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America is ready for socialism! Massive majorities back Bernie Sanders on the issues — and disdain Donald Trump - by Paul Rosenberg

Donald Trump is throwing the GOP primary into chaos by channeling the GOP’s id, spinning out wild fantasies of the Mexican government deliberately sending a flood of rapists and murderers across the border.

But Bernie Sanders is disrupting Hillary Clinton’s coronation on the Democratic side by channeling the party’s soul, with a specifically issue-based focus.

In a way, both men are vividly illustrating a basic asymmetry that runs through American politics—between left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican—which was first comprehensively described by public opinion researchers Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril in their landmark 1967 book, “The Political Beliefs of Americans: A Study of Public Opinion,” and which political scientist Matt Grossman discussed in a recent Salon interview. Free and Cantril found that half the population was ideologically conservative, in the sense of preferring a smaller, more limited government, while about two-thirds was operationally liberal, in the sense of wanting to spend more on specifically identified government programs.

Subsequent research has intensified this division. Conservatives win by making broad, sweeping appeals, which can often have little relationship with the facts (Iraq’s WMDs, “voter fraud,” global warming denialism, etc.). Liberals win by focusing on how to fix specific problems. Thus “government spending” in general is seen as a negative, but spending on most specific programs is strongly supported. The pattern is clear: The more practical the question, the more liberal the answers. That’s just how U.S. politics works.

Trump takes the conservative side of this formula to an extreme, making broad, ludicrous false claims in his narcissistically self-confident manner. What’s grabbing headlines now are his false claims about illegal immigrant crime, but he remains completely detached from reality regarding Obama’s citizenship as well—an act of broad stigmatization that also typifies conservative thought. When NBC’s Katy Tur brought up his birtherism, Trump treated her with disdain: “Well, I don’t know. According to you it’s not true.” When she responded straightforwardly, “He released his birth certificate,” Trump doubled down on the disdain, “You know, if you believe that, that’s fine. I don’t care. It’s an old subject.”

Bernie Sanders is the exact opposite of Trump. As a proud self-described democratic socialist, he willingly makes himself a target for the kind of demonization that Trump hands out like candy, and he responds to attacks—actual and potential—by doubling down on policy specifics, where he correctly feels he’s on very firm ground. In a recent interview with John Nichols in the Nation, Sanders sketched out his response to such attacks, which are now routinely leveled indiscriminately.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, often criticizes President Obama, incorrectly, for trying to push “European-style socialism,” and McConnell says the American people don’t want it.

First of all, of course, Obama is not trying to push European-style socialism. Second of all, I happen to believe that, if the American people understood the significant accomplishments that have taken place under social-democratic governments, democratic-socialist governments, labor governments throughout Europe, they would be shocked to know about those accomplishments. One of the goals of this campaign is to advance that understanding….

How many Americans know that in virtually every European country, when you have a baby, you get guaranteed time off and, depending on the country, significant financial benefits as well. Do the American people know that? I doubt it.

Do the American people even know that we’re the only major Western industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee healthcare for all? Most people don’t know that. Do the American people know that in many countries throughout Europe, public colleges and universities are either tuition-free or very inexpensive?

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