New Perceptions of Socialism in American Politics



David Blondin

Bernie Sanders has become the first open Democratic Socialist to run as a presidential candidate in American history.

Calling Grand View Universitya zoo would be an understatement. The line for the Vermont Senator’s event wasout of the door, the parking lot was full, and street parking was a mess. A nurse’s union endorsement was plastered over a bus that was the transport ofthe man everyone came to see.

The United States is not a society that uses the word socialism in a positive light. Many see it as the beginning of the end. Many wage earners and small business owners find it as governmental interference in their self-determination.

Associations between communism and socialism are common, often striking a fear in the hearts of many Americans that still lingers from the cold war. A man named Richard, who did not want to give his last name was very quick to point out the differences between the two. Richard spoke out in support of the government run programs that are already a part of the United States’ federal government: roads, electricity, social security, and others.

Richard, a cold war era veteran, strongly objected to the comparison of democratic socialism to communism.

“I identify as a democratic socialist. I fought communism, I’m a cold war vet,” Richard said, “If someone wants to call me a commie I’ll tell them what I think about that.”

Richard also strongly supports Sanders’ veterans’ affairs agenda.

“The man has been a veterans advocate as long as he has been in office, he has worked with Republicans on veteran benefits as well,” Richard said.

Tom and Sharon are very concerned with the way health care is approached by the government. Sharon has spent her professional career as a nurse and views affordable healthcare as a constitutional right.

“If people ask, I tell them I am a democratic socialist and I often get weird looks,” Sharon said, “One time a police officer even told me that if I want socialism I should move to another country.”

Tom and Sharon as a couple have voted for liberal policies consistently since the war of theVietnam War. They made an exception when it came to Ron Paul in 2008. The couple stated they like the anti-establishment politicians such as Paul. Tom said he convinced Sharon to come caucus for Paul in 2008. They see some similarities between the Paul and Sanders in their disdain for the Washington political machine.

Despite the need for government to expand for socialist policies to take place, the desired policies are seen by Bernie’s supporters not as a reliance on the government, but as reallocation of federal funds and the cutting ties between Washington and Wall Street.