In March, while I was in Sydney on a three-day layover, I spent what to some would seem an inordinate amount of time reading in coffee shops for a first-time visitor to the city. Don’t worry, I did some fun things while there, but what I love most about traveling is the opportunity to experience living there. In San Francisco I spend a great deal of time in cafés. They are comfortable, anonymous and lovely, postage-stamp-sized microcosms of the cities they occupy. And so I sat.
On one of these occasions, enjoying the airy back patio of Sappho Books Cafe, two women sat down at a table nearby. Their conversation suggested they were students, and when they unloaded their bags into a sprawling, literary smorgasbord of study materials, this intuition was confirmed. Some time later, their conversation turned to the American election.
“I don’t really understand how the American primaries work”, said one.
The other responded, “It’s when each political party decides who their nominee for President will be. So there’s the Democrats and the Republicans. The Democrats are the good guys and the Republicans are the psychotic assholes”.
I stifled a laugh, not only to avoid garnering attention, but because it was the third such conversation I’d heard in as many days in Sydney.
“Around the rest of the world, Mr. Sanders represents a point on the political spectrum that is mildly left of centre. Hillary Clinton would in most countries be considered right of centre, not left. Donald and Ted? Man, those guys are so far right of centre you couldn’t plot where they exist — they’re pretty much off the spectrum.”
So says Pete Ross in an insightful opinion piece for Observer. The tie-in to my story above is that Pete Ross is Australian. And while my anecdotal evidence gathered while in Sydney is just that, what Pete expresses seems to be a truth that resonates in many countries around the world. Pete goes on to expound upon the so-called “wacky” ideas of Bernie Sanders.
“Mr. Sanders’ […] ‘wacky’ ideas of free education, free healthcare, regulating banks and corporations and so on are all actually *staple ideas of many of the happiest and most prosperous countrie’s in the world. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the happiest countries in the world index for 2016. The U.S. doesn’t make the top 10 — but almost every single country that does has the kind of policies Mr. Sanders is promoting at some level.”
What would the effect be, I wonder, of giving socialized democracy a new name? In lieu of branding a candidate as “socialist”—a tag that for some will all but ensure that they never listen to a word of that candidate’s speaking points—why don’t we let candidates speak for themselves, rather than weighing them down with the connotations of a party?
It’s sad to consider that the news media, itself a frequently liberal voice, may contribute to Bernie Sanders coming up short on delegates in the Democratic primary. But it is perhaps even more distressing that the hordes of middle class Americans who have flocked to the most xenophobic, sexist, elitist candidate to run for President in recent history want the same for our country as does another candidate: Bernie Sanders. And just because of the ugly, misinformed connotations of socialism in the United States.
But hey, we couldn’t possibly set our standards by those of another country. That’d be awfully un-American, right Mr. Trump?
“Our earliest ancestors formed tribes so we could hunt more efficiently and protect one another. We moved on to villages, then cities and finally nations for mutual benefit. We can do more together than alone, and when we band together we can put safety nets in place so if people are unlucky and get struck down, we can all help them back up. That way no one has to live in fear of losing out in the lottery of life. That’s what social democracy is, and those of us who live in them recognize that what we have is pretty damn great.”