Socialism is not the future. In fact, it’s not even what the Democratic base wants let alone the country as a whole. As a Florida Democratic Party leader who has been active for years in party politics and has run successful down-ballot campaign, I am shocked by those who think embracing socialism is the way forward.
In 2016, I supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. While I knew Hillary Clinton would inevitably be the nominee, I supported Sanders because I felt the party needed reform and needed to move to the left. While Sanders lost the 2016 primary, he succeeded in moving the Democratic Party to the left. The “moderate Democrats” of today are more liberal than the “moderate Democrats” of 10 years ago. President-elect Joe Biden is the most progressive Democratic nominee in U.S. history, and won the Democratic Party nomination and the presidency through forming broad coalitions among Democrats, progressives, moderates and conservatives who find themselves disgusted by the horrors of the Trump presidency. Not one of these groups can win an national election by themselves — it took all these groups uniting together to beat President Donald Trump.
Biden also ran ahead of most down-ballot Democrats around Florida and the country. It was conservatives and moderates disgusted by Trump that helped Biden win, but could not bring themselves to vote for down-ballot Democrats. To win these races, Democrats need to find out how to secure these voters in down-ballot races. And given that only 28% of U.S. adults, and 23% of independents, view socialism favorably, socialism is not the answer. Why should Democrats embrace a message that is highly unpopular?
For those that say they embrace socialism, do they really embrace socialism or rather a broader social safety net? Socialism is a theory of “social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” According to Marxist theory, it is a transition between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of Communism.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Havana, Cuba, and let me be clear: don’t want the U.S to become Cuba. But progressive social policies like Medicare-for-All, a Green New Deal and more affordable college education are not socialism. I hear those that view socialism favorably frequently reference Scandinavian countries like Norway and Denmark as models. The reality is that Norway and Denmark are capitalistic, market-based economies that have broader social safety nets. By some measures, they are equally if not more capitalistic than the United States. I think there’s a lot we can learn from other countries about how to improve the United States, but these countries aren’t socialist and neither are we. Can we stop embracing this false and dangerous idea of socialism?
The 2020 election results in Florida, and down-ballot across the country, show the Democratic Party needs to adapt their message and strategy to one that can win up and down the ballot all around the country.
While socialism is not the answer, neither is a milquetoast Republican-lite strategy. Look at a state like Georgia, where Stacey Abrams has helped lead it from a hard Republican state to a Democratic-leaning swing state. Abrams is not a milquetoast Republican-lite candidate, but she also doesn’t embrace socialism or other misleading, misunderstood, and unpopular statements like “Defund the Police.” She’s an intelligent and strategic leader who understands her constituents and how to build a winning coalition.
Leaders with those qualities are the future of the Democratic Party. But you can’t build a winning coalition based on some false ideal of socialism in most of the country. To say so is malpractice that will lead Democrats further down the road to irrelevancy in much of the country.
GEORGE THURLOW, SARASOTA
Editor’s note: Thurlow is a 3L JD/MBA candidate at Stetson University College of Law, and currently serves as the treasurer of the Florida Young Democrats.