I generally enjoyed watching the 2 debates of the Democratic candidates last week. One of the few things that really annoyed me though was when Hickenlooper said that Democrats have to avoid the “socialist” label if they are to compete with Republicans in 2020. The moderator in response correctly said that of the 20 candidates, only Bernie Sanders calls himself a Democratic Socialist. The moderator asked Hickenlooper what specific proposals does he think is socialist.
I’ve been a liberal Democrat all my life, and conservatives have tried to smear liberals with the “socialist” label for a long time. During the 1930s, for instance, conservatives called Franklin Roosevelt a “communist” even thought FDR’s New Deal saved capitalism during the Great Depression. During the 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy tried to smear anyone who was Left of Center as communists, which severely inhibited political debate and ruined many people’s lives.
The only proposal that is championed by many of the Democratic presidential candidates that would accurately be labeled as “socialist” would be Medicare-For-All. But if you look at history, the goal of universal health care has been championed by both Republicans and Democrats for a long time. Teddy Roosevelt, for instance, had universal health care as one of the platforms of his run for President in the Bull Moose Party in 1912. Harry S Truman, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton all pursued plans for universal health care during their presidencies. During that time, both Democrats and Republicans believed in a mixed economy, which combined free markets with government programs to protect vulnerable citizens from the worst aspects of the free market economy.
I think it’s important for a democratic republic to have a healthy debate of ideas between the Left, the Right and the Center. Liberals shouldn’t be silenced from proposing liberal solutions for our country’s problems. Instead, liberals, moderates and conservatives should be free to express their ideas and debate the strengths and weaknesses of each idea.