#DemDebate, or How They Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Being Democratic Socialists


Democrats have been complaining for years that Republicans have moved so far right that they’re not compatible with American democracy anymore. Republicans were fine before, they say, but not anymore! Weak-kneed Republicans who lose primary elections then decide to become media stars by switching to Independents (and eventually Democrats) and claiming “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me”.

[cue thunderous lemming applause]

But no one ever asks how far the Democrats have moved left. In their first primary debate of the 2016 contest Tuesday night, we may finally have gotten the answer. They’re all Democratic Socialists now, and proud of it (with the possible exception of Jim Webb).

Bernie Sanders, US Senator from Vermont and alleged Independent, is running for the Democratic nomination, and isn’t far off. He has insanely strong grassroots support, draws massive crowds, and is leading in the first primary state. He also claims to be a democratic socialist, in the model of Scandanavia, not a capitalist. Fortunately for him, that is now officially the base ideology of the Democratic Party, and it has been since at least 2006 when Nancy Pelosi’s party took over Congress on an anti-war, pro-entitlement platform. I have mainstream Democrat friends who routinely praise the “socialist” institutions of the public library and fire department. They no longer fear the word.

Hillary Clinton, current frontrunner and incumbent-in-law, separated herself rhetorically from the label by claiming to want to fix the American capitalist system, not recreate another country’s democratic socialist one. It’s a good line for Clinton to stage her general election campaign, but a dishonest one. During the debate she and Bernie fought over who would be toughest on the banking industry, gun industry, energy industry, the Social Security trust fund balance, billionaire taxpayers, and who was most against the Iraq War, despite one of them having voted for it. She differs from Sanders’ policies only in tone, not substance.

Clinton and Sanders’ main difference is on foreign policy, where Hillary never met a foreign invasion she didn’t like or (ironically) an anti-government rebel group she didn’t want to arm, while Sanders is the left’s version of the Ron/Rand Paul anti-interventionist movement. But democratic socialists can still disagree on foreign policy and remain domestic statists to the core. They still want to regulate all the things, expand (not reform) entitlements, and punish success they deem too unfair (except their own, of course).

The thing about actual Scandanavian democratic socialism is, it’s not at all like what Democrats are proposing. Take Denmark for example:

Its corporate-income tax is much lower than that of the United States. Its regulatory environment is in many ways more free. It is very free-trade oriented.

What Denmark does have — what all the Nordic countries have — is relatively high taxes on the middle class, which gets double-whammied with income taxes and a value-added tax. Is that what Sanders et al. are proposing for the United States, to make it more Danish? A big, heavy tax increase on the middle class? Maybe it should be — the Danes have a big welfare state and they pay for it – but no Democrat walking this Earth has the intellectual honesty to say as much.

While Democrats propose lower taxes and new entitlements for the middle class, Denmark does the opposite. They’re moving left when Denmark and the rest of Europe is moving right. So while Democrats can now safely be called Democratic Socialists, they’re really the only ones left.

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