Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shocked the nation by defeating top Democrat incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s midterm primary in June 2018.
In her first time ever running for office, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, based on a socialist platform, marks a turning point in American politics. Many pundits love to deem socialist victories as evidence of the Democratic party moving further to the left, but I believe the Democratic party is moving closer to the real issues.
Ocasio-Cortez accomplished what many Democrats have not been able to do—convince voters that she is running on issues and not partisanship. Democratic socialism as a concept is centered around tackling the biggest issues of America, not party divides.
“We have to stick to the message: What are we proposing to the American people? Not, ‘What are we fighting against?’” Ocasio-Cortez said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We understand that we’re under an antagonistic administration, but what is the vision that is going to earn and deserve the support of working-class Americans?”
Democratic socialism as a platform in and of itself is nothing new, or radical, like building a wall or separating families at the border, but the application of democratic values into every aspect of the function of America.
“We believe that working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few,” the Democratic Socialists of America’s website reads.
“Democratic Socialists of America is a major organization on the American left with an all-embracing moral vision, systematic social analysis, and political praxis rooted in the quest for radical democracy, social freedom, and individual liberties,” Democratic Socialists of America member and Harvard Professor Cornel West said.
The problem with the issue-based democratic socialists movement is the control of the truth and clarity.
Though conservative media and capitalism absolutists often associate democratic socialism with state monopoly and the stripping away of free markets and individualism, it is ultimately the socialists themselves who prohibit national advancement through disorganized messaging. A number of democratic socialists are also pro-free market capitalism, but without adequately explaining how socialism can work with capitalism movement supporters open up the narrative to misinformation.
To be clear, any book will tell the track record for socialism hasn’t been the best in the last 150 years, but to blatantly ignore the platform of modern day democratic socialists and spread misinformation is intellectually dishonest.
So, the question is: how do pro-democratic socialism politicians and operatives accurately and relevantly convey the positive effects of democratic socialism to the America people? The answer is to narrowly focus on the issues. President Donald Trump does an outstanding job of changing the narrative as soon as it becomes inconvenient to his agenda.
We don’t hear from Trump about education reform because he has no solution to the high cost of higher education or teachers not being adequately paid and appreciated. Democratic socialists such as Ocasio-Cortez believe in establishing fully funded public schools and universities. We don’t hear from him about Medicare reform because he’s too busy trying to dismantle the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Democratic socialists believe in a single payer system that will cover healthcare for all.
From the housing crisis and jobs to justice reform and immigration reform—we must narrow the focus to democratic solutions that equal some sort of safety and prosperity for all working-class Americans.
Frankly speaking, democratic socialists have to realize pointing to success in European nations does not necessarily guarantee success in the U.S. There are millions more taxpayers, millions more ideas and millions more people to convince. Messaging is everything—rebrand socialism in the right way.
Justin Franklin is a 19-year-old political communication sophomore from Memphis, Tennessee.