Sumbitted by Ed Koons, AADC President, May, 2019
I was approached a few weeks ago by the head of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. He wanted to know if the AADC wanted to collaborate on a certain project. It was a worthy project, one most Democrats would be happy to support. I told him that I could not recommend that the AADC be identified with a group that called itself socialists.
Socialism. It’s a protean word in a hard knock world. An innocent term in the mind of idealistic youth, who associate socialism with the public benefits offered by most of western European governments. But the word is poison to those of us raised during the cold war. Remember the dystopia that was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Remember Chairman Mao, the Cultural Revolution and the persecution of shop owners and landlords?
Some politicians popular with many Democrats conflate Socialism with praiseworthy programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act. They make the great mistake of allowing themselves to be called Democratic Socialists…or simply Socialists. Instead of rejecting that label, they attempt to finesse around the problem by making up new definitions of the word. But old folks–you know, the people who actually vote– have dictionaries. My favorite dictionary, the formidable twelve-volume Oxford English Dictionary defines socialism as “A theory or policy of social organization which aims at or advocates the ownership and means of control of the means of production , capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole and their administration or distribution in the interests of all.”
Unchecked capitalism can be a destructive force. But capitalism operating within a reasonable regulatory framework has been and should continue to be an engine for innovations and services which have changed the world for the better.
In a poll taken earlier this year by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal only 18% of registered voters had positive feelings about socialism, compared to 55% of those polled who thought Washington should do more to solve problems and help people.
The Republican leadership has figured this out, that the positive democratic message can be defeated by a single word. Their strategy in 2020 will be to label every Democratic candidate a Socialist. And, if that label sticks, it means another four years of Donald Trump.
We are liberals and progressives and should be proud of that. But we are not socialists and we ought to make that clear.