Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a registered member of the Democratic Socialists of America, became the youngest woman elected to Congress this past November after a shocking upset in the New York Congressional Primary last June. Since that time, we’ve heard the word “socialist” thrown around by many conservatives, and often by our own President, to strike fear and paranoia in the hearts and minds of American citizens.
Even as recently as last week, in the State of the Union address, President Trump tried the same old rhetoric, alluding to politicians like Ocasio-Cortez and garnered applause from many of his supporters.
“Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country… America was founded on liberty and independence – not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”President Donald Trump
The truth is that there are varying opinions among scholars and educators about the actual definition of “socialism” but what we do know is more about what socialists tend to believe: they usually believe that their government should be responsible for providing most “basic services” to the public, free of charge or at a deep discount making it affordable to all, giving all people a more equal chance at success.
Now, in this day and age, we hear the term “Democratic Socialist” almost interchangeably with socialist although that’s a broad stroke and there are actually some important nuanced differences. On the Democratic Socialists of America’s website, it says:
“At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end. As we are unlikely to see an immediate end to capitalism tomorrow, DSA fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people.”Democratic Socialists of America
Democratic socialists (like Ocasio-Cortez) tend to place high importance on social justice issues AND on striving for an economy which is largely controlled by its workers. They would like to see all the big money politics be put aside for something more productive for the every day person. They would like to see healthcare accessible by all Americans. They do not, however, feel socialism should be pushed on everyone, as Trump would have us all believe.
Bernie Sanders quickly became the face of Democratic Socialism in his high profile 2016 bid for the presidency and garnered him the support of a staggering number of Americans who STILL support him to this day. He had an interesting way of describing democratic socialism in an interview from 2006.
“I think [democratic socialism] means the government has got to play a very important role in making sure that as a right of citizenship all of our people have healthcare; that as a right, all of our kids, regardless of income, have quality childcare, are able to go to college without going deeply into debt; that it means we do not allow large corporations and moneyed interests to destroy our environment; that we create a government in which it is not dominated by big money interest. I mean, to me, it means democracy, frankly… That’s all it means.”Bernie Sanders