With a win in New Hampshire, a maybe-win in Iowa last week, and a month-long surge into second place nationally, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is now in strong position to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. It’s been a long road for the curmudgeonly man from Vermont, who spent years toiling on the fringes of official Washington. Of all things, the event that ultimately launched him into the Democratic Party’s mainstream turned out to be a binary 2016 primary contest with Hillary Clinton, a match-up in which the contrast ultimately benefited him more than her.
So, here we are, in February 2020, and a self-identified democratic socialist appears poised to be the candidate of the Democratic Party. That could easily change, and the party establishment will work hard to ensure it does, but let us not take for granted how stunning it is that a man as radically leftist as Sanders is the likely nominee as primary season heats up.
As Sanders and his supporters boast, he is not a normal Democrat candidate. He is the most radical member of the Senate. His platform would make him the furthest left major party nominee in the modern era.
Sanders is a European-style ideologue who seeks to radically transform the government and the economy, dismantling the system of free enterprise, and he’s not bashful about that. To be sure, his success has pushed other candidates left on issues such as health care and higher education, but Sanders still stands as the most radical candidate, which makes him the most appealing to many of his supporters.
As Sanders surges in the nominating contest, the sheer extremism of his platform should not be normalized simply because he’s earning a decent slice of the Democratic primary vote. It’s in that spirit we present this list, which conveys the radicalism on which Sanders has built his career and staked his campaign.
1. $34 Trillion Socialized Health Insurance Overhaul
Sanders would ban private insurance and implement single-payer government health care. Under his Medicare for All proposal, “federal spending on health care would still increase by 10 percent of G.D.P., or more than triple what the government spends on the military,” according to The New York Times.
2. Mass Bailout of Student Loan Debt
The senator would bail out student loan debt for “45 million Americans,” totaling “about 1.6 trillion,” according to his campaign website.
3. Making Higher Education ‘Tuition Free’
As with many of his policy proposals, Sanders’ oversimplified justification for providing free college is: Countries in Europe offer it for free, why can’t the United States? Unlike in Europe, however, tuition is precisely what made the United States the top country in which to study, and the reason students from all over the world flock to the United States for education.
Additionally, the costs of state-run universities in Europe have not ballooned to pay for the ever-expanded services American universities now must offer to remain competitive (luxurious gyms with lazy rivers, behemoth athletic departments, and gourmet dining halls). In 2016, Sanders’ opponent Hillary Clinton knocked his free tuition plan because it relied on state governors, including Republican governors who often cut spending, to put in state money.
4. Implementing ‘National Rent Control’
Sanders’ campaign has pledged to spend $2.5 trillion to build 10 million government housing units. He also wants the federal government to further invade every state’s housing laws and local economy by enforcing a national “rent control standard.” He proposes using the federal government to wage war against gentrification and zoning laws.
5. Instituting a Moratorium on Deportations
Sanders’ immigration plan includes ending deportations of illegal immigrants and offering citizenship to the 11 million illegal immigrants already living in the United States.
6. Effectively Abolishing ICE and CBP
Sanders wants to eliminate the federal agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as Customs and Border Protection, that protect our country’s sovereign borders and protect U.S. citizens from illegal immigrants who commit acts of violence and organized crime all over the United States.
7. Enacting a Green New Deal
Sanders is a supporter of Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s, D-N.Y., Green New Deal, which calls for the banning of fossil fuel energy production, such as oil and gas, which is the lifeblood of American industry. The initial version of the Green New Deal also called for banning cars, meat, and air travel, while also promising to provide all Americans education, healthy food, housing, and government-guaranteed jobs. Sanders has admitted his climate plan would be an “expensive” $16.3 trillion.
8. Approaching Abortion as Population Control
“Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders answered ‘yes’ and spoke about abortion when asked at a CNN town hall event Wednesday night if population control would play a part in his administration’s policy for dealing with climate change,” RealClearPolitics reported in September.
9. Admiration for Dictators, Communists, and Bread Lines
Sanders has long admired and praised tyrannical dictators such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the USSR’s Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1985, Sanders visited Managua to celebrate the anniversary of Nicaragua’s authoritarian Marxist regime, and often claimed that “the real truth is not being told” about the Nicaraguan dictators in U.S. press.
Last year, footage of Sanders from the 1980s surfaced, in which he praised socialist countries such as the Soviet Union and claimed bread lines in communist countries are a “good thing.”
“It’s funny sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is because people are lining up for food. That’s a good thing,” he said. “In other countries, people don’t line up for food, rich people get the food and poor people starve to death.”
10. Banning Hydraulic Fracking, Which Would Cripple the Economy
Sanders introduced a bill just last month that would “ban the process of hydraulic fracking.” According to Fox Business, “The Global Energy Institute, an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, published a report in 2016 claiming that the U.S. would lose 14.8 million jobs by 2022 if a fracking ban were instituted.”
11. Issuing ‘Dozens’ of Sweeping Executive Orders to Implement Major Policies
A campaign list of “potential” Sanders executive orders obtained by the Washington Post “includes unilaterally allowing the United States to import prescription drugs from Canada, directing the Justice Department to legalize marijuana, and declaring climate change a national emergency while banning the exportation of crude oil.”
“Other options cited in the document include canceling federal contracts for firms paying workers less than $15 an hour and reversing federal rules blocking U.S. funding to organizations that provide abortion counseling,” the Post revealed.
The report further said Sanders is considering “lifting the cap on the number of refugees accepted into the United States and immediately halting border wall construction” in addition to reinstating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
12. Hiking Taxes, Even on the Middle Class
Sanders was forced in June to admit the middle class would pay more in taxes to fund his health-care overhaul. Brian Riedl in City Journal points out how Sanders’ elaborate plans will require even more money than his tax plan would generate.
“Sanders’s agenda is virtually impossible to pay for. Adding $97.5 trillion in new spending to an underlying $15.5 trillion projected budget deficit (under current policies) creates a ten-year budget gap of $113 trillion. Yet Sanders’s tax proposals would raise at most $23 trillion over the decade.”
13. Making Taxpayers Fund Political Campaigns
“The FEC no longer acts like enforcement agency, and needs to be replaced to effectively regulate campaign finance. And to address the outsized influence large corporate donors have on candidates, America must move to publicly fund federal elections in order to ensure a fair playing field free of the corrupting influence of large donors,” Sanders says on his website.
The senator’s platform also includes “A new system of Universal Small Dollar Vouchers [that] would give any voting-age American the ability to ‘donate’ to federal candidates,” and the Federal Election Commission “determin[ing] the appropriate threshold candidates must meet in order to qualify for public financing.” (Assuming it still exists.)
14. Allowing Convicted Felons to Vote
Asked in April whether Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should have the right to vote, Sanders replied, “Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, ‘Well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote. Well, that person did that, not going to let that person vote,’ you’re running down a slippery slope.”
15. Eliminating the Electoral College
Sanders came out in favor of abolishing the Electoral College in July.
16. Legalize Marijuana in the First 100 Days with Executive Action
According to his website, a President Sanders would legalize marijuana almost immediately, not through legislative action with Congress, but using unilateral executive order. He would also “vacate and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions.”
17. Eliminating Nuclear Power
Sanders aims to phase out nuclear power.
18. Nationalizing the Internet
Sanders has a $150 billion plan to make the Internet into a public utility and radically change the Internet as we know it. His “High-Speed Internet for All” plan would break up big Internet service providers such as AT&T and Comcast, and force local governments to buildpublicly owned broadband networks. High-speed Internet is now a “basic human right,” according to Sanders’ proposal.
19. Eliminate Billionaires
Sanders was quick to adopt Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s idea to impose a “wealth tax” on the richest Americans, but he was also quick to make it rake in even more money for his grand plans. Sanders’ wealth tax would affect more households and with a higher top rate than Warren’s plan.
When The New York Times asked Sanders if he thought billionaires should exist in the United States, he said, “I hope the day comes when they don’t.” He added, “It’s not going to be tomorrow.”
He also said he wanted to tell “the wealthiest families in this country they cannot have so much wealth.”