Socialism has returned to US politics
For the first time in decades polls show that a majority of Democrats have faith in “socialism” over “capitalism”Updated: Feb 22, 2019 11:05 IST
Bernie Sanders has joined an already crowded Democratic presidential race. Mr Sanders was the face of the leftwing populist outrage that was mirrored, on the Republican side, by the ultimately successful insurgent candidacy of Donald Trump. Mr Sanders has a number of drawbacks this time around. One is his age: he is a quarter of a century older than the average historical age of an elected United States president from his Democratic Party. He also happens to be non-Christian. But what President Trump will like most about him is that Mr Sanders describes himself as a “Democratic Socialist” — as do a number of other leaders from his party. This is no accident. For the first time in decades, polls show that a majority of Democrats have faith in “socialism” over “capitalism”. In a throwback to the 19th century, socialism has returned to US politics. And it is young Americans who see nothing wrong with the word.
Modern US socialism is different from the textbook variety. It is focused on inequality, greater government welfare, environment issues and is hostile to an elite that is being seen as free riding on the rest of society. The idea of state-owned enterprises remains alien to Mr Sanders and his ilk. This new economics of redistribution is finding resonance on both sides of the aisle. Recent talk of imposing income taxes on the rich to 70% found support among two out of five Republican voters.
The Democrat’s problem is that while their party members have shifted left, they have moved much further than the average American voters. Turned off by the ideological extremes of both parties, a record number of US voters now identify themselves as independents. The Democrats have the edge with this group but only if the party doesn’t go too far down the path of modern day socialism. If a far left candidate is chosen to fight him, Mr Trump’s path to another term in the White House becomes much easier. He continues to maintain approval ratings of over a third of voters. Mr Sanders or someone similar would command a similar vote share. Those in the middle would be unhappy with either candidate. Which is exactly the scenario that has inspired the likes of Howard Schultz, billionaire founder of Starbucks Coffee, to entertain presidential ambitions.
First Published: Feb 22, 2019 09:26 IST