The constant drone about income inequality has taken its toll on the American perception of the value of capitalism. The culture of free stuff and entitlements has perhaps convinced many that government control isn't all that bad. In addition, the "sharing culture" (or "Free culture") has had a profound impact on the value of production. Why build when you can get it from volunteers? Capitalism just ain't what it used to be.
The financial crisis and outrageous debt - Related to the downfall of the reputation of capitalism is the damage done by the recent financial crises and the debt load that's been taken on by the American people and their government. Trust in banks and other financial institutions went down the toilet when TARP and other programs allowed abusive bank policies to continue. The government continues to go deeper into debt and the interest load on the national debt looms as a future burden. Americans continue to borrow themselves silly, and the "everyone gets a trophy" generation spends well above their means for material goods and incurs student loan debts at an alarming rate. Why believe in a capitalist system when one owes so much that they will never be out of debt their entire life and Mother Government will bail them out? But the interesting thing here is that, while many BLAME socialism for at least portions of the financial crisis (e.g. Greece), the socialists blame capitalism.
The Interwebz - Face it, reality has been warped by the online universe. People can pretend to be what they aren't, they can take on anonymous personas and express opinions that they would never share with people they really know, and no matter how bizarre one's worldview, there is bound to be a not-so-small world of folks who also believe as you do. The Internet has brought together conservatives, libertarians, leftists, geeks, dopeheads, anime lovers, Nickelback fans, and all flavors of weirdness. And it has allowed the belief system of socialism to grow and be legitimized. The weird world of online has become the real world. The Matrix is here.
The Left-ization of government schools and religion - Some identify the beginning of the decline of public schools to the 1962 Supreme Court ruling that banned public school prayer. Whether or not that is the exact inflection point is up for debate, but certainly it does seem to be around the right time frame. In the 1960s, the hippie culture began, the Vietnam war created an angry, cynical youth, and traditional values of the post-WWII period began to evaporate. The drug and free-love culture influenced many college students at the time, and the teachings of the Abbie Hoffman types began to produce far-left college grads...including those who would eventually begin to teach. The 60s hippies gave birth to the 40- and 50-somethings who gave birth to today's youth. And those offspring have become today's liberal educators (and have been for a few decades now). Today's 20-somethings have been educated and indoctrinated by a government school system devoid of traditional values, and anything is up for debate. And they are never exposed to the facts about socialism (i.e. "it doesn't work") but are slathered in socialistic and other anti-capitalist political/economic dogma. Furthermore, They are biblically ignorant due to the growth of liberal churches and the decline of Christian influence, and they fail to recognize that the success and failure of economic systems are driven by human nature - a human nature that originates from the Fall.
Why Sanders, today? In reality, it is probably a mix of all of the above.
So here we are, with a socialist (or, as Sanders and others would say, a "democratic socialist", which appears to mean "I'm a socialist unless it's not convenient to be one") who is making a serious run at the Democrat nomination. And we already have name-brand politicians stating that they'd vote for him - in fact, today the AP reported that GOP Senator Richard Burr stated that he would vote for Sanders rather than Ted Cruz (Burr denies it, but the AP stands by it). If nothing else, it appears to be the Left's version of the electorate's Trump Temper Tantrum. On the right, "the base" (which appears to be an undefinable, amorphous blob of right-of-center voters) pushes farther right, to the point where Trump emerges as a popular candidate, but on the Left we see a similar push to the extreme Left, with Sanders. It is the polarization of political thought that we've been hearing about for years. And it's come to life...the far Right vs. the far Left.