Democrats are facing the same long-term problem with Bernie Sanders as the Republicans did with Donald Trump in 2016, with potential negative implications both for the party and the nation. If anything, the long-term implications of the situation the Democrats face is far worse – to say nothing of the damage it would do to the entire nation.
Trump has shifted Republican priorities on free trade and budget deficits. The Republican Congress forced Bill Clinton to sign fiscally responsible budgets that brought about a surplus. Even when George W. Bush was engaged in irresponsible deficit spending, Republicans pretended to care about fiscal responsibility. Republicans did re-embrace fiscal responsibility during the Obama years, and we did get some positive things like the sequester. Now even conservatives are saying that deficits do not matter, and that we can just spend irresponsibly with no consequences. The Tea Party movement is dead.
But outside of deficits and trade, Trump has been a pretty standard Republican. He has implemented pro-life policy, protected religious liberty, reduced harmful government regulations, signed a significant tax cut and advocated for a stronger military. Even his non-interventionist leanings are a conservative position, as many conservatives have warned about foreign entanglements for generations. The good news for Republicans is that Trump is a pragmatist, not an ideologue. He is about making deals, and since Democrats have become increasingly hostile the only deal available is with Republicans.
That is not the case with Bernie Sanders. He is an unrepentant Communist. Sure, Sanders can claim he is a Democratic socialist, but he has praised and defended brutal Communist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela. He has even praised the Soviet Union. Do I really need to remind people that the Soviet Union was a regime built on genocide and murdered tens of millions of innocent people? Do I really need to remind people that Red China murdered tens of millions more? Ronald Reagan called the USSR an “Evil Empire,” and he was right to do so. We may actually have a President who has praised pure evil.
If Sanders is the Democratic nominee, a large swatch of Democrats will be pressed to defend Communism. This is not the social welfare state that Democrats have supported for generations, with government programs built on a mostly capitalist economy. This is an agenda built on a radical transformation of the American economy, and a dramatic shift of the Overton window that would have been unthinkable twenty years ago. Even if Sanders loses, this will mark an ideological shift in the Democratic Party. If Sanders loses by a huge margin, perhaps the Democrats could recover from that ideological shift and pull back to a more center-left position. But is that really a chance that we should be taking as a nation?
Sure, Sanders would be highly unlikely to get his agenda passed into law, but if he is elected as President his embrace of Communism would be even more deeply embedded in the Democratic Party – with even more dire implications for the future of this nation. Electing an open Communist as President would make Communism mainstream in a way that would have been unimaginable even ten years ago. It is genuinely frightening that such a seismic political shift is even possible.