The rise of Democratic socialism

Democratic socialism has been on the rise since Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential bid. But what are the roots of the philosophy and growing movement?

Explaining Democratic socialism

“The United States must reject that path of hatred and divisiveness — and instead find the moral conviction to choose a different path, a higher path, a path of compassion, justice and love. It is the path that I call democratic socialism.”, stated Bernie Sanders.

It hasn’t always been this way

Bernie Sanders has brought Democratic socialism into the mainstream of American politics. But it wasn’t always that way. Dating back to 1932, Norman Thomas, a Socialist presidential candidate, discussed what socialism had to offer to the people. He asked Americans, “What do you want as a result of this campaign? Revenge? Tweedledum vs Tweedledee? Or do you honestly want to make progress in a war against poverty, exploitation, and war itself? Only the Socialist Party offers you that hope.”

Other socialist figures

Figures like Thomas Paine and Franklin Delano Roosevelt have stood behind policies that might be considered socialist — like a wealth tax and government work programs. The Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s led many to fear socialism and communism. Speaking against socialism, Douglas MacArthur, a U.S. General in 1952, pleaded, “By discouraging adherence to the principle of private ownership of property, they have established the prerequisites to a socialist or even later communistic state. Where so far as war is concerned, we’re at war with the communist half of the world. That war wasn’t started by us, it can’t be ended by us except by ultimate victory.” Richard Nixon’s decisive victory in the 1972 presidential election was seen by some as a repudiation of his opponent's socialist views.

Regardless of their views, Democratic politicians have almost always had to dodge accusations of socialist views

After the 2008 financial crisis, Americans became significantly more open to drastic economic change. The Occupy Wall Street movement and Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign helped mainstream democratic socialism and led to the elections of dozens of democratic socialists like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Rashida Tlaib. In 2017 alone, the Democratic Socialist of America added 17,000 new members. “It wasn’t until I heard of a man by the name of Bernie Sanders that I began to question and assert and recognize my inherent value as a human being that deserves healthcare, housing, education, and a living wage.”, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez admitted.