Democratic Socialism Is Not What You Think It Is

In the two years since the 2016 election, I have slowly come to identify as a democratic socialist. Whenever I tell people my new political standing, they either give me a confused look of disapproval or try to provide me with reasons why socialism isn’t the way to go. Right-wing pundits have phrased democratic socialism as “diet communism.” It is neither Soviet Union era communism or the capitalist society that America has always known. It is something way better than the two I just mentioned.

Democratic socialism by definition is the political philosophy and ideology that advocates achieving socialist goals within a democratic system. An economy in which the means of production are socially and collectively owned by the people and not big corporations. It’s opposed to Marxism and the Soviet economic model, which is non-democratic in practice and run on an authoritarian form of governance. It runs on the value that in the wealthiest country in the world, the same three people shouldn't control the majority of wealth, basic human needs should be treated as a right, and no one should be to poor to live. It is the simple belief that the United States of America’s economy and society should be run democratically.

My generation, millennials and Gen Z, have grown up in an economy where the evils of capitalism have been exposed for what they are. The 2008 Housing Crisis, the extreme increase of college tuitions and student loan debt, and rising poverty rates have shown us that capitalism is utterly destructive and poisonous to a country that prides itself on being free and democratic. Something our parent’s generation have been taught the opposite, cold war era rhetoric that capitalism is king and that our country rules over the communist Soviets.

To some people’s surprise, the United States has a history of Democratic socialist leaders. Regarded as one of the greatest presidents ever, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) and his New Deal saved the country from the Great Depression. Which included socialist programs such as Social Security, Food Stamps, and the Civil Works Administration. The New Deal though effective, was very harmful towards women and people of color, lacking intersectionality. Which this new, democratic socialist movement wants to achieve instead of lack.  

The presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders inspired a lot of young people like myself to call ourselves democratic socialists. Who himself has started a political revolution across the United States, inspiring other citizens to become democratic socialists and run for office. His main platform points were a breath of fresh air from the same old-same old of centrist white democrats like Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Single payer healthcare, tuition-free college, getting big money out of politics, $15 minimum wage, and ending mass incarceration. Policies like these will benefit young, low-income, disabled, and people of color in the long-run more effectively than any policies centrist democrats are trying to put forward.

Other rising stars in politics such as Lee Carter, Summer Lee, Sara Innamorato, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are running as democratic socialists and winning. People will look at us and think we're living in some fantasy land, when our idealist views are not as far-fetched as they might think it is.

Every major country in the world has adopted a Medicare-for-all system. Big pharma and corporate healthcare companies have manipulated the American people, leaving many to fight for themselves. The donation site GoFundMe has notoriously been joked as being “America's new healthcare system,” but that cannot be the case. Having healthcare being a guaranteed right will stand up to greedy drug companies and give people the care they so need and deserve. Breaking away from insurance companies and negotiate fair prices directly.

Citizens United being overturned is a huge goal of ours as well. A trend recently among politicians has been not taking any corporate PAC money into their campaigns and organizations. Corporations are not people, and shouldn’t be influencing and deciding who gets to be in power.

We all know college tuition is fucking expensive as hell, and it cannot go on any longer like this. Making public colleges and universities tuition-free will give our children the right to have a higher education. Giving power back to the states, eliminating non-teaching staff and amenities will help this policy greatly. Stopping the federal government from profiting off of our student loans and putting the $110 billion they profit from our backs into money for lowering student loan interest rates and funding public colleges & universities.

If the federal minimum wage had grown at the same rate as American productivity, it would be $19.33 today, more than double what it actually is. Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 would say to the people that you shouldn’t be too poor to live.  

The United States makes up for 5% of the worlds population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. Think about that, a quarter of the world’s prisoners are locked up here in the “land of the free.” Most of those prisoners are people of color, which speaks volumes about the deeply rooted racism in this country. We need to invest in schools, not prisons, and tell children of color in this country that their education matters just as much as a white student living in the “better” neighborhood. Pardoning prisoners of misaccused & minor crimes will be a step for ending mass incarceration and racial justice in this country.

Do democratic socialists want the government to control everything? No. Do we want to turn into a communist country? No. Do we believe that the people should be controlling our economy instead of an oligarchy of a few billionaires, which is what is happening now? Yes. The belief that the people should have the ultimate power is at our core value. An America that benefits all of the people and taking care of them, not telling them to sink or swim to survive.

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