By ZACH NOBLE
In 2016, we could see a fascist and a socialist duke it out for the U.S. presidency, because let's re-fight the Spanish Civil War why don't we?
Conservatives bear some blame for the rise of both candidates.
The Trump connection is easy -- that demagogue is springing directly from the GOP's smoldering ashes, despite opposition -- but how can conservatives be blamed for the rise of Bernie Sanders?
It comes down to the word "socialism."
To be fair, Bernie Sanders is not technically a socialist, the real socialists want you to know.
Over on r/socialism, Bernie's policies are deemed "barely leftism." When I asked my Facebook friends* how they felt about the "socialism" label, they were quick to say that it doesn't apply to Bernie. Sanders himself has stressed that he's not a socialist per se -- he's a democratic socialist, more FDR than Eugene Debs.
But he's socialism's foot in the door, and young Americans, AKA Millennials, AKA Snake People, AKA the What Is History Why Should We Care About That Generation, like it.
Among all voters, only 47 percent told Gallup they'd be willing to vote for a socialist. But among Americans aged 18 to 29, 69 percent were OK with voting in a socialist president.
Other polling has shown Millennials don't really see capitalism as any better than socialism. Of course, many Millennials also can't tell you what socialism means, but whatever, man.
A big part of the reason Millennials feel this casual warmth toward a concept they can only kind of define is that conservatives have been crying "socialist wolf!" for the past eight years.
That's not to say President Barack Obama hasn't embarked on many crusades of a socialist bent.
But when right-wingers pass around images like this and predict the apocalypse...
... and the apocalypse doesn't seem to come, young'uns lose their fear. They trust Fox News less and less.
And then socialism doesn't sound so bad.
They've got student loans, their parents' house got foreclosed on back in the big meltdown and, heck, they might want to, but they're not actually starting a business anytime soon.
When Pharma Bro jerkface Martin Shrkeli seems to be the face of capitalism, can you really blame Millennials for thinking well of socialism?
The joke is on us, though.
If it does come down to Donald Trump and Sanders, that won't be any choice at all.
Zach Noble is a journalist who has covered everything from the OPM hack to a rescue dog's retirement party. He's been wrestling to reconcile his bleeding heart Catholicism with his pragmatic libertarianism since that freshman year love affair with Ayn Rand. He tweets erratically as @thezachnoble.