What is Democratic Socialism?

purelyspeculationBernie Sanders has been making a lot of headlines lately. With his recent surge of popularity in both the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic Primaries, Sander’s unique vision for the future of America seems to have struck alight in the tinder of the American youth.

Unique to Sander’s campaign is a fresh dedication to revitalizing the American political and economic structures alike. While other candidates from the DNC and RNC offer the same tired promises and non-committal platitudes that have been reiterated for decades uncounted, Sander’s is addressing issues relevant to the people: poverty, equality, fair electoral changes, equality and justice. Not only doe he hit these hot-button issues, but he does so in a way few other candidates have dared to do in the past—and none so brazenly.

Bernie Sanders is not playing by the rules. Rather, he is attempting to rewrite them. Bernie’s campaign promises a political revolution that will return the American democracy to its rightful owners—the citizenry of the country—from the hands of the wealthy corporations which currently hold it enthralled.

Most disconcertingly however, is that Sander’s promises all of this change under the banner of what he boldly calls ‘Democratic Socialism’ (Link). That’s where the alarms are set off for a great majority of the voting public.

A seemingly oxymoronic term, ‘Democratic Socialism’ inspires both the comfort and equity of our beloved democratic system, while adding a twist of the dreaded red-scare socialism so reviled in the western world. How can these two seemingly opposite systems be reconciled? How can a candidate in a democratic race so brazenly call themselves a socialist and harbour any chance of receiving the favour of voters?

More to the point…just what is ‘Democratic Socialism’?

To understand this question, we must first distinguish between the two faces of government: Political and Economic. As covered in our article ‘Saving the World 101’ (Link), the Political system is meant to address systems of voting and voter representation—essentially it is the process by which elected representatives are meant to conduct the will of the people. In contrast, the Economic system governs the exchange of wealth, property, resources, etc.

The current condition of the government is what could loosely be described as a ‘Democratic Capitalism’. The implication here should be clear enough. There is a Democratic system for politics, and a Capitalist system for economics. With ‘Democratic Socialism’, the political system would remain a Democratic one, while the political system would be shifted towards a more Socialist focus.

As a point of clarification, this primarily differs from the typically more palatable ‘Social-Democracy’ because Democratic Socialism is more actively committed to the systemic transformation of the economy (Link).

This isn’t an entirely new concept in America. In fact, Sanders himself references the laudable FDR as a pioneer Democratic Socialist due to his economic reforms. Nor are socialist institutions a particularly foreign notion, despite the ingrained fear of the word still harboured by many as a relic of the Cold War. Defense spending, highways, public libraries, Police, Fire Departments, postal services, infrastructure, healthcare, farm subsidies, public schools, social security and more are all socialist institutions. True, they do not cart you off to internment camps after taking all you’ve ever earned—but that, despite the rhetoric, isn’t really what socialism is about.

As established in our article ‘On Bernie Sanders and Changing Economic Systems’ (Link), the focus of socialist institutions is the betterment of society. This stands in stark contrast to the focus of capitalism, which—as the name surely implies—is relegated strictly to the creation of capital. This means private wealth.

Social programs use the productivity of society to keep that society going in a way that is accessible and fair to everyone involved. And why not? After all, society is the product of history—and the bounty of society cannot ever be tied solely to its current operators, but rather to the cumulative work of generations of people. For more on this key distinction, see our article ‘On the Concept of Society’ (Link).

Here we can see that the main driving force of Democratic Socialism is a transition in the motives of the economic system. This shift will take it from a self-motivated and arguably rigged system—in which the rich get richer and the poor get squat—to a system which works for the betterment of society as a whole. A socialist economy would actively promote education, access to services, fair minimum wages, and far more. The intended result would be that every member of the citizenry would truly have an equal opportunity to contribute and thrive. By improving wages, education, healthcare and more, no longer would such a large subsection of society be left to the despair of sickness and poverty as the established powers use their political influence to buy votes and change laws to fit their needs alone.

These are the changes to the economic system. A shift from a focus on capital to a focus on society. As for the political system, this would remain largely the same—at least on paper. While the democratic element remains the driving political focus of Democratic Socialism, the economic changes—most specifically the removal of Corporate money from politics—would render the democratic system far more responsive the needs to the citizenry en masse, thus vastly improving the intended function of the political sphere.

This, I believe, offers us a more clear view on what exactly is meant by the occasionally scary-sounding brand of revolution that Sander’s offers. Democratic Socialism is not a surreptitious villain come to rob you of your earnings in the dead of night, but rather a series of reforms protecting your God-given right to participate equally in, and benefit equally from, the society of which you are a part.

To wrap up, let us examine Senator Sander’s own definition of Democratic Socialism:

“So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me,” Sanders told the auditorium full of students, who’d spent hours waiting in the rain to see the presidential hopeful speak. “It means what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that ‘this country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.’

“My view of democratic socialism builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, their elderly citizens, the children, the sick and the poor. Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system that is corrupt, that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.” (Source).

Finally, we can see clearly that despite the dread reserved for anything with a Socialist focus, the revolution of Democratic Socialism is one rooted firmly in the interests of the citizens—not corporate interests or the desires of the Super PACS which have for too long held the politics of the nation in thrall. Democratic Socialism is an attempt to return the freedom and privilege of a free society to the people to whom it rightfully belongs.

It is up to those people, if they so choose, to ensure this opportunity for deliverance comes to pass. A word of warning from your friends at Brad OH Inc.*—you may not get another chance at this.

-Brad OH Inc.

*This in no way reflects the official Corporate interests of Brad OH Inc. We happily encourage one and all to sit at home on Election Day and assume the best results will happen without you. Place your faith in the system—and reserve none for yourself.

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