Thursday, November 30, 2017
An article in the Nation magazine, by William Greider, discusses on an "autopsy" report on "What Killed the Democratic Party?" The conclusion is that the party left behind working people and unions (and minorities as well) in order to chase big donors by giving them more pro-business policies (and, one might add, cultural progressivism, but the Nation would never see that as part of the disconnect). Sanders, of course, was the messenger of the revolt, and:
Many young people are even to the left of Bernie. A YouGov poll in January 2016 found that 43 percent of people under the age of 30 had a favorable opinion of socialism, versus just 26 percent unfavorable. A recent poll of 18-to-29-year-olds by Harvard University found that a majority of the respondents did not “support capitalism.” This was too much for Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader. At a postelection town hall, she bolted out of her seat to declare: “I have to say, we’re capitalists—that’s just the way it is.” Maybe it’s time for the Democrats to start a conversation with these young lefties.
People shouldn't forget the line (whoever said it) that anyone who's not a socialist at 20 has no heart and anyone who is a socialist at 30 has no brain. But with that said, the great recession, and the long-term instability in the economy and the job market caused by technological revolution, may well make this young generation more hospitable to government intervention for the long term, not just for the moment.
But why does it have to be "socialism, not capitalism"? The New Deal was understood, and won long-lasting support in part because it was understood, as a means not to replace capitalism, but to preserve it by curbing its excesses--excesses that threatened to lead to destructive unrest. Just how much intervention that requires is, of course, a matter of debate and practical judgment. Maybe the meltdown of 2008 showed the need for a lot more regulation in order in order to restore the fair working of a basic market-based economy. (That conclusion seems consistent, BTW, with the Catholic social tradition's affirmation of the need for a "strong juridical framework" to regulate markets--although I agree that CST principles also could support more limited conceptions of the "strong juridical framework.")
In any event, the argument about saving capitalism and markets still, today, seems to me to be more effective--reaching a far wider range of people--than the argument pining for socialism as an ideal. (To say nothing of remembering all the problems with how socialism has actually worked.)