Paul Kengor: Democrats vs. democratic socialists
“President Trump has proved himself adroit at creating villains to serve as his political foils,” states The New York Times. “In his State of the Union address, he introduced a new one: socialists. … Mr. Trump chose to introduce the socialist menace in perhaps the highest-profile setting available.”
“Yet,” sniffs The Times in protest, “there is no evidence of any growing public angst about socialism sweeping the United States.”
Memo to the Times: Actually, there’s plenty of evidence, not only throughout the United States but within the Democratic Party. And where there isn’t angst there’s troubling acceptance, thus creating further angst within the Democratic Party. The Times piece, ironically, proceeded to show just that, even quoting a source who rightly noted of Democratic Party socialists Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, D-N.Y. and others: “They want to take the country toward socialism and their party is divided on that and there is a major fight in their party over whether to be a socialist party.”
For such reasons, Trump said that he was “alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
It was a revealing, signature moment for not only Trump, but also for the Democratic Party.
To their credit, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer applauded Trump’s line, as did a decent number of Democrats, including no less than Elizabeth Warren.
It was a striking dichotomy among Democrats.
Every camera in that chamber during the State of the Union caught an agitated Sanders visibly uncomfortable with Trump’s rebuke of socialism. Likewise uneasy was Ocasio-Cortez, who is one of many members of the Democratic Socialists of America, the self-described “largest socialist organization in the United States,” elected in November. These DSA members ran not on a DSA ticket but the Democratic Party ticket. Seated not far from Ocasio-Cortez was a fellow DSA socialist-turned-Democrat, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who shortly after her swearing-in ceremony vowed of Trump, “we’re gonna impeach the (blankety blank)!”
They’re hardly the only Democrats with socialist sympathies recently elected. Here in Western Pennsylvania, voters elected two DSA members to the state house, Summer Lee and Sara Innamorato.
How popular is socialism among modern Democrats?
In the 2016 Democratic Party primary, lifetime socialist Sanders received 13 million votes, or 40 percent of Democrat votes. Finishing as runner-up in 2106 presumably makes Bernie the frontrunner for 2020. This week, he announced his candidacy, vowing nothing short of “transforming the country” to complete “the political revolution” begun in 2016.
And beyond that, Democrats are already hooked on running Ocasio-Cortez for president the day she turns age-eligible. DNC chair Tom Perez enthuses that the 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez “represents the future of our party.”
Really? A socialist is the future of your party? What would Harry Truman and Jack Kennedy think about that?
The answer is they’d be stunned.
I was pleased to see Pelosi, Schumer and Warren apparently approve of our president’s insistence that America not become socialist. Now it’s time they do something about their own party becoming socialist. This is less a battle between Trump and Democrats than Democrats and democratic socialists.
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.