The word 'socialism' is a bit taboo in America, where capitalism reigns supreme. We want our businesses and economic markets to be freer than a bald eagle flying through the sky eating a big mac.
During the past few years, many well-known people have attempted to lift the stigma of socialism, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and his initial run for presidency in 2016 or his most recent 2020 presidential run.
Even fresh-faces and newly elected Senator Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Rashida Tlaib have tried to lift the stigma by being the first two members elected to Congress who are also part of the group "Democratic Socialists of America."
But, what is the problem? Why do American people still express fear over the word "socialism" in "Democratic socialism?" It could be one of two reasons: Americans are terrified of Democratic socialism because of their misunderstandings of it; or Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib are social Democrats, not Democratic Socialists.
But then, what is the difference between social democracy and Democratic Socialism? Well, a huge one, but I will get to that later. First, I want to discuss the common misunderstanding, or misconception, of Democratic Socialism in America.
To put it simply, John Haltiwanger of Business Insider said, "'Socialist' remains a dirty, and often misunderstood, term in the realm of U.S. politics. The Cold War, in which animosity and paranoia toward the Soviet Union was pervasive in the U.S., is largely to thank for that."
Socialism can be defined as the shared and public ownership of the means of production, and Democratic Socialism is, in principle, Socialism.
However, according to the Democratic Socialists of America, their definition is really, really broad to say the least. Honestly, it does not cover the scope of socialism, but rather social democracy. This is where some of the confusion begins.
The biggest and most important difference between true Democratic Socialism and social democracy is that a social democracy has a capitalist economy. There is a private sector and private ownership of business.
For lack of better words, social democracy is a progressive form of capitalism where it socializes certain areas of the economy. Some of the most widely discussed areas are healthcare and education.
So, just to reiterate, the key difference is: Democratic Socialism usually calls for the abolition of capitalism as an economic system; whereas, social democracy wants to fix the problems of capitalism and create a strong social safety net.
Hopefully, by now, you are thinking to yourself, "Hold up, wait. I have not heard Senator Ocasio-Cortez say she wants to take all and every business from private hands and make them publicly owned. Shoot, I have not even heard ole' Bernie say that either."
I mean, you are right. I also have not heard them say that. I do not think anyone has heard them say anything like that. Marian Tupy of The Atlantic gave compelling reasons why Bernie is not a socialist. I think it is safe to say others who have followed Sanders to proclaim themselves as Democratic Socialists, or are branded as Democratic Socialists, are really just social Democrats.
I do not think socialism is the way forward, and it is something which can be argued. Private ownership of business and the possibilities of entrepreneurship, those are the catalysts of creativity, innovation and development that a lot of people, including myself, do not want to lose.
Despite this, it is a reality some people will not ever be hugely successful under our current system. We cannot ignore the strife and the struggle of our fellow Americans. I believe we need to ensure everyone is taken care of, and social democracy is aligned with that of equal opportunity.
Over the long term, we, as the American people, are hurt by the confusion. Like I said at the beginning, the socialism in Democratic Socialism has neither lost its taboo, nor its stigma, despite some very influential names and people being associated with it.
We as independents, the Democratic party or whatever other party, need to align with what seems to be our current goal of moderating Democratic Socialism, or we need to politically rebrand ourselves as social democrats to have influence on a wider demographic and truly make progressive change in this nation.