Last week, golden boy of the No-Spin Zone, Bill O’Reilly, fired shots at Bernie Sanders and democratic socialism. O’Reilly described the political system as economically self-limiting and handout-supplying, and remarked that people in socialist countries have no personal freedom or incentive to work hard.
This kind of disinformation confuses everyone as to what democratic socialism actually means, and diverts attention away from policies Sanders actually wants to put into place. Media outlets continue to utilize “socialism” as a buzzword that enrages and mystifies the public, and fear of the term has crept into both Democratic and Republican minds.
Just like democracy, democratic socialism can be contradictory and hard to define. But, if we believe in the good it can accomplish, we are called to defend it however we can. In the same way, if we want to support Sanders, we must defend and re-market democratic socialism in a way people can understand. We need to develop a working definition of the political ideology that dispels myths about handouts, economic stagnation, and Sanders’ own electability.
Democratic socialism is not designed to make it easier for people to take advantage of government programs, but rather makes it harder for big corporations to take advantage of the public. By establishing government policies that restrict the power of big business, economic management falls back to the people. More markets and companies become employee-owned, and public representatives work with the public and business owners to establish what community needs exist and how to fulfill those needs.
Sanders’ fight for campaign finance reform demonstrates his passion for shifting power away from those with deep pockets. In our current political system, super PACs and wealthy families like the Koch brothers spend more money promoting or obstructing politicians than the average American earns in fifteen years of work — this is a conservative estimate. The news we read, the advertising we see, and the public policies we are subject to are funded by a few wealthy folks who have great interest in seeing big business capitalism succeed in this country. By limiting the ability for super PACs to influence politicians, the voice of the public can sing loudly in the ears of Washington.
My sincere hope is that in the coming months before the presidential nomination, myths about Bernie Sanders’ perceived lack of electability will be put to rest. Citizens, if you want Sanders to win this election, do not incite fear by telling people he doesn’t have a chance. Statements like, “I would love to see Sanders as president, but our country will never elect a socialist,” are apathetic and unfounded.
Not only is an apathetic attitude unsatisfying for those who posses it, but when apathy breeds, it is dangerous to the fabric of our nation — a nation which has been decidedly woven together by people wholly unbound by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. If you say something can’t be done, you are the biggest reason why it won’t.
As Sanders’ blossoming campaign continues to demonstrate, the American people are completely capable of speaking up for ourselves. I implore you to speak your convictions with ruthless honesty. We need to disagree, and we need to have civil discourse about our disagreements. By all means, voice your concerns about Sanders’ politics or why you think Hilary, Trump, Cruz, or Mickey Mouse would be a better president. But when you undercut people’s voting power by telling them a vote for Sanders is a wasted vote, you become a bully and a tyrant. If we are to be truly free, we have to stop enslaving one another with apathy.