It has come to attention that there is now some debate about whether Bernie Sanders really needs to remotely identify as a democratic socialist and wouldn't it be better to just call himself a "social democrat". The argument is twofold; 1) an emotional appeal that "Americans hate socialism" and will avoid anything that smacks of it or uses the name, and 2) Social Democrats are already the same as democratic socialists so why doesn't Sanders just use the first term - which is far less likely to appall, make heads spin or explode?
First, the emotional appeal argument doesn't wash. Whether in fact most Americans really believe (stupidly) that socialists are boogeymen is neither here nor there. Americans are ignorant of a wide panorama of things and issues but that doesn't mean we kowtow to their ignorance now, does it? Many Americans still believe Hitler's henchmen were "socialists" despite the fact they actually sought out and killed socialists! See Ian Kershaw's 'Hitler Hubris' for much more on this, including how the term "National Socialists" was cynically misused by Hitler.
Other Americans have shown an inability to distinguish between Marxist-Leninist socialism and the democratic form- but we often give them the benefit of the doubt because of their (lack of) education in political philosophy. One might also offer this explanation in terms of conflating social democracy (which is really Rhine -style capitalism) and democratic socialism.
Let me make it clear then that democratic socialism really seeks to replace market capitalism, not merely "work within it" to expand the welfare state via expansion of the tax base as social democracy seeks to do (as in the context of Rhine capitalism). Indeed, one of the propositions of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is to replace market capitalism with a thoroughgoing socialist structure that would include: nationalization of healthcare, nationalization of banks, and nationalization of many key industries - including energy-utilities and postal service (already nationalized but the capitalists want to privatize it).
There are a number of reasons for doing this:
1) Capitalism is simply unsustainable. Its enormous consumption of resources and energy is vastly contributing to the greenhouse effect and driving our planet to perdition.
2) Capitalist energy production - even now in the oil shale era- shows absolutely no rational or logical basis - continuing to pump the stuff (actually kerogen) when there is an oil market glut and the losses are already a staggering $30b.
3) Part of the reason for this is that capitalism isn't content unless growth is significant and continuous but it can't be in a finite world with finite resources. (Also the low EROEI or energy return on energy invested for kerogen is designed to be a 'losing wicket')
4) Capitalism uses bogus indices for growth measure such as "GDP" when Hermann Daly's 'Index for Sustainable Growth' is the one to more accurately use.
5) Capitalist markets are no longer even "free" but rather demand markets, which plunder and debase the social and civil sphere for the primacy of capital and also replace competition with vast monopolies. Look at telecommunications: is more competition leading to lower prices? Check your cable bill - assuming you're not cutting the cord - and tell me with a straight face.
6) Capitalist stock markets are themselves rigged with every manner of device from 'flash trading' to fractional trades and even re-arranging the DOW when it suits the green eye shade types (In 1997, 25% of the DOW was chucked and replaced, unknown to few of the febrile folks who follow its every move today)
7) The size of capitalist banks (e.g. Wells Fargo) are already overly large and too many forget it was their size that led directly (along with the cavalier use of credit default swaps) to the 2008 financial meltdown and the need to bail them out. Nationalized small banks (or credit unions) means less risk of either financial meltdown or bailout. Nationalizing also ensures banks can't gamble with your money in risky mortgages, student loans or other dicey markets.
8) Giant capitalist concerns and multinationals - such as Monsanto- are undermining the quality of our food supply using GMO foods and pesticide -laden crap, spiking not only cancers but Alzheimer's disease.
9) Giant capitalist PhRma is roasting us all with drug prices totally out of whack with research and production costs. NO American ought to pay $10,000 a month for a damned cancer drug! OR have to chose between meds and food.
10) The capitalist media has proven totally untrustworthy to deliver anything near factual or objective truth on everything from the Kennedy assassination (Google 'Operation Mockingbird') to global warming. Already the capitalist corporate MSM has succeeded in brainwashing at least half the populace to buy into their bunkum - forcing us to waste time arguing with them when we all ought to be on the same page. The worst part is that these opponents believe they're articulating their own thoughts when they're merely regurgitating the MSM's canned sound bites. They have become brain-dead, capitalist PR-zombies!
Second then, and most important, as a democratic socialist I would no more use the term "social democrat" than as an atheist I'd use the term "agnostic". And I damned sure am not going to do it to appease the hoi polloi or allow someone else to feel more comfortable with me! I'd advise Bernie to do likewise as the media will bring the dreaded s-word up anyway. The best antidote is to repeatedly explain what a democratic socialist is and hope some of it will sink in among the great 'unwashed', sometime.
As for Bernie Sanders, in the end it matters not whether he calls himself 'democratic socialist' or 'social democrat', because: a) the MSM media vipers will still call him what they choose, to make their own framing of him easier to sell what they wish to sell, and b) His political philosophy is already subsumed under the banner of the Democratic Party, so that takes priority in the political arena. Hence, once one allies with a party and is running under that political umbrella, his or her specific political philosophy is secondary. (If elected, after all, he will still have to work with a Democratic congress - not a democratic socialist one!)
The main issue, is that Bernie Sanders has become the most serious candidate out there to fight economic inequality, certainly more so than the splenetic clown Donald Trump.