The Pnyx: On Democratic Socialism

Joshua Schuetz
Staff Writer

Bernie Sanders recently announced his candidacy in the 2020 presidential election. It was an unsurprising announcement, especially given his near success in the Democratic primary during the 2016 election.

What his candidacy, and the elections of other progressives such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have in common is that they demonstrate the extent to which democratic socialism has become mainstream in American politics.

Socialism was once the death knell of candidacy. No politician in their right mind wanted to be associated with socialism, linked as it was to communism. The Republican Party used the term as an attack on former President Barack Obama.

Now, however, candidates who accept and even embrace the label have either won elections outright or have come close to doing so. 

Democratic socialism in America, generally speaking, has two broad forms. The first, represented by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, is closer to social democracy as practiced in Norway and many other Scandinavian countries. 

The second wing lies in organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America. This group is more radical, espousing the abolition of capitalism and the socialization of numerous industries. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is associated with this wing, which has some representation in the Democratic Party.

What the term “socialism” means in the American context remains fuzzy, but it’s clear that the term has become destigmatized, and is only going to become more mainstream in the future. Whether it will be embraced by the Democratic Party as a whole remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: democratic socialism is here to stay.

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