Following Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan’s interview with self-described Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, New York Times columnist and CBS News political analyst Jamelle Bouie dismissed the idea that Sanders wants to radically transform America into a socialist country before delivering a public service announcement on behalf of a “very, very robust welfare state.”
Leading up to that, Politico’s Anna Palmer arguing that the move towards socialism might not be that much of a blessing for Democrats as they seek to win in “moderate districts” and swing states in 2020. Bouie pushed back on the ideas that an embrace of socialism threatens the Democratic Party: “It’s not as if Bernie Sanders is calling for...democratic control of the means of production, right? Like he’s not calling for...nationalization.”
Bouie praised Sanders’s embrace of some of the “gateway drugs” to establishing a social state such as “more Medicare” and “free college” which, according to Bouie, are “broadly popular with the public.”
He then asserted: “If you’re going to start defining Medicare for all or even just Medicare expansion, if you’re going to start defining free college or any of these programs as socialism, the other thing that could happen is that voters say hey, if this is socialism…sign me up.”
After Bouie concluded by proclaiming “if this is what it means to be socialist, I’ll take that bet,” Brennan attempted to clarify the bounds of Bouie’s admiration for socialism with an important question: “If it’s described as a Nordic country and not Venezuela?”
Bouie apparently agreed with HBO's Bill Maher when it comes to socialism, as he replied: “Right, right, right.” NPR’s Kelsey Snell jumped into echo Palmer’s argument that Democrats do not want to wear the socialist label while National Review's Jonah Goldberg argued that the popularity of socialism indicates more of a disapproval of capitalism than an actual approval of socialism. At this point, Brennan jumped in to note that it’s because voters “want things like guaranteed preexisting conditions and…maternity care.”
Going back to Bouie, he warned against President Trump supporting “unrestrained capitalism” because, in his mind, “if what you’re doing is...saying, I’m for unrestrained capitalism and the people who want a generous welfare state are for socialism, then you might end up losing that branding game....if you insist that it’s the generous recognizable policies that are the bad thing.”
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Face the Nation is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CBS’s Face the Nation
11:21 a.m. Eastern
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back now with our panel. Anna, can you pick us up here? I mean, we, we started off the program with Bernie Sanders, someone who embraces the term “democratic socialist,” who’s embracing government-run and government-financed health care. The President is trying to use a lot of those principles as a kind of, a rallying cry for his own supporters, saying reject socialism. It’s socialism or me. Does this actually resonate?
ANNA PALMER: Clearly the President thinks it does. He brought it up at his State of the Union and has been doing it several times at all the campaign rallies. I think Democrats are concerned about it, though. I think, you know, you don’t see Nancy Pelosi and others wanting to carry the banner of socialism or democratic socialism at all. You know, and I think you have this, again, I kind of brought it up earlier, but this push-pull in the Democratic party of…where you have the Bernie Sanders, the AOCs of the world and where the Democratic establishment is and where they think they can win in a lot of these more moderate districts and in some of these seats that are going to be up in 2020, that running the Bernie Sanders playbook is not going to work.
JAMELLE BOUIE: I think there’s, there’s a flip side to that as well, that could be dangerous for President Trump, which is that it’s not as if Bernie Sanders is calling for like, you know, democratic control of means of production, right? Like he’s not calling for, you know, nationalization when it comes to the state industries.
BOUIE: He’s calling for a very, very robust welfare state, for more Medicare, for free college, for these sorts of things, and if…things that are broadly popular with the public. And so, if you’re going to start defining Medicare for all or even just Medicare expansion, if you’re going to start defining free college or any of these programs as socialism, then the other thing that could happen is that voters say, hey, if this is socialism, like sign me up. Like, if this is what it means to be socialist, then I’ll take that bet.
BRENNAN: If it’s described as a Nordic country and not Venezuela?
BOUIE: Right, right, right.
KELSEY SNELL: I mean, I was out in several of these majority-maker districts, districts where the Democrats beat Republicans in 2018. And I talked to voters there who say when they hear the word “Democrats” they hear “socialist” and they don’t make those distinctions, they don’t hear the policies. They hear the word. And I saw people showing up at town halls, yelling…Abigail Spanberger in Virginia, out there at her town hall, you had people showing up and specifically wanting to ask her, “are you a socialist?” You’re a Democrat, does that mean you’re a socialist? And that's not something that, you know, that moderates like her want to talk about.
JONAH GOLDBERG: Yeah, there’s also just a label problem. You know, I think it was Quinnipiac had a poll recently that showed that support among Democrats for single-payer health care is going down but support for Medicare for all is going up. They think that Medicare for all is like not socialism, you know, it sounds like a more moderate, you know, kind of approach, and if you look at the Gallup polling on socialism over the last ten years, you find that basically support for socialism is basically a referendum on the state of capitalism.
GOLDBERG: Right. It’s just whatever, if capitalism is in bad odor at any given moment, like if we’re in a financial crisis especially, then people say, socialism, because it’s basically…they think it’s a binary thing. And the reality is I don’t think there are a lot of voters out there that actually want real socialism, but they don’t necessarily love capitalism right now either.
BRENNAN: But they want things like guaranteed preexisting conditions and…
BRENNAN: …maternity care and…
BRENNAN: …things like that…
BOUIE: So I think…
BOUIE: …where the danger comes in is if, if President Trump is siding, is siding himself with sort of unrestrained capitalism, that is actually unpopular as well. Right?
GOLDBERG: Right, right.
BOUIE: And so if, if what you’re doing is, is saying, I’m for unrestrained capitalism and the people who want a generous welfare state are for socialism, then you might end up losing that branding game if, if you insist that it’s the generous recognizable policies that are the bad thing.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, the fight will be over who gets to define the terms. And if Trump wins 51 percent of that argument about defining the terms, it’s very good for him. If he loses it, it’s very bad for him.