Socialism in America

Source: The Economist, August 30, 2018

The increasing popularity of socialism is more about stiffening Democrats’ spines than revolution. ….

…. Looking past the label, however, American socialists are more progressive Democrats than Castros in waiting—and their rise poses more of a challenge to the Democratic Party than to capitalism.

Still, socialism is having a moment in America unlike any since, perhaps, 1912, when Eugene Debs, the socialist candidate, won 6% of the popular vote. Between the DSA’s founding in 1982 and the election of 2016, its membership hovered at a relatively constant 6,000—the same people, says Maurice Isserman, a professor at Hamilton College and charter DSA member, “just getting greyer”. Since President Donald Trump’s election, however, its membership has risen more than eightfold, and may soon exceed 50,000 (see chart). DSA members have lost nearly all of the primaries they have contested, but two will almost certainly be elected to the next Congress: Ms Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, from Detroit. A recent Gallup poll showed that 57% of Democrats have positive views about socialism.

But the poll never defined “socialism”, so precisely what people were expressing support for remains unclear. For decades, the cold war defined it, at least for most Americans. They were capitalist and free, while socialism was a step removed, at best, from Soviet communism. Americans under 30 have no memory of the cold war. To them, socialism may be little more than a slur they have heard Republicans hurl at Democrats—particularly Barack Obama. They may well have reckoned that if supporting universal health care, more money for public education and policies to combat climate change are all socialist, then they are happy to be socialist too……