Step one: cleanse the skin?
Guest Host: John Donvan
Socialism is on the rise in the United States. And for many in the new generation of voters, that’s just fine.
The Washington Post reports that in the last two years, membership in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) nearly tripled, from 8,000 to 25,000. The average age of those members dropped from 64 to 30. And, the Post reports, these young democratic socialists are putting their ideas to practice:
Instead of seeking out stars, DSA members have focused on ultra-local campaigning. They joined sit-ins and protests against the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but they used them to advance arguments for single-payer health care similar to Canada’s. In California, DSA members have phone-banked and knocked on doors to back a state single-payer bill that the legislature’s Democratic supermajority has tabled; the campaign, however, is designed to continue even if the bill were to pass.
And this paid off. The DSA celebrated more than a dozen electoral victories last November.
This kind of excitement to the left of mainstream party politics isn’t exactly new. A century ago, dozens of cities in the United States elected socialist mayors and socialist ideas have influenced major U.S. programs like Social Security and Medicaid.
Credit for this increasing interest in socialism has gone largely to Senator Bernie Sanders, whose 2016 presidential campaign energized many frustrated young voters. But people under 30 have been warming to socialism for years, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center report. This came at a time when critics of then-President Barack Obama were quick to attach the socialist label to many of his policies — policies that even mainstream Democrats are defending today.
Is this a new socialist movement, or a natural political evolution? How does the socialism of today differ from that of the past? And what effects might this renewed interest have on public policy?
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Preet Bharara is the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.