Are the Democrats Really Close to an Openly Socialist Nominee?

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
February 24, 2020

The 2020 Democratic Presidential Caucus in Nevada is now history, and history will record that Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won by a landslide.

With 100% of the precincts reporting, Senator Sanders received 46.8% of the vote—a 26% lead over second place finisher and former Vice President Joe Biden.

This means that the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist is now unquestionably the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination.

Senator Sander’s ascendancy marks a reshaping of the American political map and the worldview implications cannot be overstated. The United States of America is on the precipice of seeing one of its two major political parties nominate an avowed socialist for the most powerful office in the world. If Sanders is nominated, the ideas and worldview of Socialism will be front and center in American political discourse. This has never happened in American history.

If nominated, moreover, a Sanders candidacy will likely lead to a massive loss of support within the Democratic Party.

The American “two-party” system stretches back to the years immediately following the presidency of George Washington. In his farewell address, Washington warned against the development of American political parties—by the time he issued that warning, a two-party system was basically in place. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, American political power swayed between the Democratic Party and the Whig Party. That changed with the presidency of Abraham Lincoln in the middle of the 19th century, which gave rise to the Republican Party.

Political parties are arguments—organized arguments that represent a worldview for governance and public policy. When Republicans and Democrats hold their nominating conventions for president, they each present their party’s platform, displaying the contrasts and distinctives between their political philosophies.

Yet, even ideological conflict surfaces within the political parties. This is especially true amongst the Democrats. Michael Barone, who is the keenest observer of the history of American political parties, argues that the Republican party has always enjoyed a general unity around its set of ideas. The Democratic Party, however, represents a constellation of different interest groups, each vying for its own ideological agenda—agendas ranging from the center left to the far left.

In 2020, the radical left is clearly in the driver’s seat, giving Senator Bernie Sanders and his campaign an enormous amount of momentum heading into Saturday’s South Carolina Primary and especially the delegate rich Super Tuesday primaries on March 3rd.

The distinct possibility that Bernie Sanders will head the Democratic Party in 2020 raises important worldview questions, namely, what is a Democratic Socialist? This political philosophy advocates a system of classical Socialism while simultaneously attempting to distance itself from Socialism’s non-democratic elements.

Try as it may, Socialism, by nature, is coercive. It can only accomplish its central political goals through a forced redistribution of the engines of power and production. It must transfer wealth, otherwise, there is no Socialism. At its very core, Socialism, even “Democratic Socialism,” is eventually antithetical to liberal democracy.

Sanders, moreover, is an avowed enemy of what he identifies as neoliberalism—a political movement from centrists, like former President Bill Clinton, within the Democratic party. Neoliberalism sought to modify capitalism as they saw it, but they fundamentally held to a form of market economics. Neoliberals—which would include many establishment Republicans as well—believed that Socialism was electorally impossible in Western nations, especially those nations in the English-speaking world.

That has now changed. Americans and American Christians are now confronted with the possibility that the Democratic nominee for President of the United States is a Socialist. If that does happen, 2020 will mark a titanic battle of ideas never before seen in American Presidential politics.

But, until there is a nominee for President, we will see a battle of ideologies take place within the Democratic Party itself. In 2016, Bernie Sanders blamed the leaders of the party for his failure to secure the nomination. Now, in 2020, the Democratic establishment will seek to convince some of the remaining candidates, especially the more moderate candidates, to exit the race in order to consolidate opposition to the Sanders Campaign.

Too little, too late. If the Democratic Party wanted to mount opposition against Sanders, they would have done that long before this moment in the race. As it turns out, the Democratic Party didn’t repudiate Socialism in the preceding months precisely because they wanted to attract voters who support Socialism. They were successful beyond their intentions—the Democratic establishment wanted Socialist inclined voters, just not a Socialist candidate. The two, however, go hand in hand.

Ideas have consequences and exert enormous power. Eventually, political parties become the embodiment of the ideas espoused by its leaders—and that is exactly what is happening to the Democratic Party in 2020.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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