I can see the fear of Americans when hearing the word socialism; with Venezuela and its collapsing economy in mind, everyone would be terrified at the idea of queuing for hours in front of empty shops, unsuccessfully trying to feed their families, or at the thought of an utterly centralized and iron-fist Government expropriating private companies.
Sanders is not and cannot be another Chavez.
But Sanders is not another Chavez or another Maduro and he would not turn America into Venezuela, even if he wanted to (which he doesn't): because America and Venezuela have different histories and pasts, and in the USA there will never be the same political conditions that led to the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
It is a matter of culture, not only politics, and even more importantly of maturity of democracy: America has always been a democratic country, at least in terms of how elections are held, and the legitimacy of the vote is out of discussion. There are no doubts either that a President has to and will leave office at the end of the mandate, or that Chrysler will not become the new state-owned company. Thanks to its history, America can be the watchdog of its politicians, and this is what makes incomprehensible for a foreign observer all these fears about Sanders, who, by the way, is rather a social democrat than a socialist.
And social democracy is not socialism.
And the pity is that blindfolded by the word socialism and the evocative images of the Soviet Union and Venezuela (and maybe Allende's Chile too?), Americans miss out that social democracy brings with it a number of fair and equal measures everyone would benefit from. Free education, for example, progressive taxation, and free health system are what make the European Nordic countries a role model for welfare and quality of living, and among the few countries to have been only mildly hit by the crisis triggered by the same economic policies anti-Sanders cherish so much.
And all of this while maintaining fair elections, without totalitarian leaders rallying the crowd or starving citizens looking at empty supermarkets.
Room for improvement.
Because, yes, America is a great country, for some even the greatest country in the world, but in terms of equality, there is still room for improvement. As Europeans, it is difficult for us to understand how a democracy can accept that some of its citizens won’t attend the schools they might deserve to go just because of a low income or how comes that when in the hospital many people fear more the bills at the end than the diagnosis.
In Europe, we often look at America like a place of fearless, proud and open-minded people, a place where freedom of information and debate is sacred, where new ideas are born; and it saddens us a bit to see this country which so frequently thought the world how to take the best out of multiple cultures, missing the values behind the word, and failing to acknowledge the difference between socialism, that is making Venezuela spiral down, and social democracy, which has made European Nordic countries thrive for years. .
A country that is not afraid of having Trump as a candidate should not be afraid to have Sanders either.