COLUMN: Bernie Sanders: ‘True believer’ socialist is part of the new Democratic ‘establishment’

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On Monday the first real votes of the 2016 election campaign will be cast when Iowans caucus to decide how their delegates will vote at the nominating conventions later this year.

At that point, the political pundits take a back seat and real Americans will get a chance to say whether they want more of the same or something entirely new.

I’ve written fairly extensively about the battle among Republicans, where the fight has been drawn as between “change agents” such as Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina or establishment “pols” such as Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie.

Cruz and Trump have been leading in the polls nationally, and from everything we know at this point, it looks like they will also finish one-two in Iowa. A Trump win could mean an early end to the nomination battle. A Cruz win could be the start of a long drawn-out struggle to the death. Either way, it would be hard to see one of the “establishment” candidates fighting back into the race. Change is the almost certain winner.

But what about on the Democratic side? That race in Iowa tomorrow could actually be even more influential and decisive in the long-term than the GOP race. Are Democrats going to vote for change as well?

The standard approach to the Democratic race is to rate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the establishment candidate, and give her the advantage over “change agent” Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont.

Certainly, if Clinton loses Iowa, it would be a bitter reminder of her 2008 primary campaign against Barack Obama, when the little-known senator came from behind to win Iowa and then built on that momentum to take the nomination away from the front-runner.

At this point, Clinton certainly has the odds in her favor of winning the nomination, but it would not surprise me to see her lose Iowa once again, and then lose the nomination, too. However, it won’t be because she is the establishment candidate — it will be because Bernie Sanders is the establishment candidate. It just depends what establishment you are talking about.

Hillary Clinton would actually make a pretty good Republican establishment candidate. There is hardly a hair’s difference between her and John Kasich or Jeb Bush — and the difference is all cosmetic. Bleach blonde or Grecian Formula gray? Yes, Jeb and John are pro-life, but hey, maybe not so much that they will actually work to fight abortion. Yes, Hillary is anti-gun, but not so much that she would ever mount a campaign to try to repeal the Second Amendment. What all these so-called establishment candidates have in common is being willing to say anything to win elections, and then spending the next four years blaming someone else for why they didn’t get anything done.

Bernie Sanders is different — which is why he is also popular. No one doubts that Sanders means it when he says that he wants to give college students a free education or when he proposes a single-payer health-care system. No one doubts that he wants to raises taxes on billionaires, millionaires, even your next-door neighbor, heck maybe even you.

In other words, Bernie Sanders proposes the “fundamental transformation” of America, which oddly enough is what makes him an “establishment” candidate. Remember, “fundamental transformation” is what Barack Obama promised to accomplish when he was elected in 2008. And that is what Barack Obama has been achieving, bit by miserable bit, for the past seven years — long enough to “establish” firmly that he represents the Democrat cause.

So Bernie Sanders is part of the “new establishment,” not the old establishment that owns the Bushes and Clintons. Sanders belongs to the agitprop establishment of Barack Obama that is more concerned with left-wing ideology than American nationalism, more concerned with identity politics than representative government, more concerned with progressive change than constitutional restraint.

Yes, Hillary Clinton does pander to that crowd, too, but so do Jeb Bush and John Kasich and Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan and Orrin Hatch and John McCain and a long list of other Republicans. Yet only the true believers like Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders can be trusted to push whole-heartedly to implement the radical left-wing agenda of socialism.

How do we know Bernie Sanders is a true believer? Because he has been telling us so for nearly 50 years. There is a reason why he ran for Senate as an “independent” — because he thinks the Democratic Party is too timid, too tame and too beholden to bring about the kind of revolution he envisions.

A few facts about Bernie Sanders:

He was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League when he attended the University of Illinois in the early 1960s. Also while in Chicago, he worked for the communist-led United Packinghouse Workers Union. After moving to Vermont in the late 1960s, he helped found the far-left Liberty Union political party and ran for both senator and governor on that ticket.

Later, after being elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, as an independent in 1981, Sanders brazenly displayed a Soviet flag in his office. After his marriage to his current wife, Jane, in 1988, the couple honeymooned in the Soviet Union in Burlington’s “sister city” of Yaroslavl.

In 1985, he traveled to Nicaragua to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the communist victory of the Sandinistas. As a result of his chumming around with President Daniel Ortega, Sanders was able to cement another “sister city” relationship — this time with Managua.

Now, here we are — and Bernie Sanders is just a kindly old uncle who wants to give everyone a guaranteed income, universal child care, paid family leave for all workers, and universal health care. In other words, he is Uncle Joe with curly white hair — Uncle Joe Stalin, that is.

But since most of the people who will be voting for Bernie Sanders have no idea who Joe Stalin is, there is every chance that he will be able to lock up the Democratic nomination, especially since Hillary could very well be indicted in the next few months for her insecure server escapades.

Tomorrow’s caucus should tell quite a tale. I’ll be watching with great curiosity. Win, lose or draw, Bernie Sanders has proven once and for all that old hippies are a lot more dangerous than young ones.

Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake. If you don’t like his opinion, stop by the office and he will gladly refund your two cents. E-mail responses may be sent to

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