MSNBC’s liberal “Hardball” host Chris Matthews recently put Hillary Clinton on the spot—which most of the mainstream media would never do—by asking her to explain the difference between a socialist and a traditional Democrat:
MATTHEWS: What’s the difference between a socialist and a Democrat. That’s the question.
CLINTON: I can tell you what I am. I am a progressive Democrat.
MATTHEWS: How is that deferent than a socialist?
Clinton evaded a direct answer to the question, as did a stunned, stammering Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz when Matthews asked her the same question.
They’re cautious because they know there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between today’s Democratic Party and traditional socialist views. But they also know much of the country still reacts negatively to the term “socialism,” hence the tap dancing.
So what do socialists—or democratic socialists, which is what Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders calls himself—believe? Fortunately, the Democratic Socialists of America answer the question:
Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.
Conservatives would agree. But if democratic socialists really believe that “economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect,” why doesn’t that include people who are, say, willing to work for less than the minimum wage?
Their next declaration sounds a lot like today’s Democratic Party:
In the short term we can’t eliminate private corporations, but we can bring them under greater democratic control. The government could use regulations and tax incentives to encourage companies to act in the public interest and outlaw destructive activities such as exporting jobs to low-wage countries and polluting our environment.
And directly to the point of Chris Matthews’ question, the group asks if democratic socialists are in competition with the Democratic Party:
No … many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements [feminist, labor, etc.] to strengthen the party’s left wing.
And towards that goal the socialists have been very successful, because the real energy in the Democratic Party these days is coming from its left wing—just as the real energy in the Republican Party is coming from its right and libertarian wings.
But should we stop with the term “socialist”? Is it possible that Democrats have moved even to the left of what used to be considered communist ideals?
I happen to have a copy of the 1936 “Communist Election Platform.” Here are some of the party’s “demands”:
“We demand higher wages and vacations with pay.”
“We demand a 30-hour work week without reductions in earnings, at trade union rates and conditions, in private industry and on public works.”
“We favor a federal system of maternity and health insurance.”
“It is the obligation of the American government to establish an adequate system of social insurance for the unemployed, the aged, the disabled and the sick…”
“Free education and financial assistance to the youth and the children must be guaranteed by both federal and state appropriations.”
And then there’s: “We demand that social and labor legislation shall be financed and the budget balanced by taxation of the rich.”
Change just a few words in the communists’ platform and you have the Democratic presidential campaigns.
Of course, several of the communists’ demands have become law since 1936. We have a social insurance system for the unemployed, aged, and disabled—though Democrats want more. We have free public education, though Democrats now want to extend that to college. And we have government-regulated health insurance—though Sanders wants a single-payer system. But there are major fiscal sustainability problems with all of those programs, not to mention fraud and abuse.
Conservatives are not against helping the poor; they just don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock—and liberals do. Government has imposed so many costs, mandates, regulations, and taxes on business that it is increasingly difficult, not to mention costly, to hire workers.
But that’s never enough. Hillary wants to embrace more of the socialist (or communist) agenda—she just doesn’t want to call it that.