Whenever someone has tried to nail down what “democratic socialism” is from politicians such as Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who love the label — the answer is usually vague and happy-sounding.
Democratic socialism is just making sure everyone gets a fair shake. Democratic socialism is making sure every student can afford college and isn’t bogged down by loans. Democratic socialism is equality and social justice and kitten memes and wonderfulness. Don’t you just love democratic socialism?
It’s a bit difficult to believe this when you realize that all of this has to come from somewhere and it’s probably not going to come easily. Even if you buy that this money can be coaxed from the ultra-wealthy, there’s still the matter of whether it can pay for everything or what measures would need to be taken to get it.
Or, perhaps what money — as well as power — can pay for isn’t really important to the new American left. Simply taking it for the sake of taking it may suffice.
That’s at least the message from Waleed Shahid, a former top aide to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during her 2018 campaign. He was appearing on MSNBC to talk about, among other things, Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy.
Shahid wasn’t convinced that O’Rourke’s oratorial skills and media coverage were going to propel him to the White House. I’d agree. On the reasons for that, however, we diverge significantly.
“I think we need politicians who are going to propose solutions as big as the problems people face,” Shahid said.
“And so that’s the reason why ‘Medicare for all’ and the Green New Deal are catching on. I don’t think it’s about democratic socialism or any of these labels. It’s about reclaiming what democracy means, and democracy means preventing an aristocracy.
“Democracy should mean taking power and wealth from those who hoard it and making sure it belongs to everyone,” he continued, “and I don’t think that is Beto O’Rourke’s message right now, but it is the message of several other Democrats.”
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) March 14, 2019
So, two things here. The first is that democracy is a word not infrequently thrown around. In its strictest sense, it means 50 percent plus one person sets the rules. There’s a reason we don’t have that kind of democracy: Freedom would essentially be contingent upon whether that freedom was popular at the moment.
That’s why we have a Constitution — so that our rights are protected even when they’re unpopular. In a strict democracy, given our human failings, we’d probably end up “taking power and wealth from those who hoard it” and giving it to people like Shahid — a different group of people who would take power and wealth and hoard it. Some animals are more equal than others, after all.
Instead, we have a constitutional republic, and when I watch television segments like this, I thank God that we do. Shahid seems more intent on stopping some imaginary aristocracy than what he’d do with the money once he gets it, though he does name-check the left’s two most popular programs as beneficiaries. Even if they weren’t around, though, he seems to think that sending the rich off on the tumbrils is an end in itself.
Moving beyond political terminology, however, there’s the more sinister side of this: Shahid, not incorrectly, believes there’s a faction of the Democrats that wants to forcibly take money and power from people, so that it belongs to everyone so that we can prevent an aristocracy. I’m pretty sure there should have been an “… ‘n stuff” somewhere in this peroration, since it’s obvious this is about as vague as you can get on how this would work.
What will happen, I assure you, is that this treasure and power won’t be distributed to everyone. Who it will be distributed to is the coterie of Democrats of which he speaks, who will no doubt assume they’re the proxies for everyone.
And they’ll take this treasure and power with the force majeure of the federal government.
Thus, they’ll distribute this money to what they feel everyone wants — namely, the Green New Deal and “Medicare for all.” The only problem is that those ideas will cost a lot more money than, say, taking money from the aristocracy will be able to pay for. So, they’re going to have to start taking a lot more money from the non-aristocracy, which will probably include you somewhere along the line.
But hey, you don’t mind paying up so that we can have solutions that are as big as the problems people face, right?
Five years ago, talk like this would have been farcical. Now, well, not so much.
If democratic socialism catches on, this is what you have to look forward to. It doesn’t sound much different than regular socialism.