Tag Archives: Democrats

The Only Wasted Vote Is a Vote Not for a Third Party

What would be the totem animal for a third-party?

Jesus, Ted. All you ever do, some people tell me, is complain. We get it—you hate both the Republicans and the Democrats. We don’t like them either. But those are the only two parties that have a chance of winning an election. Stop telling us what not to do. Tell us what you think we should do instead.

That criticism is fair. If you don’t like something, it stands to reason you think something else is better and you ought to say what it is.

In my defense, people will never build a new political system until the old one is dead to them. Che Guevara said that the masses would not risk the violent upheaval of revolution as long as they still believed the old regime capable of addressing their needs and grievances to any significant degree. Although the elimination of the two-party duopoly in U.S. electoral politics does not necessitate violence, the same inertial principle applies: as long as progressives and other leftists continue to think that they can express their political will through the Democratic Party, they won’t create the space for what comes next.

So job one is to drive a stake through the corpse of the Democratic Party. Much of my work these days is dedicated to my belief that the Democratic Party is where progressivism and liberalism go to die. I am out to convince as many people as possible to get real, dump the Dems and move on. Articulating the platform of a new third-party or revolutionary movement before enough progressives and leftists have given up on the Democrats would put the cart before the horse.

It would also be arrogantly undemocratic. No one person, certainly not a 57-year-old cis white male political cartoonist, can or should write a programme for the future of an entire society. We all have to do that together.

If you’ve been reading my work for a while, you know that I think that nothing short of revolution is adequate to address the radical problems faced by Americans and by humanity, beginning with the climate crisis. The profit imperative of capitalism is inherently corrupting; it hobbles all efforts to move toward a sustainable relationship with the planet. But no one can make revolution. It happens or it doesn’t. What to do in the meantime? Specifically, for us now, what if anything should we do with our vote this November?

The most compelling argument for electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is harm mitigation, with a view toward preventing a second Donald Trump administration, cleaning up the mess from the last four years and governing better than Trump would have.

I don’t find this argument compelling. History shows that presidents rarely accomplish anything of substance during their second terms. Trump would probably be the same.

Not only did Barack Obama fail to clean up the mess he inherited from George W. Bush, he codified and expanded it: he told CIA torturers not to worry about being prosecuted, he expanded the assassination drone program, he sent more troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, and he continued Bush’s policy of austerity for distressed homeowners and the unemployed with giant cash giveaways to the big banks. Likewise, Bill Clinton didn’t do anything to reverse the Reagan revolution; he went further right than the Republicans dared with “welfare reform,” Joe Biden’s devastating crime bill targeted at minority communities, NAFTA and the WTO. Given Biden’s half-century record of neoliberalism and his refusal to apologize for any of his crimes, it would be ridiculous to assume he would govern as anything other than a Republican.

After you accept the reality that a Biden administration would probably be even worse than keeping Trump, the question becomeas, should one vote and if so for whom?

There is a long and honorable tradition of voter boycotts throughout the world. This is especially true in countries without vibrant functioning democracies, like the United States. (In a European-style parliamentary democracy, most voters can find a party close to their personal ideological alignment. A two-party monopoly cannot possibly serve 330 million people.)

However, there is a relative dearth of data studying the motivations for people who stay home on Election Day. There is a cultural assumption in the U.S. that non-voters are lazy, apathetic or both. So it’s hard to ask intelligent progressives and other people disgusted with the two major parties to sit it out on November 3rd, knowing that they will be shamed.

Which leaves the third-party option.

There are two relatively notable third-party candidates this year. Clemson University professor Jo Jorgensen is the Libertarian Party nominee for president. On the left, the Green Party standard-bearer is unionist and environmentalist Howie Hawkins.

Given that neither candidate is likely to be elected, the main reasons to cast a vote for Jorgensen, Hawkins or another minor party candidate are to register a protest—I’m not apathetic, look, I vote—and to build an organization for the future. You can’t keep saying every two or four years, I would love to vote for a party other than the Democrats or the Republicans but the other parties are too small unless you actually do something to make one of those other parties bigger. That means voting for them. That means contributing money. Not two years from now, not four years from now, but now.

I have not yet decided whether to vote for Hawkins or someone else. I do know that I won’t be voting Democratic or Republican. I’m against both parties. Both parties kill innocent foreigners with abandon. Both parties neglect the poor. Neither party cares about the planet.

Why should I vote for a party I disagree with on almost every fundamental issue?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Trump Tries to End the Afghanistan War, Democrats Want to Keep Killing

What you need to know about the U.S.-Taliban peace deali - The ...

Pollsters have observed a consistent enthusiasm gap between supporters of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Any factor that dampens Democratic turnout could contribute to a second come-from-behind victory for the GOP.

            Adding to liberal voters’ ambivalence over Biden is a rarely-discussed aspect of Trump’s presidency. Trump’s skepticism of foreign military entanglements places him to the left of mainstream Democrats like Biden. His foreign policy aligns more closely to those of the progressives who are licking their wounds from the primary defeat of Bernie Sanders—and who are considering whether or not to vote at all.

            In 2016 Trump upended traditional right-wing politics by campaigning against the Iraq War—during the Republican primaries, where candidates usually compete to look tough. This year the surprise dove can take credit for extricating the U.S. from its longest war, the 18-year-old meatgrinder of Afghanistan. Not only was Trump the first post-9/11 president to hold direct talks with the Taliban, he concluded a peace deal with the insurgency that leads to a total American withdrawal by April 2021 if the Taliban uphold their commitments. Now he is even considering an accelerated timetable that would bring back the last American soldier before Election Day.

            Enter the war pigs.

            Trump’s peace initiative is under attack by an odd coalition of neoconservative Republicans including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and a group of Democratic hawks who inserted an amendment to the latest National Defense Authorization Act. The add-on denies the president funding to bring back the last 8,000 troops. In order to get the money the Defense Department would have to certify that pulling out would not increase the chances of Afghanistan ever becoming a safe haven for terrorists in the future. How could they promise that? 

            “There were elements of the progressive left and the pro-Trump right who supported these withdrawals,” Glenn Greenwald noted in The Intercept, but they lost the House fight.

            Trump is no one’s idea of a pacifist. He expanded the drone assassination program he inherited from Obama and reduced its already low transparency. He supports Saudi Arabia’s vicious proxy war in Yemen. He has engaged in old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy against China.

            Even so, many progressives find more to like in Trump’s willingness to engage with the leaders of countries like North Korea and Iran. Prior to Trump, high-level negotiations were positioned by the U.S. as rewards for improved behavior; Trump talks without preconditions. Progressives prefer diplomacy to war.

            Biden, on the other hand, voted to bomb Serbia, invade Afghanistan and Iraq. He has never apologized—so it’s reasonable to assume he’d commit the same crimes again. He sat at Obama’s side as that administration armed and funded radical jihadis in Libya and Syria, expanding regional conflicts into all-out civil wars, one of which created the vacuum filled by ISIS. American leftists support Nicolás Maduro, a socialist, in Venezuela; Biden backs Juan Guaidó, who failed to seize power in a military coup last year. These are Hillary Clinton’s politics, an approach left-leaning voters despise.

            “The liberal establishment is desperate to return a centrist to the White House in November and reestablish the country’s more stable military dominance of the world order, disrupted only briefly by Donald Trump. Joe Biden’s terrible track record on foreign policy — including his championing of war in Iraq — suggests a return to Obama-style strong military interventions abroad,” David Davison and Alex Thurston wrote recently in Jacobin.

            “Biden represents the return of the classical foreign policy establishment,” Alan Minsky, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, told The Progressive magazine. “Biden is running a campaign as a restoration candidate.”

            And while Biden has made overtures to the progressive wing of his own party on such domestic issues as healthcare and the environment, he has expressed no willingness to compromise on foreign policy.

            Last week a coalition of progressive groups wrote to Biden to demand that he appoint anti-interventionists to his cabinet and as top officials in the State Department. “Without national security and foreign policy personnel who are willing to learn from the mistakes of the past and understand the need for change this moment presents, we fear our country—and the world—risk descending into climate and economic chaos fueled by further corruption and authoritarianism. We expect a potential Biden administration to reflect the urgency of this moment in its personnel appointments,” the letter read.

I would not hold my breath.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

10 Reasons I Won’t Vote for Biden

Joe Biden's Problematic Record On Racial Justice Explained

  1. My vote is a personal endorsement. It says, “I, citizen Ted Rall, approve of Joe Biden’s career in public office.” I do not. Voting for Biden would be a retroactive endorsement of his vote to invade Iraq, which killed over 1 million innocent people. Voting for Biden would be a retroactive endorsement of his long history of racism, beginning with his disgusting opposition to court-ordered busing.
  2. Biden has never apologized for his numerous right-wing policy positions, such as writing the fascist USA-Patriot Act and the 1994 crime bill that expanded mass incarceration of Black men. Biden’s refusal to apologize indicates that he still believes he did the right thing, and that he would do them again in the future. Why should I forgive him? He has never asked for forgiveness.
  3. Joe Biden lies a lot. He falsely claimed to hold three bachelor’s degrees and to have graduated at the top of his law school class with a full scholarship. He falsely claimed to have come from a family of coal miners in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He plagiarized in law school and when he wrote his speeches. He said he was arrested with Nelson Mandela; it didn’t happen. During his recent debate against Bernie Sanders, he looked Sanders and the American people in the eye and falsely claimed not to have repeatedly supported the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortion. One of the biggest reasons to despise Trump is that he lies so often. What’s the point of replacing one liar with another?
  4. Even in the middle of a viral pandemic, Biden says he would veto Medicare For All if a bipartisan Congress were to pass such a bill. 5 million Americans were without health insurance before COVID-19. That number has more than doubled due to coronavirus lockdown-related unemployment. I cannot vote for anyone who wants my fellow Americans to die of COVID-19, and that goes double when the murderer is motivated by corruption: of the approximately 20 candidates in the 2020 Democratic primaries, Joe Biden received the biggest contributions from the healthcare industry.
  5. Joe Biden wants to kill the planet. He still refuses to support a Green New Deal whose goal is zero net carbon emissions by 2030. He wants to do it by 2050. Way too late! Climate change experts say that human civilization may be extinct by then. I cannot vote for anyone who wants everyone on earth to die from climate apocalypse. Here too, Biden has been corrupted by giant contributions by oil and natural gas energy companies.
  6. Biden refuses to name his cabinet. Given his advanced age — he would be the oldest person ever elected president — his supporters say a cabinet of “best and brightest” department secretaries would pick up the slack as Biden’s mental abilities continue to fade. If that’s true, what are those names? Unless he proves otherwise, before the election, we have to assume a Biden Administration will be run by Obama-era corporate hacks, not one of whom was liberal. You shouldn’t hope for the best from someone who still has Laurence Summers, an idiot who thinks that women aren’t smart enough to be scientists, on speed dial.
  7. Whether or not you believe that the DNC conspired to install Joe Biden as the nominee, a vote for Biden is a vote for a conservative Democratic Party. Consider what will happen if Biden wins with substantial progressive support. Internal pollsters will conclude that there’s no need to kowtow to progressive voters because they will vote for a corporatist even if they don’t receive any ideological concessions. The argument is, get rid of Trump first and then push Biden to the left. As MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell has said, that’s ridiculous. “If you want to pull the major party that is closest to the way you’re thinking to what you’re thinking, you must show them you are capable of not voting for them. If you don’t show them you’re capable of not voting for them, they don’t have to listen to you.” Voting for Biden would actually resume the party’s push toward the right.
  8. America deserves more than two parties. Both major parties began small. They never would have grown had 19th century voters been unwilling to ignore the two-party trap and “waste” their votes and financial contributions on organizations that didn’t initially seem to stand a chance. If you don’t believe in either Donald Trump or Joe Biden, vote for and contribute to a smaller party. If you support the lesser of two evils in election after election, don’t complain that a better alternative never emerges.
  9. Joe Biden is mentally unfit for the presidency. He is clearly suffering from dementia, which is why his campaign is hiding him. Now they’re trying to come up with excuses for him not to debate Trump. If the electorate wants to hand over nuclear launch codes to a man who is senile, let them commit this madness without me.
  10. Biden’s team thinks that their guy can win without campaigning or articulating an affirmative platform of forward-looking ideas simply because so many of us are disgusted by Trump. They may be correct. But it’s dangerous. If Biden’s non-campaign campaign model is successful, it will be emulated. People will become president without being properly vetted, without the American people getting to know them. Nothing could be less democratic.

I anticipate the usual objection to this essay: but Trump! He’s so crazy and racist and stupid and evil!

All true. But none of Trump’s many shortcomings eclipse the sum total of the concerns raised above. Considering everything, in the aggregate Biden and Trump are equally awful. In some ways, Biden is worse. For me, the conclusion is obvious: don’t vote for either one.

Take to the streets.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Like Trump, Biden Would Be a Right-Wing President

Opinion | Why is Strom Thurmond's name still on congressional ...

            What would President Joe Biden do? His supporters are making it hard to read the tealeaves.

            They say he’d appoint a great cabinet. But he won’t tell us who would be in it.

            They say he’d be progressive. Yet his “unity platform” doesn’t include a single major policy position endorsed by Bernie Sanders.

            As they warn in those investment company ads, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. But there’s a reason Wall Street analysts pour over historical data—past performance is a strong indicator of what a stock will do next. So if you want to know what kind of President Biden would be, it’s smart to study his record, which has been consistent over 44 years in public office.

            With a few exceptions, Biden has always positioned himself either at the center or to the right of the ideological 50-yard line of his party at any given time.­ When he has written or sponsored legislation with broad implications, it has been so reactionary that it could easily have been authored by a right-wing Republican, like the 1994 crime bill and the USA-Patriot Act. Biden has never been responsible for any major law that could be described as liberal.

            It’s impossible to know what was in Joe Biden’s heart as he considered policy decisions throughout his four decades in Washington. All we know is what he actually did. There were few acts of foresight, much less courage. Even when the choice between right and wrong was clear to many others, Biden was on the wrong side of history.

            Could this conservative Democrat, at age 78, suddenly reverse course and turn into a progressive? Anything is possible. But it isn’t likely.

            I was 12 years old in 1975, but I remember how people felt about court-ordered busing in order to desegregate public schools. Racists were against it; anti-racists were for it.

            Biden was against it. He was so against it that he cosponsored an amendment against busing with Senator Jesse Helms, the Republican far-right segregationist. “What it says is, in order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son. That’s racist! Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?” Biden said in what ought to have been a career-killing rant.

            He has never apologized.

            As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee considering the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court, Biden failed to protect Professor Anita Hill from scurrilous attacks by Republican committee members during televised hearings. He seemed to value his working relationship with the GOP more than protecting a Democratic witness. Scandalously, Biden failed to call Sukari Hardnett, who corroborated Hill’s account. Thomas’ confirmation might not have survived her testimony.

            Over the past few decades, Americans have liberalized their views about drugs, coming to favor the legalization of marijuana and opposing the “war on drugs” that criminalized substance abuse rather than treating it as a medical condition. Biden is on the opposite side of that trend. He is still against legalizing pot. And he was an aggressive proponent of the war on drugs. In 1983 he joined far-right, racist, Republican senator Strom Thurmond in cosponsoring the legislation that launched the modern asset forfeiture program, which allows police to steal property belonging to people suspected of possessing drugs even if they are not ever charged, much less convicted, of a crime.

            Biden has been on the side of the angels a few times. He is fairly strong on LGBTQA rights. He voted against the 1991 Gulf War. Most of the time, however, he sides against oppressed people and in favor of military intervention.

            Many people reading this will ask: but what about Trump? Isn’t he so much worse that Biden has to be an improvement?

            Trump is terrible. His non-response to the coronavirus pandemic and his relentless racism and dogwhistling to neo-Nazis are execrable and impeachable. As awful and insane as he is, however, there’s no reason to think that he is any worse than Joe Biden would be.

            At the end of the next four years, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are more likely to be alive if Donald Trump is president rather than Joe Biden. Trump has resisted new wars and is bringing an end to the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan; Biden has repeatedly voted for new wars and backed policies that destroyed countries like Libya and Syria.

            Though he hasn’t gone nearly far enough, Trump seems to understand the need to direct stimulus money into the pockets of unemployed and underemployed Americans. Biden, on the other hand, is a devotee of austerity. He was an architect of President Barack Obama’s decision to ignore millions of unemployed and newly homeless workers while handing $7 trillion in federal aid to big banks. One can easily imagine Biden reprising the role of Bill Clinton, another Democrat who became a deficit hawk, at a time when the Treasury should be spending money like water. It took Nixon to go to China; it takes a Democrat to screw the working class.

            Vote for Joe Biden if you want to. But please don’t delude yourself. You’ll be voting for a change, not an improvement.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

5 Things the Government Must Do Now to Avoid Collapse and/or Revolution

London riots - Photos - The Big Picture - Boston.com          The COVID-19 medical and economic crisis remains mostly unaddressed by both the Republican and Democratic parties. They have only passed one piece of legislation that significantly helps workers: supplementing existing state unemployment benefits by $600 per week. Those additional payments expire in four months. Until then many people who are out of work will receive about $1000 a week. If the past is precedent, Congress is likely to renew the law.

            Aside from expanded unemployment checks, the government has been useless.

            Here are the essential basic things Congress and President Trump must do in order to avoid economic collapse, mass starvation, an epidemic of violent crime reminiscent of “A Clockwork Orange” and political unrest up to and including revolution.

            They must do it now.

            A Universal Basic Income is the smartest fastest way to stimulate the economy by keeping money flowing from consumers. Neither political party seems to care enough about the prospect of street riots to pass a UBI. But they need to do it yesterday to avoid catastrophe tomorrow. Flat UBI payments are unfair to people who live in expensive cities and states; the cost of living in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio is half of Manhattan. Weight UBIs according to living costs.

            COVID Care

            At bare minimum, medical treatment for COVID-19 and related ailments (bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.) should be free from a patient’s first test to their last breath in a ventilator. It should be free for everyone: insured, uninsured, homeless, prison inmate, undocumented worker for an obvious reason: if an illegal immigrant contracts the coronavirus, they can transmit it to you. It’s to everyone’s advantage that everyone have access to medical care.

            Theoretically, the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act does that. Not in reality. “Our health care system is a mess and the law does not explicitly prohibit charging you if you go to an out-of-network provider. It also doesn’t address other ‘surprise billing’ problems,” Time reports. Treatment for COVID-19 can easily run $35,000 or more—not only should Americans not have to pay, they can’t pay.

            Whether you go to your physician or urgent care or the ER, no one who suspects she has COVID-19 should be asked for their insurance card. Healthcare providers should bill the federal government.

No leading Republican or Democrat — Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi — wants to do this. Why? Because they’re stupid, crazy or both.

            Draft the Immune

            The Centers for Disease Control are rolling out a pilot program of a testing kit that can show if you have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and thus have the antibodies to resist a repeat infection. Authorities are considering issuing “immunity cards” to citizens who have had COVID-19. The idea is that people who are cleared could return to work. So far so good.

            As much as I’d like to believe that political cartoonists and columnists are essential workers, if I have had and recovered from COVID-19 I could probably be more useful delivering food to the elderly, volunteering at a hospital, or performing some other essential task currently going undone because the person who usually does the job is either sick or home trying to avoid getting sick. Waiting tables could help save my local restaurant.

            The government should retool the Selective Service System to draft recovered COVID-19 victims to perform services needed to help people and restart the economy.

            Ramp up Distance-Learning

            Parents, school children and college students in many cities are finding online instruction to be woefully inadequate at best. The most pressing issue is unequal access to the Internet. This is a huge problem. Fortunately, it’s easily fixable.

            There are about 75 million students in the U.S. 17% don’t have home Internet access. That’s 13 million kids. A Wifi hot spot costs $50 a month. A Chromebook is $300. $4 billion, roughly the cost of occupying Iraq for a week, buys a home computer for everyone who needs one; $10 billion a year covers Wifi access. That’s the worst-case scenario; the government could get a volume discount.

            Unfortunately, neither Democratic nor Republican politicians care about our kids enough to act.

            Rent and Mortgage Holidays

            31% of apartment dwellers failed to pay April rent. Expect that number to soar in May and June. Idiotically, the only relief offered by even the most progressive mainstream politicians is a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. Moratoriums end. Courts reopen. When they do, millions of people could be thrown out onto the streets.
            Even if you don’t care about them, think about your own property values. During the 2008-09 economic meltdown, mass foreclosures left millions of homes empty. These eyesores dragged down the values of their neighbors’ homes. We really are in this together.

            People who can’t pay their rent or mortgage shouldn’t have to. And at the end of all this, they shouldn’t bear the burden of accumulated debt, interest or late fees. Congress should declare a rent and mortgage holiday until the end of the crisis.

            To mitigate the hardship on landlords and lenders, real estate and other taxes should be waived during the same period. So should utilities like gas and electricity. Congress should consider a tax credit for property owners. Banks should receive Federal Reserve funding at zero percent.

            So far, no mainstream politician is talking about this.

            A War Holiday

            Secretary-General António Guterres of the United Nations is calling for warring parties in the world to lay down their arms for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” he said, emphasizing the fact that war makes it hard for humanitarian assistance to reach victims of coronavirus.

            War is a tremendous waste of lives, resources and money that could be better spent elsewhere, and that has never been more evident than today. Yet at this writing President Trump has ordered the U.S. Navy off the coast of Venezuela in a classic demonstration of gunboat diplomacy. His administration is continuing Barack Obama’s benighted proxy war in Yemen. American drones are slaughtering innocent people in Somalia.

            This is all monstrous BS and should stop forever but, at minimum, wars of choice can wait until the end of the coronavirus crisis. Yet here again neither party, Democrat or Republican, has endorsed the Secretary-General’s idea.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label

Image result for bernie socialism

            Bernie Sanders is currently the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He and everyone else knows exactly how the Republicans will attack him if and when he becomes the nominee: old-fashioned redbaiting.

            China became communist in name only during the 1980s, the Soviet Union shut its doors in 1991, the Cold War is dead, and the 64% of Americans under age 50 have no memory of an actually-existing socialist regime. Yet Trump and the GOP have already broadcast their plans to hang the “democratic socialist” label around Bernie Sanders’ neck.

            Whether such archaic fear-mongering—against long-dead adversaries—will be effective even with elderly voters is anyone’s guess. Considering the fact that 40% of Americans consistently tell pollsters they prefer socialism or communism to capitalism, branding Bernie Sanders as a nefarious democratic socialist might have the unintended effect of bringing out people who don’t normally vote to support an ideology they’ve never had the chance to get behind before.

            On the other hand, only 76% of Democrats say they would vote for a socialist.

            One thing is for sure: the socialism thing will be Sanders’ biggest challenge. And so what? Every candidate enters the game with a handicap of some sort.

            Elizabeth Warren has acquired a reputation for deception and opportunism. Amy Klobuchar plays a mean girl on TV and behind closed doors. Pete Buttigieg is gay; only 78% of voters say they’d consider a gay candidate. He’s also inexperienced. Joe Biden appears to have been suffering from dementia for years.

            Political weaknesses are inevitable; what makes or breaks a candidacy is how his or her campaign chooses to address it. History’s answer is clear: take it on honestly, directly and credibly.

            Own your crap. Americans voters hate sneakiness and avoidance.

            Bernie has no one but himself to blame for this potential electoral albatross. As Paul Krugman of The New York Times points out, the independent senator from Vermont is not really a socialist: “He doesn’t want to nationalize our major industries and replace markets with central planning.” He is a New Deal Democrat indistinguishable from old liberal figures like Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern. The economic model Sanders wants to establish isn’t the USSR or even Yugoslavia, but the Scandinavian countries with their superior safety nets and enlightened penal systems. Capitalism as we know it would continue, albeit with reduced overall cruelty.

            Bernie is a social democrat, not a democratic socialist. For some unknown reason, however, he chose to label himself as a democratic socialist. “It’s mainly about personal branding,” Krugman speculates, “with a dash of glee at shocking the bourgeoisie. And this self-indulgence did no harm as long as he was just a senator from a very liberal state.”

            Now he’s going to have to explain himself and his beliefs to American voters who have been propagandized through education and the media to believe that socialism equals communism equals totalitarian dystopia.

            If he’s smart – and there’s no reason to believe that he and his staff are anything but—he will own the phrase and address those concerns head on.

During the 1960 campaign John F. Kennedy responded to worries about his Roman Catholicism that he might take orders from the pope in a speech that allowed anti-Catholic voters to take a chance on him. “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act,” Kennedy said.

            Aware that he was going to run for president in a few years, Barack Obama discussed his drug use as a young man, specifically the fact that he had tried cocaine, in his memoir and in an interview published ahead of the race. By the time he ran in 2008, the coke thing was old news baked into the politics of the time.

            “Democratic socialism” is a pretty meaningless term. Which is not necessarily bad. Because it doesn’t define an existing party or ideology in the real world, Bernie can imprint his own definition upon his awkward tabula rasa.

            Like every crisis, this is an opportunity. Voters want to know what Bernie stands for. Their confusion about democratic socialism (confusion caused by Sanders’ weird word choices) is his chance to explain himself and his policies.

            The one thing he should not and cannot do is to shy away from the S word. No matter how much he protests, Republicans are going to call him a Marxist, a communist, a socialist and worse. So there’s no point in protesting. “Yes,“ he could say, “I am a socialist. A democratic socialist. A democratic socialist is a person who cares more about you as an ordinary American than about greedy billionaires and corporations who pollute your water and lay you off at the drop of a hat.”

            Nothing neutralizes an attack more effectively than to cop to it.

            If nothing else, even if he loses, Bernie can rehabilitate socialism as an acceptable economic alternative. In the long run, that would be a greater accomplishment than anything Sanders could accomplish in eight years as president.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the forthcoming “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)