MSNBC’s O’Donnell: ‘Essential Truth That We’re All Socialists Now’

Last night, Lawrence O’Donnell gushed over Bernie Sanders’ authenticity and the consistently large crowds he has acquired in his speeches across the country. The July 6 edition of The Last Word featured a panel discussion which emphasized that the Vermont senator’s socialism isn't that far outside the mainstream. 

O’Donnell asked former Vermont governor Howard Dean if Sanders has “managed to educate Vermonters to the essential truth that we’re all socialists now?” He prefaced that question by noting the tendency of Democrats to “run away” from calling themselves liberal. The MSNBC personality then cheered the fact that Sanders openly embraces socialism and “the fact that he is a socialist.”

Despite O’Donnell’s claims, Dean dismissed that Sanders has educated people about socialism “so much as to say who he is.” The 2004 presidential candidate continued by glorifying Sanders’ authenticity:  

Most politicians are afraid. They don't dare say this. They are poll driven. I doubt Bernie Sanders has ever taken up an issue and given a speech in his life based on some poll that one of his people did.

Dean continued by claiming “nobody really knows what a socialist is, except for people in academia, and Bernie Sanders just said yeah, I’m one. So what?” O’Donnell switched gears, bringing the conversation back to the idea that America is a socialist country: 

Gene Robinson, the uh, Newsweek did a cover so many years ago – I can’t remember – saying we're all socialists now. Medicare is a socialist program. Social Security is a socialist program. No politicians advocate the abolition of Social Security, therefore they embrace socialism at some level, Bernie much more than others. But he’s not afraid of that word. 

The Washington Post columnist agreed wholeheartedly with O’Donnell’s assessment: “So he embraces the word. He uses the word. You are correct that we have many socialist programs that are now ingrained in our government.” Robinson declared that Sanders will be attractive to a wide array of Americans, and his appeal will not be limited to just young voters.

The relevant portion of the transcript is below. 

  

MSNBC’s The Last Word

July 6, 2015

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: Howard Dean, you've been watching Bernie Sanders longer than any of us as a Vermonter. In the middle of John Nichols' interview with Bernie Sanders, there's a long section on socialism, and on Bernie being a socialist. And it reminds me of that 1988 moment where Michael Dukakis tried to deny he was liberal because – of course – Democrats must always run away from that word liberal, it can never get stuck to [them]. And here's Bernie Sanders embracing the term socialism, the fact that he is a socialist.

He says it more than once in the article, and then does something that no other candidate would ever do. He actually points to other countries and how he believes that other countries do many things better than we do, including Scandinavian socialist countries. How has that worked in Vermont? Has Bernie managed to educate Vermonters to the essential truth that we're all socialists now? 

HOWARD DEAN: I don't think he's managed to educate people about socialism so much as to say who he is. And that is a very powerful and very attractive quality for a politician to have. Most politicians are afraid. They don't dare say this. They are poll driven. I doubt Bernie Sanders has ever taken up an issue and given a speech in his life based on some poll that one of his people did.

So that's what – standing up for who you are is an unbelievably attractive quality. It's why we have same-sex marriage today, because the gay community stood up in 1968 and said who they were and stopped – started coming out of the shadows. So, being a socialist is really, is just a name. Nobody really knows what a socialist is, except for people in academia, and Bernie just said yeah, I'm one. So what? It’s just exactly like the candidate we had for governor who was accused of being gay. He said I am, so what? End of story. 

O’DONNELL: Gene Robinson, the uh, Newsweek did a cover so many years ago – I can’t remember – saying we're all socialists now. Medicare is a socialist program. Social Security is a socialist program. No politicians advocate the abolition of Social Security, therefore they embrace socialism at some level, Bernie much more than others. But he’s not afraid of that word. 

EUGENE ROBINSON: No. As Howard Dean said, it’s a word, right? So he embraces the word. He uses the word. You are correct that we have many socialist programs that are now ingrained in our government. And so that's, that's the way it is. I mean, and I think Howard Dean is absolutely right. The authenticity, the lack of hype, the fact that Bernie Sanders may not know what a focus group is. 

MARIA TERESA KUMAR: I think he does. He just doesn't care. 

ROBINSON: Yeah. I think that is attractive, and it's attractive to a lot of younger voters, but not just younger voters. I don't think that crowd was just young people. 

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.