In the past few years the US has seen a small but promising resurgence in socialist politics. First Bernie Sanders, who espoused a number of socialist policies, came close to the Democratic nomination for president, and then a few months ago Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a self-described “democratic socialist,” defeated a ten-term incumbent to win the Democratic nomination in a key Congressional district in New York. At the same time, the Democratic Socialists of American have enjoyed a spike in enrollment, especially among young people.
In the New York Times, journalist Michael Tomasky writes that capitalists have only themselves to blame for this shift towards socialism. In the US, skyrocketing inequality coupled with a litany of intractable social problems suggest that for the vast majority of the population, capitalism simply doesn’t work. Hence the growing appeal of an alternative system. Here’s an excerpt from Tomasky’s piece:
Back now to our 28-year-old. She was born in 1990. She will probably remember, in the late ’90s, her parents feeling pretty good about things — median household income did go up under Bill Clinton more than they had under any president in a long time, even more than under Ronald Reagan. But ever since, the median income picture has been much spottier, hardly increasing at all in inflation-adjusted dollars over 18 long years. And those incomes at the top have shot to the heavens.
So if you were a person of modest or even middle-class means, how would you feel about capitalism? The kind of capitalism this country has been practicing for all these years has failed most people.
Yes, it’s given us lots of shiny objects to gush about. A smartphone that can display slow-motion video is a wonder. But an affordable college education, though perhaps not a wonder, is a necessity for a well-ordered society. So is a solution to a national drug crisis in which 115 people die every day, as well as a lot of other problems that the capitalism of our era has simply ignored.
Image of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez via Meet the Press.