In 2008, Democrats nominated the then-Senator Barack Obama as their presidential candidate for the election on the campaign promise of universal healthcare. He would later go on to be elected president, carrying the message that the time for Medicare for all was now.
With President Obama unable to fulfill his campaign promise due to unprecedented Republican opposition, he is leaving office with still much to be desired.
Now in 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders is campaigning on the same call to usher in a massive shift toward a more socialized country with healthcare reform in the shape of a Medicare For All single-payer system.
Sanders’ plans do not stop at healthcare—he wants to get the country up to speed and into the 21st century by ensuring free education and an expansion of Social Security. Sanders’ strategy for funding his initiatives also mirrors many European countries with tax increases, particularly on the wealthiest one percent.
From virtual obscurity to the victor of the New Hampshire primary, Sanders’ rise shows the country’s readiness and eagerness to join the rest of the developed West.
According to a CNN poll conducted a few months after President Obama’s first inauguration, 69 percent of Americans favored “government intervention in the health system.” The growing traction of Sanders — a self-identified democratic socialist — in the polls indicates the country continues to desire a shift to a more European-style socialism.
Since unveiling the details of his Medicare for All initiative in December, Senator Sanders has risen 12 percent in national polls, with his opponent Hillary Clinton — who is campaigning on maintaining the Obamacare status quo — dropping 17 percent. This increasing groundswell of people “Feeling the Bern” has even gone as far as to force Clinton to shift further to the left.
Socialism, however, is not a new concept to the United States. Many institutions that are taken for granted today are socially funded including fire departments, police stations, public roads, water systems, Medicare, and Social Security. All of these are taxpayer-funded and are cornerstones to a modern society.
One of the most well-known pushes for a more socialized nation was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation following the Great Depression. The policies pushed during the time shared commonalities with socialistic ideals.
The government’s establishment of public works programs created jobs that greatly improved infrastructure. Other agencies and systems such as unemployment benefits and Social Security provided economic safety nets for workers. And significant monetary reform measures established a decades-long period of stability in the financial industry following the most devastating economic collapse in United States history.
Sanders’ campaign is a modern day New Deal initiative aimed at revitalizing the country and codifying access to the basic tenets of life including education and healthcare. By using tax dollars from the wealthiest in the nation to fund the repairing of the country’s crumbling infrastructure, Sanders’ campaign is calling for the nation to adopt standards and practices of European-style socialism.
Dissenters to these policies might declare American exceptionalism, where America’s greatness is defined by defying the practices of other modern nations. There is definitely something exceptional about America in terms of its economic inequality, where it has one of the greatest discrepancies of any major developed country.
Dissenters might argue that socialism, particular Sanders’ proposals, would spell doom for the economy with higher taxes and free healthcare and education. However, those points do not hold up when the actual numbers are crunched.
According to Gerald Friedman, professor of economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst, if a President Sanders were able to push through his socialistic initiatives through congress, median income would rise more than $22,000, 26 million jobs would be created, and unemployment would drop to 3.8 percent.
Naysayers might even go as far as to argue that should the country ascribe to socialistic policies, it would face a decrease in life satisfaction. If that is to be believed, how would they account for Denmark, a country notorious for high taxes and socialized healthcare, ranking number one on the OECD Better Life Index for life satisfaction? The United States ranks 11th, behind other countries with government assistance programs such as Sweden, Australia, Canada, and Iceland.
Now, it is going to be some time before individual states begin to shift toward more socialistic policies, particularly those that typically identify with Republican or conservative ideologies. However, the trend is clear: a president who was constantly, and wrongly, labeled by rightwing politicians as being socialist is very likely to be replaced by a literal socialist.
The opportunity is ripe to move the United States into the modern era where the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are secured by the guarantee to education and health.