Democratic socialist advises against Sanders for president

March 13, 2020

Though the topic of a professor’s talk was democratic socialism, his solution to the United States’ current political situation was a Joe Biden presidency. 

Professor Peter Dreier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College, referenced a Gallup poll saying that 43 percent of Americans—and 58 percent of people between the ages of 18-34—think socialism could be a good thing for this country. 

Dreier said that he thinks Bernie Sanders should drop out of the primary and acknowledged that the sentiment was controversial. Dreier believes that Sanders and Warren should go to Biden together and try to cut a deal in exchange for endorsement. He paused here to acknowledge that Biden is not the perfect candidate, but that Dreier still thinks he is the best bet at beating Trump. Dreier said that more important than having a candidate with the best policies is having a candidate who can defeat the current president. 

According to Dreier, Milwaukee used to be a hub for socialism in the early twentieth century, electing socialist mayors for about a 50-year period. He spoke about Daniel Hone, who was mayor of Milwaukee when TIME magazine named it the most efficient city. 

Today, there are over 60,000 members of the Democratic Socialists of America, according to Dreier. But, he argued that there are more people who support socialist ideals that are not comfortable with the label. Dreier mentioned a couple of public opinion polls with results that supported this theory. He said that 85 percent of Americans—including 58 percent of Republicans—support a two percent wealth tax like the one that Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed. Additionally, he said that the majority of Americans support universal health care. 

He transitioned into discussing how the radical, failed plans of one generation are “the no-brainer ideas of the next generation.” Dreier used social security as an example. He then argued that the role of the left was to make radical issues more mainstream. The left’s job is to “take these radical ideas, educate the public about them… and hope that Republicans will steal the ideas.” With Republican support, these ideas have a chance at being implemented. 

He said that he understands that oftentimes, the radical ideals that Republicans may support are a watered-down version of the original thought. This is something relevant now, he said, referencing many Bernie Sanders supporters. 

Later, he discussed some of the most influential movements of the last decade—movements responsible for changing the landscape of America. His top 11 political movements include: Occupy Wall Street, Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, Women’s March, #MeToo, the March For Our Lives and Indivisible. He also mentioned the fights for DREAMers and immigration rights, for rent control, for voting rights and an end to voter suppression and environmental activism. During his bit on environmental activism, he asked if Brandeis had divested from fossil fuels. His question was answered with many disappointed “no”s and one very passionate “boo!” from an audience member. 

This panel was hosted by the Department of Politics and Brandeis alum Jules Bernstein ’57 on Tuesday, March 10.

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