Thursday, November 19, 2015

What it means to be a Democratic Socialist

There is almost as much anticipation for Bernie's speech on Democratic Socialism as there was for the first GOP debate.  It's pretty safe to say that more persons will be tuning into his speech on the Internet than Hillary's foreign policy speech scheduled for the same evening.  After all, we have heard so many bad things about socialism.  It has been compared to Soviet and Chinese communism and Nazi national socialism.

It used to be that socialism was a good word.  NPR and other news outlets have been more favorably comparing Sanders to Eugene Debs.  From what I've heard so far, Bernie is closer to William Jennings Bryan who ran as a Democrat back in 1896.  His was a populist form of socialism that resonated with a greater number of persons, especially his Cross of Gold speech, which called for the federal government to back the dollar with silver so that it would have a far greater circulation.

Bernie is not a socialist in the strict sense of the term, which is probably why he has opted for "Democratic Socialism," with numerous references to Scandinavian models that appear to have struck the right balance between free market capitalism and socialism.

This of course is what the United States has tried to do as well, but with varied results.  Each state more or less embraces socialism, depending on the degree to which a state provides a social security and health care safety net.   There are union and anti-union states.  They have better or worse education systems depending on how much money a particular state invests in it.  But, politicians generally tend to avoid the word "socialism," and even "Democratic socialism," because of the nasty references that all too often come up.

Bernie will have a forum to discuss his views and take questions from students at Georgetown University.  This is one of those "teachable moments" where he has the opportunity to make the case for the country as a whole to more firmly embrace Democratic socialist ideals, rather than ceding this responsibility to the states with greatly varied results.  It should be a packed house.

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