So many pundits like to refer to Bernie Sanders as an extremist. I think what they mean is that he wants to change things a great deal from the current status quo, but in our context I do not think that is extreme.
Sanders is arguing for comprehensive systemic change that will keep new wealth created in the United States from all going to the same small percentage of people over and over again while the poor and middle class continue to struggle. He is arguing for healthcare and quality education for all, criminal justice and prison reform, banking reforms, climate action to care for our planet, and greater opportunity for more people. For the vast majority of people that is not what I call extremism. That is what I call social, economic, and environmental justice; and when we have more of it, our society will experience more human flourishing and a higher quality of life.
Bernie Sanders’ ideas are far from being radical. They are very similar to the way most Northern European countries function, and those countries on average have the best healthcare, education, retirement security, and overall quality of life; and they score higher on the happiness index than most of the rest of the world. They achieve all of this while being the most proactive countries in addressing and arresting climate change.
Real extremism is to continue the status quo of having the largest prison population on the planet, extreme wealth inequality, banks and a financial system that continue extremely risky behavior, education that is so extremely expensive that fewer and fewer people have access to it or they end up in extreme debt, and an energy production and consumption model within an overall economic system that is leading to catastrophic climate change and the extreme of a sixth great extinction on the planet. Who are the real extremists?
A relatively small number of very wealthy and powerful people within our society have trillions of dollars more to make on the extremist status quo, and they are going to the extreme of collectively spending billions of dollars to make the majority of Americans think that people like Bernie Sanders are the extremists. They propagate the myth of Bernie Sanders as extremist to mask their own successful and ongoing extremist agenda. He apparently cannot be bought, so this is the only way they have to control him and the systemic change for which he is calling.
Bernie Sanders is attracting such large crowds because he is the only major party candidate that is talking about systemic change, and a lot of people realize that our social, economic, and political systems are broken and require systemic transformation. The keepers of the current systems will at some point push back very hard against the candidate who calls for true systems change, but whether Bernie Sanders is nominated or not, we must become aware and act on the reality that our country and our planet are crying out for more just, peaceful, participatory, and sustainable systems.