Democratic Socialism’s Rise in America 

Jieden Fenderson, Staff Writer

Socialism. The political ideology that caused so much tension and conflict in the world for the past century. Wars have been fought, radicals have taken over countries, and a world has been split. The American Soviet Cold War defined what we think of the term “socialism,” but what is socialism? What is the difference between regular socialism and democratic socialism, and why is it gaining popularity in America? 

To start off, democratic socialism is a complex topic. Socialism, by itself, is a social system. Democratic socialism includes economic systems and governmental systems in addition to a socialist social system. Let us dive into this framework of systems to fully define democratic socialism. 

Starting off with economic systems in general, if we look at the two far sides, there is capitalism and communism. Capitalism believes that people should be able to develop industries themselves, that the government should stay out of economics and that there should be a free market economy. Communism is the direct opposite. It suggests that the state should completely control the economy and all its industries. In a communist society there is no private ownership of land or companies, instead the state owns all and regulates the industry.  

Going on to social systems, we have socialism and libertarianism. Socialism believes that society should work towards group welfare, that all of society should benefit. Socialism, by its nature, is more communist, since the economy is considered collective. Libertarianism believes that individuals should be free to do what they want without influence from others or the government. Libertarianism, by its nature, is more capitalist, since the economy is considered more individualistic. 

Finally, we have governmental systems. There are many, but we are just going to talk about democracy and authoritarianism for the sake of simplicity. Democracy is the belief that everyone should share an equal vote and that everyone should have a say in everything. A direct democracy is often confused with a republic because they are similar. A republic is a system where people elect others to represent them, and to vote for them. A republic is a form of democracy. In general, America is more of a republic than a democracy since we do not vote for all the issues in the country, our representatives do. Authoritarianism is a system in which a small handful of people control the population and decide what should or should not happen. In short, democratic socialism is a social system that is more concerned with the collective rather than the individual. Its government is democratic since the people have a say in their government. 

Democratic socialism’s economic system can be both capitalistic or communistic. There is a common conception that a country cannot be socialist without being authoritarian. This red scare and cultural taboo in Americans is due to authoritarian socialist states like the former USSR or China (which is capitalistic with an authoritarian government.) An example of a democratic socialist country would be Sweden or any Nordic country. It has a socialist society, but at the same time, upholds the rule of law and its elections are free and fair. However, these countries are not authoritarian. 

Now that we know what democratic socialism is, why is it gaining popularity in America? A big reason is because capitalism has booms and busts. Most Democratic Socialist supporters are young people, many of them witnessed their families losing all their money and belongings during the 2008 recession. According to Buisness Insider, Student loans and house prices have made life very difficult for younger people and in general, and according to the Washington Post, young people feel like capitalism hasn’t really done much for them. It only makes sense that many of them have turned to democratic socialism, as they see it to be more beneficial. “I think that most democratic socialist supporters are probably millennials,” says sophomore Cole Breard. He adds, “I think older people are against it since they fought against Communism and Socialism in stuff like the Vietnam War.” 

So, overall, would democratic socialism be better for America? Well, there are upsides and downsides. Some say democratic socialism could reduce classism and wealth inequality in America. A lot of Americans could use free healthcare to get back up on their feet and into the workforce. A lot of Americans could also use some more education, to learn and develop skills without the worry of being enslaved to student debt. 

Many students support universal healthcare.  Freshman Ananya Suthram states, “Oh, for sure! Totally, because healthcare is a big thing in the US, and the government should pay for your recovery without you having to worry about the bills.” 

Most students are in support of universal education. Freshman Brendan Chan answers, “Yes, because universal education it is a building block towards being a better person and getting a good job.” Many students stated they would pay more taxes if it meant the establishment of more social programs. 

On the downside, some people see that democratic socialism could be very bad for a country if not managed properly. Democratic socialism requires money to establish these social programs for the people. However, people do not agree where these funds should come from, whether it be from taxes or the wealthy. Some point to Venezuela as a real life example of democratic socialist policies going wrong. Venezuela had lush profits from oil money. Thinking it would last forever, they did not save any of the money and instead spent it all on the people. When oil prices went down, boom! The government ran out of money and their dollar is now one of the most useless in the world due to inflation. Another issue with democratic socialism is that it could lessen an incentive to work. Since people have a lot covered for them by the state, it could promote laziness and decrease popularity. 

Freshman Ananya Suthram says, “I think it will solve a lot of problems, yes, but it might also cause new ones. For one, socialism could create more lazy people since there isn’t an incentive to work.”  

Overall, democratic socialism could sound promising, or it could sound scary. America is a constantly changing nation, so as democratic socialism continues to gain more popularity we must ask; what would a Democratic Socialist America look like and is it the right path that we should be heading? And is it the right path that we should be heading?