Socialism has a rising future in the United States. While the “s” word has been a subject of disdain for decades, it appears that opinions are changing with the times. Recent elections have reinforced the growth of the left in American politics. In this growth, self-described socialists are gaining more prominence. Based on many factors, it seems that America’s system of crony-capitalism is facing its greatest challenge in generations.
Mainstream narratives in America has always maintained the prominence of “the market”, and inherent superiority of capitalism. Since the end of the Cold War, it had always been assumed that socialism had died with communism and would never rise again. However, it seems that socialist ideals have weathered the storm and are re-surging.
Recent elections across the US show a rising rate of success for socialist candidates. This success has been in some rather surprising areas. In Virginia, Democrats were able to sweep local elections against Republicans. Many of those who won those races were much more left-wing than traditional Democrats, including self-described socialists like Lee Carter.
Carter ran as a Democrat, but is a member of Democratic Socialists of America. The Virginia Democratic Party all but abandoned Carter’s campaign. He still pulled out an upset victory against the Republican, who was the sitting GOP Majority Whip in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Socialists and leftists have also won stunning victories in states like Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Mississippi. A Democratic Socialist, Seema Singh Perez, was recently elected to the Knoxville city council. In Lakewood, Ohio, DSA member Tristan Rader won a city council seat. DSA member Denise Joy won a city council seat in Billings, Montana. A streak of socialist candidates also won city council seats across Connecticut.
It’s not only city council seats. Socialists have also been winning mayoral races and judgeships. Randall Woodfin won the mayoral race in Birmingham, Alabama. Chokwe Lumumba won the mayoral race in Jackson, Mississippi. Both Woodfin and Lumumba ran populist left campaigns, unapologetic and unafraid of being smeared as socialists.
Latoya Cantrell recently won the mayoral race in New Orleans, endorsed by Our Revolution, while running a fairly populist campaign. It has always been assumed that such populist candidates could never win in states like Mississippi, Alabama, or Louisiana. The populist left has been good at defying expectations this year.
In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Mik Pappas became district judge. Pappas is a civil rights attorney, and DSA member. In Philadelphia, Larry Krasner won the race to be the city’s District Attorney. Krasner was a defense attorney with a record of suing Philadelphia’s police department as well as defending Black Lives Matter and Occupy activists. Krasner was described as “unelectable” by many establishment skeptics. At every turn, the left is defying all expectations.
Democratic Socialists of America have seen great electoral success this year. According to DSA National Political Committee member Christian Bowe, 56 percent of DSA candidates won their elections this cycle. This is incredible, as electoral victories usually hovered around 20 percent in previous election years. Across the board, socialists and leftists are surging, and this is unlikely to be a fluke.
Some may argue that these socialists simply are riding coattails of the anti-Trump wagon. However, this does not seem to be the case. Attitudes towards socialism have been improving steadily over the past decade, especially with millennials.
Millennial attitudes towards socialism are quite positive. A poll conducted in 2016 showed around 43 percent of millennials view socialism more favorably than capitalism. This trend seems to only continue as 2017 draws to an end. The reasons for this stem from two points.
The first point, millennials grew up after the Cold War. The looming specter of the evil commies invading America no longer existed, so millennials did not grow up in the atmosphere of anti-socialist paranoia that their parents or grandparents did. The second point, perhaps most important, is that millennials witnessed capitalism affect their lives in a drastically negative way during the 2008 economic crisis and ensuing recession.
Millennials saw first-hand the ugly nature of unfettered capitalism. The millennial generation is different from previous ones. A generation this attracted to the idea of socialism hasn’t been seen since the 1930s. Millennials watched their parents lose their jobs, and the livelihood that came with that. This context formed a negative worldview of the capitalist economy to millennials.
The 2008 economic crisis defined capitalism, in a way, for millennials. Capitalism in its current state is viewed as unstable and unequal. Working class families remain vulnerable to boom and bust cycles while the rich grow richer is the view of capitalism millennials came of age with. Based from this, socialist ideals have been revived as a viable alternative.
It is also important to note the impact Bernie Sanders has had on this matter. Bernie’s 2016 primary campaign has reinforced a much more positive image of socialism, especially among America’s youth. It’s not just youth, however. Bernie is rated as the country’s most popular politician in every key demographic. Bernie, of course, is a self-described Democratic Socialist and has never apologized for that position. Bernie’s socialist ideas are popular, so much so that he was able to get a room of Trump voters in West Virginia to applaud single-payer (socialized) healthcare.
In a way, millennials have become the “Bernie generation.” Capitalism has never seen such a social challenge in the US in quite some time. A recent high-profile debate on whether getting rid of capitalism altogether was held in New York. Tickets sold-out, with long lines. A majority of the audience even seemed to side more with the socialist viewpoints. As this decade comes to a close, it seems American models of vulture capitalism are becoming less and less popular.
The revival of socialism’s popularity has been building for years. In both public opinion, and electoral results, we see that the traditional capitalist model is being put on notice in the US. Slowly, yet surely, a political revolution is brewing and the lead ideology spearheading this is the dreaded “s” word that at one time was a mortal sin to even utter; SOCIALISM.