John Boehner vs. Bernie Sanders: Who’s the Real Extremist?

With Bernie Sanders surging in the polls and drawing record crowds at every campaign event, the Washington establishment is starting to get worried. And when the Washington establishment gets worried, it insults people by calling “radical,” “extremist,” or “out of touch.”

Just check out what John Boehner said about Bernie during an appearance yesterday on Face the Nation.

“Out of the mainstream” is the kind of smear that Washington insiders throw around all the time, but it means nothing coming from John Boehner.

That’s because as Bernie pointed out later on in the show, it’s Republicans like Boehner who are actually “out of touch.”

That’s a really important point, and it’s what the corporate media doesn’t understand about Bernie or his campaign. He’s not a fringe candidate, he’s not protest candidate, and despite what you might hear on Fox So-Called News, CNN, or even MSNBC when it’s at its most pro-Hillary, he’s about as mainstream as it gets.

A recent poll by the Progressive Change Institute, for example, shows that Americans overwhelmingly agree with Bernie on key issues like education, healthcare, and the economy.

Like Bernie, 75 percent of Americans poll support fair trade that “protects workers, the environment, and jobs.”

- 71 percent support giving all students access to a debt-free college education.

- 71 percent support a massive infrastructure spending program aimed at rebuilding our broken roads and bridges and putting people back to work.

- 70 percent support expanding Social Security.

- 59 percent support raising taxes on the wealthy so that millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did during the Reagan administration.

- 58 percent support breaking up the big banks.

- 55 percent support a financial transaction or Robin Hood tax.

- 51 percent support single payer healthcare, and so and so on.

Get the idea? Bernie Sanders is the mainstream candidate.

And here’s the thing, fifty years ago, his views on Social Security, union rights, and unemployment insurance would have put him smack dab in the mainstream of the Republican Party. Yes, that’s right -- the Republican Party.

The 1956 Republican Party platform is an amazing document. If you read it without knowing where it came from, you’d probably think it was an email from Elizabeth Warren to her supporters.

It says that the Republican Party wants to, among other things,

“[E]xtend protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many workers as is possible and practicable…. strengthen and improve the Federal-State Employment Service and improve the effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system…. extend and perfect a sound social security system…. protect the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively…. [and] provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment..."

Amazing right?

Republicans supporting union rights. Republicans supporting the expansion of Social Security. Republicans supporting unemployment insurance. What happened to that Republican Party?

Easy -- Reagan happened.

With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the billionaire class took control of the Republican Party after decades of trying. Like all successful revolutionaries, the Reaganites wiped out the moderates, and made their extreme ideology the new baseline of American politics.

The result has been a dramatic rightward shift in our political discourse. Ideas that were mainstream Republican positions back in 1956 are now considered “socialist” or “radical.”

The irony, of course, is that the American people are still overwhelmingly progressive, and have more in common with the 1956 Republican Party (and therefore Bernie Sanders) than they do with today’s Republican Party. If the corporate media spent a little more time listening to everyday Americans and a little less time recycling right-wing talking points, they’d understand that.

They’d also start treating Bernie Sanders like what he really is: the candidate who best represents what the American people want out of their democracy.

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