Saturday, March 19, 2016

What's So Funny 'Bout Democratic Socialism?

“We are socialists because we reject an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.”
~ Democratic Socialists of America

If we must label ourselves – and normally I dislike labels – just call me a Democratic Socialist.

The term’s been kicked around a lot lately, no doubt because Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders identifies as such. While it didn’t scare or disappoint me to learn that he’s embraced the concept like it did some capitalist millionaire wanna-bes, I realized I couldn’t really define it for my kids (who already think I’m undoubtedly the dumbest human being ever to walk the face of Planet Earth). So I looked it up. Turns out it’s exactly what I am and we all should be.

I visited the Democratic Socialists of America’s website and learned a lot. (Note to readers: I’m not guilty of plagiarism because I’m clearly stating that I obtained this information from another source, which I’ve named, and I don’t feel like rewriting/paraphrasing my source’s words.) I learned that Democratic Socialists are committed to democracy and support reforms that decrease the influence of money in politics, restructure relationships to be more equitable, and give more power to ordinary people relative to their workplaces and our economy.

I learned that Democratic Socialists don’t want to enlarge government bureaucracies; they (we) in fact favor decentralization. We just want social and economic decisions to be made by those affected by these decisions, not corporate bigwigs, puppet politicians and special interests.

I learned that Democratic Socialists want our resources to be used to make life better for the average Joe and Jill, not to make more money for greedy capitalists. (The Koch brothers and Donald Drumpf, anyone?)

I learned that we think the present system undermines what this country is supposed to stand for, e.g. opportunity for all, freedom of speech, civil rights, fair wages for work, a separation between church and state, a commitment to the rights and dignity of all people, gender equality, and the right to organize and bargain collectively and to be protected from greedy, unscrupulous or short-sighted businesses, among other core values.

I learned – I really already knew this but I’m sticking with my format – that the status quo prohibits the viability of third-party efforts. As the Democratic Socialists of America states, “Winner-take-all elections instead of proportional representation, rigorous party qualification requirements that vary from state to state, a presidential instead of a parliamentary system, and the two-party monopoly on political power have doomed third party efforts.”

And I learned that if the Swedes can provide comprehensive public assistance to its citizens, France can advance a nationwide childcare program, Nicaragua can offer literacy programs and Canada can create a national health care system, we ought to move toward these same achievements here at home. (The DSA website also references the government-created health centers of the 1960s that provided community decision-making opportunities and quality family care services.)

How anyone could object to these tenets is a mystery to me, one that I’d like to solve right after I figure out how 15-seed Middle Tennessee beat 2-seed Michigan State University in yesterday’s NCAA basketball tournament.

Now that I know what the term means, I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Call me a Communist. Call me a Johnny-Come-Lately. Call me a bongo drum-playing hippie. Call me a complete and utter dumbass (like my children do behind my back). Just make sure to also call me a pro-choice, universal health care-supporting, Earth-defending, LGBTQ-embracing, anti-nationalist, anti-police brutality, anti-war, anti-racist, anti-sexist, people before profits-believing, Bernie Sanders-loving Democratic Socialist.

If you must label me, that is.

Sources: Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Party USA.

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