A number of pundits have recently argued that younger voters, especially those under 30, are less inclined to be bothered when they hear the word “socialism,” since they have no firsthand memory of the Cold War.
To some extent, this must be true. Those who weren’t alive during socialism’s cruelest catastrophes — or even its many banal failures — will be less put off by the idea. Then again, if a presidential candidate were praising the excellent public transportation system of the Third Reich or going on about the some alleged benefit to American slavery, they would rightly be chased from the public square forever even though the vast majority of voters have no firsthand knowledge of the Holocaust or slavery. Anti-Semitism and racism haven’t disappeared, and neither has Marx, sadly.
For that matter, many Americans — including Bernie — lived through Stalin and Pol Pot and Mao and they still champion the idea of socialism. It’s completely unsurprising that Bernie once defended the Viet Cong. Because many of us over 40 immediately recognize who Bernie is. I grew up with people like him. In those days, though, adults generally didn’t take their crazy disheveled Commie uncles who taught economics at the local commuter college very seriously. Maybe that’s the problem.
It’s true that Bernie’s fans aren’t acquainted with socialism (and, incidentally, this is true only if we ignore the existence of Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, China, etc.), but the fact is that most Bernie supporters don’t seem to have a rudimentary grasp of basic economics much less the “socialism” they think exists in Scandinavian nations. What they do have are lots of feelings.