Why Americans Like Socialism

The big Republican knock against Bernie Sanders - and, to some extent, the knock on Hillary Clinton and any Democrat - is that they want America to be more like Europe, in particular Northern Europe.

Bernie’s socialist policies might work fine for Scandinavia, Republicans say, but they’re pretty much D.O.A. in the good old U. S. of A.

Marco Rubio even went so far as to joke at a recent debate that Bernie would actually be better off just running for president of Sweden.

Now, Sweden doesn’t actually have a president (it’s a constitutional monarchy with a king as its head of state and a prime minister as its head of government), but Rubio’s point here is still pretty obvious.

Basically, he’s saying that even if it were a good idea, Bernie Sanders’ Sweden-style socialism would never work in the U.S. because damnit, this is America and we don’t like pinko commies here.

Conservative columnist David Brooks gives another version of this argument in his latest op-ed for The New York Times.

He writes, “There’s nothing wrong with living in Northern Europe. I’ve lived there myself. It’s just not the homeland we’ve always known. Bernie Sanders’ America is starkly different from Alexander Hamilton’s or Alexis de Tocqueville’s America, or even Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s America.”

But is that really true?

Is Sweden-style social democracy really as alien to the American way of thinking as David Brooks says it is?

Do Americans really prefer our way of doing things to the Scandinavian way of doing things?

Well, contrary to what you might hear on Fox So-Called News, they don’t.

Americans actually really like socialism, in particular Swedish-style democratic socialism, the kind Bernie Sanders is promoting as part of his political revolution.

A couple of years ago, Harvard University business professor Michael Norton and Duke University Psychology professor Dan Ariely conducted a study in which they showed Americans three different pie charts.

The first pie chart represented how wealth is distributed here in America, with the richest 20 percent of all Americans controlling 84 percent of all wealth.

The second pie chart represented how wealth is distributed in Sweden, a much more equal society in which the richest 20 percent of the population controlling a much smaller share of all wealth -- around 18 percent.

The third chart represented an imaginary society in which wealth was distributed equally among all sectors of the population.

After showing people these three charts, Norton and Ariely then asked them which style of wealth distribution they preferred.

The responses to this question were stunning.

A full 92 percent of people said they preferred a Swedish style of wealth distribution.

77 percent, meanwhile, said they actually preferred a perfectly equal distribution of wealth.

So what’s the takeaway from all this?

Easy: Americans overwhelmingly support either pure socialism or at least the next best thing -- Swedish-style social democracy.

Which brings us back to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and the generally leftward-swing that's sweeping the entire Democratic Party.

Say what you want about the feasibility of “democratic socialism,” but the argument that it’s somehow out of step with what the American people want is just flat-out wrong.

Americans do want socialism, even if they’ve been bludgeoned by decades of Cold War era propaganda into believing that it’s an affront to our democracy.

The Republican attacks against progressive ideals will likely continue and will get even harsher as we move into the general election, but as progressives convincingly make their case to the American people that democratic socialism is the way to go, those Republican attacks will fall on deaf ears.

A specter is haunting America, the specter of the death of the middle class, and Americans increasingly believe that European-style democratic Socialism is the cure. And genuinely progressive candidates across America - who did really well in the past few election cycles - are poised to do better than ever.


Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

Long before Bernie Sanders became well known, survey research was done in which Americans in the United States were asked about each tenet of socialism individually.
They were asked about national, single payer health care, free college tuition, worker's power, et cetera and they overwhelmingly supported each program taken seperately and indivually. However, as soon as any of the researchers used the word "socialism" to describe them it was all over. Suddenly everyone was against them. The People of the United States are socialists without knowing it - and don't tell them!
The lame, straw argument that "Socialism is nice but the United States can't implement socialism like Europe because it is SO DIFFERENT from Europe" is really a thinly veiled, right wing, crypto racist argument. What they really mean - and occasionally state explicitly - is that European countries are culturally and, more importantly - and this is often emphasized - racially homogenous with the implication being that the "lower" races are not capable of such a nice, orderly society and that different national and racial groups are "naturally" unequal, incompatible and necessarily antagonistic toward one another and incapable of equally sharing a society.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 18 weeks ago

Sorry! Americans seem to have the idea that they are winners or successful in some way

These notions are merely cultural myth

They kind of believe in the Hollywood stuff

cccccttttt 8 years 18 weeks ago

Am a big fan of Bernie policies, but believe it a mistake to implement them at the national level.

Too many on the right have a different world view.

They will do anything in their power to prevent his policies.

But, starting in selected states is doable.


Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 18 weeks ago

Bernie Sanders didn't earn a paycheck until he was forty. Is that really the America you want?

Craig Bush's picture
Craig Bush 8 years 18 weeks ago

I believe Bernie should take time now to explain his economic model. His is not socialism at all. It is more of a socially responsible capitalism. There is no free market capitalism in America. Our society paid for it with the bailout of the rich and the impact of the recession. We cannot allow for an economic system that will destroy the planet or rig it for the wealthy. We need to upgrade our economy with a new deal to work better in the 21st century. No one called FDR or Eisenhower socialists even though their programs are very proggressive. I thank Bernie for his legislation to make our national voting day a paid holiday. A day to celebrate our democracy without having to stand in line in the rain after work. Bernie is a brilliant solution to the pressing needs of our time.

MikeJ's picture
MikeJ 8 years 18 weeks ago

is it true that Sweeden modeled their version of Democratic Socialism after World War II, on a New Deal FDR template?

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 18 weeks ago

I hope more democratic candidates and office holders see the light, that progressive ideas are the way to go and will result in election wins. I hope they see that compromises with republicans are not the way to go because the people get screwed every time. Will Bernie's brand of socialist democracy work in The United States? It will not work if the people do not want it to work but it will work if the people want it to work. It's all a matter of who the people put in office with their votes. It's not impossible to have a 2/3 majority in the house and senate. It is possible but it's going to take converting conservitive republican voters to democratic socialist voters. That is a hard but not impossible task. Conservitive rebublican voters are like the snake about to be milked for it's venom. They see what one hand is doing, the one waving in front of their face, but they don't see what the other one is doing, the one that is grabbing them around the neck. Conservative voters are like that. They see the hand that's raised to swear against abortion, wealfare loafers, gun control, illeagle immigrants, etc. but they don't see the hand that's voting on legeslation that lowers their income, strips them of retiremant income, takes away health care or makes it more exspensive, and takes away their jobs and their rights. Bernie's political revolution is about defeating these snake charmers and voting in true representatives of the people from the city council to the persidency. I don't think Bernie's political revolution message is understood by all. I think he needs to explain it every time he mentions it so more people will understand that it's not about just voting for Bernie Sanders but progressive voters turning out in large numbers at all elections from now on, even if it's an election to fill one vacancy because that's the only way to keep the snake charmers out of office.

bollivar 8 years 18 weeks ago

No perfect form of government has ever existed. Communism has given way to Democracy. The US is overdue for a change as we have seen the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There are more people living on welfare than ever. Bernie's change would be a more non-vilent change, but change will come regardless. The Big Banksters stealing our homes, one foreclosure at a time after We the People bailed them out of the finacial crisis they created with our taxes We the People paid. There can really be only one choice for president: Bernie. Hillary will tell you she is a "progressive" now, but wait untill she gets to be president. It will be another story. Much like Obama said he would bring about change. He did take more vacations than past persidents.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 18 weeks ago

I agree that Americans love Socialism, but why do citizens still vote for Conservatives who support things like for profit health insurance over single payer???....so they can willingly pay three times more for healthcare than they need to? I don't think so. This self destructive behaviour is very much a result of the rich man's weapon of mass misinformation, the corpse media!

Let's face it, we have a population of many misinformed, and just plain not informed citizens. The red states lead the stats in this category. Ninety plus percent of the corpse media is right wing conservative in nature, with extreme fascist propaganda networks like Fox keeping the population numb and confused to what otherwise would be obvious economic and social truth.

If they had it their way, guys like Brooks, with their access to the corp media, would push for monopoly capitalism, and extreme concentration of wealth all the way to complete economic collapse. However Bernie is speaking truth to the very power that signs guys like Brook's paychecks, and with this we finally have hope for economic justice...a reversal of the biggest lie ever told, Reagan trickle down economics. If we return to pre Reagan tax rates, and end free trade, despite what Brooks proclaims, we will have enough revenue to pay for Bernie's progressive platform. With this you'll see the economy work for everyone again, not just the few who's best interest it is to keep everyone misinformed and confused.

Democratic Socialism is American as apple pie, and Bernie is spreading the good word despite all fascist efforts to thwart him. His truth is overpowering all the evil we been putting up with for decades.

darts89119's picture
darts89119 8 years 18 weeks ago

Question: Why do some Americans (mostly over 65) still vote Republican and are Against: Social Programs (that most of them are using to live), rich to play fair taxes, health care to be affordable and universal, stay out of stupid wars. Answer: because they are ALL multi-millionaires who will profit from their genius and risk taking (...or plan to be soon).

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

Kend, WTF are you talking about?
Craig Bush, you're right. Bernie is a New Dealer not a socialist. Socialists believe in nationalizing industry but social democrats believe in democratic control and sharing the society with those who disagree with them and deciding things between them democratically - and accepting the results of an election even if it doesn't turn out their way.
2950-10K, people vote for Republicans because the politics of division causes them to take race bait, gender bait, class bait and other kinds of bait. They fall for hate mongering of Republicans and vote AGAINST someone else rather than FOR themselves.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

Whatever it is you're talking about, Kend, you can't deny he EARNS his paycheck more than any other member of congress.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

Kend, you can't be serious! But, knowing you, you probably are.
Bernie Sanders grew up in a struggling, working class family and although none of his bios say so explicitly I think I can GUARANTEE you he worked at least since he was a teenager and probably hustled newspapers or something even before that. He is probably the hardest working member of Congress.
In any case, the bios do talk about him working as a carpenter in his 20s after arriving in Vermont. Might've even been entrepreneurial with that.
A trade like that requires apprenticeship and so on.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 18 weeks ago

Mark: People aren't born as bigoted, gun obsessed, religious zealots, and thus automatically vote Teapublican as if it's a genetic disorder beyond their control. The bait you speak of is to a large extent provided by the right wing media I speak of.

Moringaid's picture
Moringaid 8 years 18 weeks ago

MUST WATCH - Bernie Sanders Climate Change Warning. ‘It’s now or never’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw515MsNeZk

grumpyhugs's picture
grumpyhugs 8 years 18 weeks ago

Yes, media., or I was going to say, "Because of TV".
And some of us did see it coming.

"Four Arguements for the Elimination of Television" - I read it 30 years ago, read it again when I found it online at MotherEarthNews.


grumpyhugs's picture
grumpyhugs 8 years 18 weeks ago

Accidental double post, removed.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 18 weeks ago

Mark, true Bernie had a few jobs here and there but what he has been really good at is spending tax payers money. On and of unemployment and welfare and as a government employee. 25 years in government and not one of his bills where ever passed. That's a leader. He will get slaughtered one on one against any of the Republicans

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 18 weeks ago

grumpyhugs; The late journalist Edward R. Murrow was excited by TV's potential to educate and inform a wide spectrum of individuals, but after a few years in the industry after moving from radio in the early fifties, he spoke out concerning the direction the industry was taking.

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful."

That quote is from 1958, pulled from a keynote address Edward R. Murrow delivered at the Radio-Television News Directors Association convention in Chicago. The legendary journalist's speech was intended to be a wake-up call to the network executives and suits in charge of content creation for the fledgling medium. Murrow saw the potential of television, and lamented how it was being squandered by people who saw it only as a business opportunity, a medium of empty entertainment for advertising and profit, with no thought for ambition or edification. That standard approach by the industry led to a follow-the-leader homogeneity in programming, with a few archetypes (sitcoms, crime shows, medical dramas, soap operas and westerns (common in the 1950s)) endlessly iterated upon. We can't really be surprised that over the subsequent sixty years this medium has produced a nation of virtual Zombies !

ronbo4610's picture
ronbo4610 8 years 18 weeks ago

Some commenters have claimed that Bernie did not work until he was 40, downplaying the significance of the odd jobs that he had before then. This highlights to me the worship some americans have for businessmen - like Trump - who pointlessly and obsessively work to collect massive sums of money that they cannot possibly consume during their lifetimes. I made it, I did good, I have 10 cars and five houses and my progeny will be set for their lifetimes. I cringe when I sense this all too common viewpoint in the USA and I very much doubt that anyone with it is really leading a life to be admired.

dianhow 8 years 18 weeks ago

New Michael Moore movie was thought provoking, funny & quite informative. Italy, France, Portugal,Sweden ,Norway Denmark , even Germany ( who freely admits its horrid Nazi past to its young ) These cultures are so very different from US. They care about their' neighbors' believe in kindness, and ' investing' in their people, a foreign concept in US US favors -sucks up- to giant corps and fraudulant banks. Many of Europes prisons use 'NO cruel & unusal punishment ' These prisons seek to rehabilitate ! Guards do not beat them . Of course US population is nothing like theirs... we have gangs, drug dealers coming over south border, poor kids living in squalor, millions of illegal guns, Corp Greed run amock, US laws, policies & politicians greatly favor the powerful & wealthy. Italian school lunches are nutrious , high quality NO soft drinks are served. They spend less per meal than US . Of course they do not Police the world & bomb countries .as our gov't does.. US wars change nothing , help no one except war profiteers & create enemies like ISIS yet war billionaires keep killing ,maiming, making billions. 90 % of Politicians become very wealthy , many ' retire' with a huge campaign fund & become DC Lobbyists ! Why is that even legal when It is NOT in Best intrests of We the people ? Unregulated wide open Capitalism has FAILED we the people ! Last decent GOP President was Eisenhower - he would be shocked at todays GOP policies, failed wars, greed, avarice, war debt & Wall St & Corp 'welfare ' They are the New Welfare Queens !

Wahl's picture
Wahl 8 years 18 weeks ago

Maybe. However FDR and our social democratic party had strong support both during the war and after the war. Because they were supported by the Unions and grassrots movements. The swedish Social democrats, in fact have been one of the most successful political parties in democratic system of goverment. Most often as one single party goverment (Please note we have a different party aystem then you have. Currently we have 8 political parties in the Parliament)

FDR was being called a socialist by republicans, but in my view FDR is probably the most social democratic president. He and Bernie would suit well in a swedish social democratic tradition. Hillary would not be doing good here.

ckcoleman's picture
ckcoleman 8 years 18 weeks ago

Thom, I've seen these statistics before: when you ask Americans about the benefits of having Democratic Socialism they are all for it; but mention the word itself and they suddenly ​​think you're asking them to sign a pact with the devil.

It may be changing, especially as the Grand Old Billionaire Party has overused the word "Socialist" to attack Obama as a curse word once "Liberal" lost its sting among the Unwashed. Certainly Bernie is breaking ground in changing attitudes, even if he doesn't get the nomination, but I think we still have a "Meatball" problem here.

Remember the old Abbott and Costello schtick, where Abbott recites all the ingredients to a meatball and Costello likes all the separate parts, but when he puts them all together as a meatball Costello freaks out? Yes, we want democracy, universal health care, a living wage, affordable housing, a clean environment, social security, and all the other good things but MEATBALL!! if you call it what it really is--Socialism.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

Kend, the first one didn't work so you're trying another sham, eh? Well if he never got a bill passed then how is he so good at spending the taxpayer's money?
I'd have to check to what extent you're fulla shit on this one but I already KNOW it's false. Off hand I can already think of the reform bill for the Veterans Affairs hospitals - a very recent, high profile one that everybody heard of.
I'll check to see how off you are but I can tell you now, Bernie is the HARDEST working member of Congress. You don't like him just for that reason, because he's NOT corrupt and doesn't take YOUR money under the table but EARNS his money.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

2959-10K, people have the potential for good AND evil and the Republicans try to foster evil in people to the greatest extent possible.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

Kend! You got some time? Try this to start
Try the Senate's web site under Bernard Sanders and try "bills sponsored or cosponsored by" and you'll get 6,210 hits.
Now, it's tedious, they start with the most recent and go back and, of course, none of the recent ones, very fine, sensible and often brilliant ideas that they were in most cases, got passed as the Republican, as a matter of policy, will NEVER pass a Democrats' idea - and the better the Democrats' idea the more likely the Republicans are to shit can it simply because they don't want Democrats to get credit for any good ideas. They only care about their own personal and political political ambitions, the country's well being be damned. Ayn Rand governance.
Anyway, Bernie was an EXTREMELY effective legislator as chair of the Veterans' Affairs Committee of the Senate in 2013 and 2014. So much so that he was awarded the VFW's (Veterans of Foreign Wars') highest honor.
He got 13 bills passed into law when the average per congress is 8.
And I'm sure I could go on but that is where I stopped researching the question. As usual, all you've got are bogus, fraudulent talking points.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

Grumpyhugs, television is obsolete, it's internet now and that's worse. There's no mass media anymore, everything is "subscriber only" now and tailored to a user's individual tastes and preferences
People and their opinions are never challenged anymore because "the customer is always right". People are siloed into their own alternate universes and political tendencies take on a cult like quality. The media menu for each silo not only has its own talking points for the facts but has its own "facts" as well.
I really don't think a Watergate could hit the fan like it did 40 some years ago when everyone was watching and listening to the same 3 major networks.

c-gull's picture
c-gull 8 years 18 weeks ago

The corporate masters of American propaganda do not want us to copy informed government systems in Europe because much of Europe has experienced fascism up close and personal and they are smart enough not to allow it to happen again. Especially Germany. Not so in America. Americans have not and do not seem to be able to recognized it's growth in the U.S. because fascism suits corporate greed.

EG: the political platform. Privatization, union breaking, a strong bond between corporations and government ('corporatism'), reduced government spending, balanced budget and a fierce nationalism (ideology). This is what Republicans run on. This would make Benito Mussolini smile from the grave-this is his old political platform.

The Republican right has used fascist tools, not believing they would be affected and become fascists; too late. Their party is now not much more than an ideological perversion.

So yeah- I want social democracy because we might have a chance of survival of the middle class. Mussolini had his day-let's not repeat his mistake.

MJ12 8 years 18 weeks ago

Experts Please Discuss: How possible would it be, and could it be implemented by Admin authority or Exec order; to authorize ACA medicaid funds to be released to States; which already accept such expansion on behalf of neighboring States which haven't; @ the same time authorize Dr's and Medical Facilities in the latter mentioned States to file ACA medicaid claims in the prior mentioned States?? Also in favor of: Raising the 2 person Hshld income threshold to: $35k, although that would maybe(?) require an Act of Congress...

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