In the past few years, young Americans have been turning to far-left ideologies that are espoused by such figures as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This new political movement has been dubbed “democratic socialism” and its main message in the United States is to address the nation’s growing income inequality. Given that the U.S. is dominated by the Republican and Democratic parties, far-left politicians have had to find room in the Democratic Party to compete in elections. However, democratic socialism is not representative of the platform that defines the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party has traditionally been the party of the working class and since the Civil Rights Movement it has expanded to include several groups of our population. Even though the Democratic Party is more diverse than ever, its belief in capitalism has not eroded, but has rather been conflated with the socialism being promoted by democratic socialists who have joined the party. This clear distinction has been blurred in the current democratic primaries for president, with candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren proposing plans that aim to increase the scope of government and drastically restructure the economy. These are proposals that are closer to the proposals of democratic socialists in Europe than to the proposals of other Democratic candidates, such as Pete Buttigieg or Joe Biden. For example, Warren and Bernie favor a healthcare plan that is completely public, while Buttigieg and Biden favor a public option that still preserves the role of the private sector. Their differences highlight the divide between the stances the Democratic Party takes on issues and the stances democratic socialists take.
The rise of far-left ideologies has also created a divide along generational lines in the Democratic Party. According to polls by Victims of Communism, 70% of millennials say they are likely to vote for a socialist. In contrast, only 44% of GenX and 36% of Baby Boomer respondents were likely to vote for a socialist. The popularity of democratic socialism among young people is not a coincidence, as it is mostly due to concerns about rising healthcare costs, income inequality and student debt. In fact, one of Bernie’s most prolific messages was “free college.” Given that student debt this year surpassed $1.5 trillion, it is not surprising to see young voters express their economic frustration by supporting candidates that promise to radically restructure the economy.
Even though the U.S. is undergoing some major issues with inequality and healthcare, far-left ideologies are not the answer. The message of far-left ideologies is less rooted in the core ideas of the Democratic Party and more in anti-establishment sentiments that appeal to voters’ frustration with the economy and rising costs of living. For example, Bernie often attacks the Democratic leadership for being part of the “establishment”. This is not surprising since Bernie is not a Democrat, but an independent and self-proclaimed democratic socialist.
Furthermore, the far-left message of Bernie and Warren focuses on the differences between the rich and the poor, which only adds to the divisiveness of the nation. In many ways, the far-left populist message of Bernie and Warren is similar to the way in which President Trump appeals to frustrated voters with anti-establishment messages such as “draining the swamp” and exposing the “deep state”.
The Democratic Party still has an attractive platform rooted in fighting for the working class. Contrary to what is being perceived in the media and by many prospective voters, the Democratic Party is not a party that is characterized by far-left ideologies. There are many politicians across the country that have a socalist agenda and have found a place in the Democratic Party, but their ideologies are not representative of where the party stands. The Democratic Party still believes in capitalism and in its core platform of helping the working class of America and creating an inclusive society.
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Michael Hernandez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.