Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | Democratic socialism is the solution to young Americans’ problems

CW File

If conservative politicians get their way, America is about to suffer through a third Red Scare. 

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fl., has declared that socialists “are not welcome” in his state, and the former president promised to “deny entry [to the United States] to all communists and all Marxists” if he’s reelected.

By attacking “foreign, Christian-hating communists,” these would-be McCarthys are purposefully ignoring socialism’s long and proud history in America. They’re trying to draw attention away from their billionaire donors by making voters “see red.”

As early as the 1820s, machinist Thomas Skidmore drew from the writings of Revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine to argue private property undermined free republics.

In 1901, trade unionist Eugene Debs founded the Socialist Party of America, which he’d lead off and on for the next 20 years. One of the most successful third parties in American history, the Socialist Party elected hundreds of socialists to public offices across the country, including a mayor of Fairhope, Alabama.

Even at the height of the Cold War, the greatest activists were self-professed socialists. Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph and Michael Harrington, whose book inspired Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, were all socialists and inspired by Eugene Debs.

Thanks to Bernie Sanders’ historic candidacies, the Democratic Socialists of America have become a sizable faction within the Democratic Party. The transformation of the Democratic Party into a true party of workers, which Harrington proposed decades ago, isn’t as impossible as it once seemed.

At the beginning of August, I attended DSA’s national convention in Chicago as one of almost a thousand delegates. While in Chicago, I met dozens of fellow socialists from across the United States (and several from right here in Alabama).

When we look at the problems facing America today, such as rent increases, student loan debt and systemic poverty, it’s self-identified democratic socialists who propose actual solutions. It’s socialists who have been organizing to create a better future

In New York, DSA helped pass legislation to use public investment to create more good jobs by decarbonizing the economy. You’ve probably heard about successful unionization campaigns at Starbucks and Trader Joe’s, but you might not have heard about DSA’s key role in these historic victories.

At the convention, I sat in on panels about how DSA could help organize the unorganized and how DSA chapters can use electoral victories to make everyone’s lives materially better. While debating proposed resolutions, seemingly every speaker would talk first about how they’d tried to unionize their workplace, or had worked on a city councilor’s campaign, or had started a food bank, and then about why they supported or opposed the given resolution.

By the time the convention closed with a collective performance of first “The Internationale” and then “Solidarity Forever,” I’d been awed by my fellow delegates’ dedication. Forget George H.W. Bush and his mere “thousand points of light”; DSA hosts tens of thousands of points of light all across the country.

Democratic socialism provides young voters an alternative to the staid and inadequate politics of recent decades. As we worry about climate change, economic precarity and bodily autonomy, democratic socialists advocate for solutions to those problems traditional politicians would deign to consider only in times of crisis.

This message, this call for much-needed radicalism in the face of existential threats, is appealing to young voters. According to the Pew Research Center, more 18- to 29-year-olds express a somewhat or very positive opinion of socialism than of capitalism.

Despite young voters’ justifiable anger at how old politicians are, the content and zeal of Sanders’ democratic socialist message more than compensated for his age (then a spry 78) in the 2020 primaries. According to Braden Vick, host of WVUA-FM’s “Pulse of the Nation” podcast, in 2020, Sanders handily won a plurality in the three Tuscaloosa precincts with the most student voters.

This time around, as the primary season really gets into full swing, we won’t be seeing any major democratic socialist presidential candidates. I’ll probably vote for Marianne Williamson in the Democratic primary, but Biden’s going to be the nominee, and Cornel West has been relegated to being a Nader-esque spoiler due to his choice to run third-party.

Republican politicians will continue to red-bait and are preparing to once again sacrifice the First Amendment at the altar of “stopping socialism.” Hopefully young voters will recognize this for what it is: a blatant attempt to protect billionaires’ hoarded wealth.

While a democratic socialist won’t be elected president in 2024, if you’re inspired by Eugene Debs, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bernie Sanders, there’s still a lot you can do to make your community more free and equal. You can join DSA and get involved in their national campaigns, start organizing your workplace, or get involved in local activism.

To quote Thomas Paine, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” Let’s not waste this opportunity.

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