Aug 16, 2018        home | politics

Democrats and Socialism

Socialism means different things to different people. On August 13 (2018) Gallup published a poll that described 47 percent of Democrats as having a positive view of capitalism and 57 percent as having a positive view of socialism.

What this tells us about Democrats depends on what these two "isms" bring to mind. Right-of-center politicians have been labeling Venezuela as socialist. They are quick to associate socialism with Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. And they have been describing capitalism as the force opposed to this socialism.

But their capitalism is not the capitalism of Denmark (or other Nordic states). Bernie Sanders and young Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez have been talking about making the world more like Denmark, and rightist-conservatives have been labeling Denmark as socialist. Some (like me) who think Denmark looks good might think better of socialism, perhaps contributing to Gallup's results.


In the US, "socialism" has been a boogeyman term, and too few associate capitalism with historical change. There are Democrats who don't potty-mouth capitalism and who differentiate between Stalinist socialism and those who call themselves social-democrats. They have history of the social democracy movement to point to.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and also a Democrat. She supported six other DSA members in recent Democrat primaries. (Two of them won.) Like Bernie Sanders, their political sophistication led them into the big tent party of political reform. Some who are hostile toward Democratic Party want to divide "moderate" Democrats (like Danny O'Connor) from their DSA allies.

Some hostile to the Democratic Party have themselves been dividing. There is the Constitution Party and America's Party. Some have wandered into the Libertarian Party, and a few concerned about the environment have allied with people to their left in the Green Party.

Obviously, the big show remains the Republican Party united with President Trump against the Democratic Party.


September 2

In his commentary today (on the TBN Network) Mike Huckabee began expressing amazement at poll about Democrats supporting socialism (mentioned at the top of this page). He described socialism as something very different from that which exists in social democracies, and jokingly described toilet paper produced in socialist societies as like sandpapers and that those who supported socialism deserved it. Continuing to laugh, he described socialists as "out of touch with reality," morally bankrupt and contributing to the collapse of our culture. In his book published in 2013, The Reactionary Mind, Corey Robin describes Huckabee (a Republican who twice ran for President of the US) as on the political right. How Huckabee puts together his ideas suggests to me that is indeed where he is. Like me, he is the son of a fireman mechanic, and I'm comfortable with his working-class bearing and friendly demeanor. But it seems to me that he hasn't had enough exchanges with people whose views differ from his — or the kind of challenges that often goes with an open mind and a good university education. I would gladly exchange ideas with him if I could, but I've been unable to reach him. He appears humble but is not so humble in practice.

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Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.