What is democratic socialism? According to its supporters, it’s a political movement to create a more equitable economy, prioritizing people’s needs over profit in sectors such as healthcare and education. For decades, traditional voters and politicians have feared democratic socialism. With the exception of the past two election cycles, the vast majority of liberal candidates have attempted to distance themselves from any phrase including the word “socialism.” It’s not hard to see why they’ve done this; they believe American voters are fundamentally opposed to socialism and all the political baggage that goes along with it. They’ve concluded that any association with democratic socialism would be political suicide. However, democratic socialism could be the left’s best chance at winning over voters and beating President Trump.
Wealth inequality in America is at an all-time high. Currently, the three wealthiest individuals in America hold more wealth than the bottom 90 percent of Americans. Extreme economic inequality is what helped fuel the victory of Trump’s populist message in 2016, and it threatens to do so again in 2020. Though Trump’s economic policies while in office have overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy, the way he spoke about helping the “little guy” appealed to millions of working-class voters. The Democratic Party made little effort to do so. The simplest way for the democratic nominee to ensure Trump’s re-election would be by ignoring the needs of working- class voters — many of which are concentrated in crucial swing states that determine the outcome of the election.
Some Americans worry about how large a role our government should play in their lives and the economy, pointing to extreme cases of government planning in Russia, China, and Cuba. Democratic socialism in the United States would look very different from any communist regime; it would restructure American society to look more like much of Northern Europe. Senator Bernie Sanders, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination in 2020 who describes his vision for America as democratic socialism, has proposed many plans that would involve government support for basic necessities. Propositions like Medicare for All would eliminate corporate money-making off the sick, and College for All would eradicate outsize debt-driven bank profits. Both plans are overwhelmingly popular among Americans and already exist in many European countries.
The economic data tells us that something about America’s fundamental economic structure isn’t working. Millions of Americans are unable to afford health insurance, while US drug prices remain the highest in the entire world. Affluent citizens take out six-figure loans to fund their education.
Simultaneously, some European countries are thriving, with societies structured to safeguard their economically vulnerable citizens. Yet, the disparities that still exist are bolstering Trump’s presidency. Only by addressing the reforms of democratic socialism will we be able to better the lives of struggling Americans.