The Democrats’ Socialism Problem

Since his first run for the White House, Barack Obama has mocked political opponents who have called him a socialist due to his promotion of class warfare, frequent calls for increased spending, and costly regulatory agenda. He was successful at making his political opponents look crazy, but Bernie Sanders‘ rise is a problem for the Democratic Party.

When Mr. Sanders began toying with the idea of a presidential bid, he made it clear that his run would focus on issues popular with the Democratic Party’s so-called “progressive” wing. Indeed, his campaign platform is filled with all sorts of “freebies” that will require massive increases in taxes and spending. His message is resonating. He captured 33 percent of registered Democrats in the most recent CBS News-New York Times poll, up from 27 percent in September.

During the summer, when Mr. Sanders began his ascent in the polls, MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked Democratic National Committee chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz about the difference between a Democrat and a socialist. Initially speechless, she uncomfortably deflected. “The more important question is,” she said, “what is the difference between being a Democrat and being a Republican.”

In a separate appearance just days later on “Meet the Press,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz was asked the same question and, once again, she deflected by going after the Republican presidential candidates. Questions about socialism may be awkward for Democratic leaders, but Mr. Sanders and his team think his beliefs jive with the party.

Facing questions about delays related to a highly anticipated speech on socialism, Tad Devine, a strategist for Mr. Sanders‘ campaign, said that his boss is anxious for the “opportunity to explain how his political philosophy fits squarely into the Democratic Party.”