The hidden key to Sanders’ amazing success in 2020

Summary: Every great movement has its hidden origins. Here is the key to Sanders’ astonishing rise to leadership in the Democratic Party. You won’t read it in the newspapers.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders. Mandel Ngan – AFP/GETTY.

538: “We Got A Flurry Of New National Polls. Sanders Led Them All.

See the polls at RCP: Sanders moves into the lead.

We are in the first decisive phase of the campaign, when the early primaries blast away the lower-ranked candidates – and who gains their support produces the few winners who will fight it out in the next few months. Biden and Warren are the big losers. Sanders has moved into the leads.

Sanders seems an unlikely leader. He will be 78 at the inauguration (like the other elderly candidates, likely to be a figurehead). He has a long-standing fondness for Leftist tyrannies. But that’s the trivial aspect of Sanders’ politics.

“We need a political revolution. People have got to stand up and take on the special interests. We can transform this country.”
— Sanders in the 27 June 2020 Democratic Party debate.

Sanders has run for office under many banners, including the socialist Liberty Union and Vermont Progressive Parties. He described himself as a socialist when Mayor of Burlington (1981-1989). And he still does so today (e.g., herehere).

Elliott Kaufman describes “The Socialist Evolution of Bernie Sanders.

“In 1973 he proposed a federal takeover of “the entire energy industry” …. In 1976 he asserted that workers needed to “take immediate control of the economy if we are to survive” and called for “public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries.” He had a plan for “public control over capital.” As late as 1987 he asserted that “democracy means public ownership of the major means of production.” …

In a major speech last June elaborating his idea of socialism, he cast himself in the tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt and urged listeners to “reclaim our democracy by having the courage to take on the powerful corporate interests whose greed is destroying the social and economic fabric of our country.” He enumerated a series of positive rights – to “quality health care,” “as much education as one needs,” “a good job that pays a living wage,” “affordable housing,” “a secure retirement” and “a clean environment.””

In 2020 he said that if elected, one of his first acts will be a government takeover of health care sector – a big first bite taking 18% of the US economy. He also plans a massive expansion of the government’s share in the electricity generation industry (5% of GDP). Plus a massive expansion of government spending on top of all that.

Obama discovered the key to socialism

In most things, Obama continued the policies of Bush Jr. Obama made three great policy innovations. First, his assassination of US citizens (violating not just the Constitution but breaking precedents going back to Magna Carta). Second, he implemented a treaty without Senate approval. Third – perhaps most momentous – Obama devised a way to expand the Federal government without limit, overcoming the public’s resistance to socialism (rational resistance, given its horrific history).

A government takeover of private sector industries gains support if it promises free benefits to people. But these generate opposition from the industries becoming government agencies – especially from their managers and owners. Obama’s genius was to offer free government money to an industry as revenue – allowing the industry to offer cheap or free goods or services to the public. Without requiring the industry to reform. Hence ObamaCare became law while the many such proposals before all failed (going back to Truman’s).

Unfortunatley, the US health care system already absorbs an insane fraction of the US national income, more than any of our peers. In 2016, we paid 18% of GDP for health care vs. an average of 12% in 11 high-income developed nations (including the US). We get nothing for that extra spending. We have the lowest life expectancy: 79 years vs. an average of 88. We have the highest infant mortality: 5.8 deaths per 1000 live births in the US vs. an average of 3.6. We use health care services at the same rate as the others, except for diagnostic tests (we use more, but they don’t help much). See the sad details. See the big picture: a graph comparing life expectancy to health care expenditures by nation. America is in the dunce corner.

Our current system, as currently structured, will collapse as the Boomers age. For example, Medicare is unsustainable over the next decade or so. As awareness of this spread, pressures forced a slowing of the growth in health care expenditures per capita. ObamaCare reversed that trend.

Providing universal coverage was assumed to require deep reforms to the health care sector. Politically impossible reforms (because America is in senescence, and institutions cannot reform themselves). It provided our obese and inefficient health care sector with vast new revenue – in exchange for nothing.

Sanders’ proposals use Obama’s model.

Our bloated, politicized, inefficient education sector will get vast new funds – and Sanders asks no reforms in exchange. He offers the energy sector vast new funds (to decarbonize) to boost their profits. In health care, a few industries will get trimmed (e.g., insurance and drugs) – but it will be Christmas for the rest of the sector (at least at first).

This is a model that can be endlessly expanded. Who will oppose Sanders’ proposals? This is Political Science 101: the beneficiaries are more strongly motivated to support Sanders than the rest of the population is to oppose them. Especially as Sanders neglects to mention how taxes will rise to pay for his agenda. He runs for president as a rich grandfather, or perhaps Santa.

In a nation of citizens, Sanders would be a fringe candidate. They would think of the long-term effects of Sanders’ policies. They would care about the long-term effects on America. They would see the need for deep institutional reform if we are to prosper in the 21st century. We will see in 2020 how many such people remain in America. The Democrats have better candidates, albeit less exciting since they offer only good government. Or the convention could have a return to sanity.

There are no easy or likely paths to a better future for us.

For more information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a story about our future: Ultra Violence: Tales from Venus.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about ways to reform America, about the Left-wing, about the Right-wing, and especially these…

  1. The Left goes full open borders, changing America forever.
  2. Visions of America if the Left wins.
  3. The key insight: the Left hates America and will destroy it.
  4. The Left can win in 2020 and dominate US politics.
  5. The middle in American politics has died. Now extremists rule.
  6. Glimpses of the political revolution just starting.
  7. About the slow-mo revolution by the Left.
  8. Triumph of the Left over the liberals who nurtured them.
  9. None of the Democratic candidates are moderates.

Books about Bernie’s Revolution …

… but these describe only the mild first steps in Sanders’ program. Don’t scare the proles!

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In by Bernie Sanders (2016).

Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution by Bernie Sanders (2017).

How Bernie Won: Inside the Revolution That’s Taking Back Our Country – and Where We Go from Here by Jeff Weaver (2018).

Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution
Available at Amazon.
Available at Amazon.


22 thoughts on “The hidden key to Sanders’ amazing success in 2020”

  1. America preforms poorly, but why does it preform poorly. How much of that 18% is spent on what kind of policies, is the majority spent on the bargain basement policies, or the gold plated top end policies. How much is spent on elective surgeries, like plastic surgery. Does it go on capital expenditure or research? How much of that 18% is spent on advertising. 18% sounds like a large number, but how much of that is spent on actually providing front line health care, how much on management structures.

    1. Gerard,

      The fascinating thing with US health care is how our politicians ignore the successful private-public models used in almost every other developed nation – instead preferring to dream up their own concoction or (worse) try models abandoned by others.

      Almost nobody uses a single payer model, and many of those that had something like a single-payer (eg, Britain) have moved away from it.

  2. “A lot of countries that try to build a single payer system abandon it due to costs.” I should have clarified that, political costs as well as financial costs, ie taxes.

  3. The price in health care is a function and reflection of our society. People demand such services as Gerard asks; insurance companies demand profits, hospitals demand profits, and doctors demand high pay, nurses want a competitive wage, drug companies seek record profits, etc. Basic principle, when demand goes up, price goes up. Add in that doctors educate more doctors like a caste system rather than an open market, and the greed of all parties listed above keeps prices high.

    IMO, one should expect little change, unless we find a way to change the demand function.

    Most of the Democrats are simply buying votes today, for unstated taxes tomorrow. This is a separate problem from health care. What they have in common is the state of our citizenry. YMMV.

    1. John: “Most of the Democrats are simply buying votes today, for unstated taxes tomorrow.”

      You are making the assumption that the Democrats actually intend to implement the policies they promote. Like the Republicans, their primary goal is to get into power, all else is secondary.

      The Democrats tend to behave differently once they are in power, which is also like the Republicans. Usually they use the excuse that they don’t have enought votes in Congress to push through the policies they advocated on the campaign trail.

      As Larry has noted before, America is mostly waiting for a superhero to restore the balance in favor of the common citizen. Such things have happened in the past, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt are the best examples. But to do so, they had to tip other balances to gain the necessary power.

      There is also the chance that this time will be different; that no superhero will emerge or that they will use their power for evil. This is why I strongly support Larry’s efforts towards making sure that the common citizen gets as involved in leading the country as possible even though I’m uncomfortable with his methods (and I freely admit that I don’t currently have better suggestions on the methods).

      Nature abhors a vacuum and will seek to fill it with anything at hand. If we can’t lead ourselves and hold the political parties (and each other) responsible, we deserve what nature gives us.

      1. Pluto,

        “Like the Republicans, their primary goal is to get into power, all else is secondary.”

        In the past, that was because we did not elect ideologues like Team Sanders and his SJWs. They are true believers, actual revolutionaries. Don’t assume they are like the conventional politicians that have ruled America since the Founding.

        Things change.

    2. John,

      “The price in health care is a function and reflection of our society. ”

      That’s obviously false. Most sectors of our economy have similar dynamics, but function anyway.

      As I (and others) have said for decades, health care is a problem every other developed nation has solved more or less adequately. Only in America are we struggling to invent the wheel, and refuse to look at other nations’ solutions.

  4. “Obama’s genius was to offer free government money to industry as revenue allowing the industry to offer cheaper free good or services to the public. Without requiring the industry to reform”

    This is a powerful critique of the Sander’s perspective. Unfortunately you concluding argument that such necessary reforms are politically impossible because of senescence ends up excusing all of the pleasant peasants for their pathetic political passivity.


    1. James,

      That is a powerful point, and my mistake (sloppy writing). As SOP I always end by mentioning that nothing is written, it’s all about choice – and we can change our future.

      Later today I’ll fix the post.

      Thank you for catching that!

      1. Sorry for my bad grammar.

        I will try again. You are right in regards to this article.

        However I do find Sander’s Staff Members views concerning. Very radical as if they see Bolsheviks as their ideal model as how to implement what they want in America.

      2. info,

        Thanks for the explanation. I don’t know Sanders’ staff, but I suspect that all the major D candidates have very far Left senior staff. Also, I suspect that Sanders’ old-school socialism is a low priority for his staff – who are more passionate about changing American society than its economy. For example, more concerned about gender identity, sexism, racism, etc than ownership of the means of production.

      3. @Larry Kummer, Editor

        Yeah I find it disturbing how they find putting people in Gulags or shooting the non-fringe leftist so appealing as far as the videos seem to show.

      4. info,

        I suggest worrying less about the fantasies of the few fanatics and more about the less ambitious dreams of the Sanders’ senior staff for remolding American society by use of the government’s vast wealth and power.

      5. @Larry Kummer

        “I suggest worrying less about the fantasies of the few fanatics and more about the less ambitious dreams of the Sanders’ senior staff for remolding American society by use of the government’s vast wealth and power.”

        The Bolsheviks were also fringe fanatics in their time. But their willingness to go to any lengths to get their way at whatever the cost which won them Russia.

        Sure incompetence will derail their efforts. But one shouldn’t underestimate such minorities.

      6. Just to correct myself perhaps I may be wrong about Bolsheviks being a fringe minority. However we shouldn’t underestimate the ruthlessness of sufficiently competent fanatics.

  5. With all due respect, this is completely delusional. You talk of the benefits of the public-private model that other developed countries use for their universal health care systems, and then you denounce the Affordable Care Act as socialism. You do understand that the ACA, beyond at it’s heart copying a number of Republican policy proposals such as the Individual Mandate included in the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act (HEART) of 1993, constitutes a far less invasive level of government intervention in the health insurance industry than any other developed country has, correct?

    In Switzerland for example, which has a system where citizens are required to buy a basic level of coverage from private companies (sound familiar at all?), those private insurance companies have to sell that basic level of coverage without regards to age or medical conditions. And, unlike in the US, those private insurance companies cannot make a profit off the sale of the basic level of coverage, they are only allowed to profit off of the sale of supplementary insurance.

    At the end of the day, I think it has to be acknowledged that a major reason why a candidate like Sanders is appealing to Democrats in a way that a Dennis Kucinich wasn’t in 2004 has to be placed at the feet of the Republicans and the Right as a whole. I’ve seen your posts citing the Manifesto Project ( to demonstrate how the Democratic Party has, in the past two decades, shifted drastically to the left. However, if you’d look at the data generated by the actual project, which goes back to the 1940s, you’d see something equally interesting.

    By 2000, the Republican Party had shifted further to the right, on the basis of the content of it’s platform, than at any time in it’s history since 1945 ( “USA” as the country), and it has continued to move further to the right. The Democratic Party, by contrast, after spending the 1980s and 1990s moving towards the Right in lockstep with the GOP, as of 2008, began moving back towards the left, ultimately ending up as being about as left wing, in terms of the Party’s platform, as it was in the middle of the 20th century. I will be the first to admit that I have substantial reservations about any sort of analysis that relies upon, implicitly or explicitly, a coherent right-left spectrum over decades, but in terms of the behavior of the GOP at least, I fail to see how this narrative can be denied.

    After all, in 1993 Senator John Chaffee introduced the HEART of 1993 in the Senate and got eighteen Republican Senators and two Democrats as cosponsors. Those nineteen Republican Senators signed onto a bill that included an individual mandate, subsidies for people with lower incomes who did not have employer provided health insurance to purchase insurance, imposed a ban on denying insurance coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions, and in many other ways was very similar to the ACA, as Kaiser Health News for example noted at the time (

    And yet, when it came time to debate the ACA, what did those cosponsors of the HEART Act of 1993 do who were still members of the Senate? Then Senator Orrin Hatch, who cosponsored the HEART Act which included an individual mandate, when the ACA was being debated said that an individual mandate would kill jobs and was unconstitutional. Senator Chuck Grassley said in 2009 that an individual mandate was a deal breaker for him when it sure as hell wasn’t back in 1993. Senator Lugar stated his opposition to the ACA on the basis that any reform would cost too much money, even though he had no such concerns of fiscal probity fifteen years previously. I’m slightly curious how was the ACA an example of creeping socialism, while the proposals that the Obama Administration explicitly based the ACA upon to try and court Republican support for the ACA were perfectly acceptable for conservatives in 1993?

    Had the Republicans been willing to work in good faith with the Obama Administration, as Democrats had worked with both Bush Administrations and the Reagan Administration on major legislative priorities, I think the appeal of a Bernie Sanders would be at least slightly more limited today. You would have any number of other issues, not the least of which being a return to the Gilded Age, that would fuel support for a candidate like Bernie. But if you had a Republican Party that rank and file Democrats could see was in fact willing to compromise and work with the Democratic House and Senate, that would far strengthen the position of those Democrats who emphasize the need to work across the aisle and would make the ability to work with Republicans a major point. However, it is clear to a substantial number of Democrats that any attempts to work with the Republicans in Congress is necessarily a sucker’s bet. Even when Democrats are willing to concede substantial points to win over Republicans in Congress, they are either so out to lunch or so cynical that they are simply incapable of negotiating with Democrats.

    So, at the end of the day, while blame per se is not something that can be apportioned for developments in politics, it is a fundamental failure to ignore the effects of Republican radicalism and intransigence on the Democratic electorate. In 2008, Democrats at the end of the day elected a candidate who came to prominence with a speech declaring that there are no blue states or red states, and he got stymied and obstructed at every turn by the other side. How can anyone be surprised that large numbers of Democrats would respond by forsaking compromise as a value and instead seek to, as the Republican Party has, fight to win a minimalist agenda at all costs?

    1. Iowa Democrat,

      I suggest you do as I do, reply to direct quotes. That will avoid what you did, writing a thousand words to something I did not say.

      “With all due respect, this is completely delusional. …you denounce the Affordable Care Act as socialism.”

      I said nothing remotely like that. I said that “Obama devised a way to expand the Federal government without limit, overcoming the public’s resistance to socialism” (true, as Sanders is proving) – and that Obamacare funneled vast sums to a bloated and inefficient health care sector, boosting the profits of everyone in it (the opposite of socialism) – avoiding the necessity of massive reforms.

      1. “I suggest you do as I do, reply to direct quotes. That will avoid what you did, writing a thousand words to something I did not say.”

        My apologies, I will do so in the future. Thank you for allowing this to go through despite not adhering to the existing norms.

        “I said nothing remotely like that.”

        And then you go on to say:

        “Obama devised a way to expand the Federal government without limit, overcoming the public’s resistance to socialism”

        How else am I, or anyone else supposed to interpret this other than both claiming that the ACA is an example of socialism and, that furthermore, the definition of socialism is merely the expansion of the services the government provides, as opposed to government control of the means of production and distribution. While I will admit I can see what you are saying, it is still far too muddled to be clear without explanation.

        And I do agree with you that the ACA did not go far enough in reforming the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies (i.e. allowing the federal government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs directly with pharmaceutical companies) and that such limitations were part of the deal making to limit opposition from such industries to the ACA. Again however, I have to strongly disagree with the idea that the ACA, or the Obama Administration in general, can be in any way, shape, or form characterized as socialism.

        Furthermore, in the proposals that Senator Sanders has actually introduced to Congress, while there are points where his proposals would not go far enough in reforming American health care to lower costs, the legislation still does include provisions for the reform of American health care beyond just shoveling more money into it. Beyond the cost savings that would result for a standardization of health insurance and a general reduction of overhead from the present insurance system, Senator Sanders’ legislation includes provisions to allow the government to negotiate prices for pharmaceuticals directly with drug companies, as every other Western nation currently does.

        Again, while as you have explained it, and after reading through your piece multiple times now, I see where you’re coming from and agree with some of it, beyond there being a lack of clarity there is also a lack of understanding of what is actually being proposed and debated.

      2. Iowa,

        “How else am I, or anyone else supposed to interpret this other than both claiming that the ACA is an example of socialism”

        By reading what I wrote. It says nothing even remotely like that. I am describing the mechanism that Obama devised.

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