Five years later, local citizens elected former Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich, who, although he never voiced an affinity for socialism, recurrently challenged corporate capitalist excess.
On the surface, Sen. Sanders’ rise as a serious presidential candidate is indeed startling. For many U.S. citizens, the idea of socialism connotes authoritarian rule, queuing in lines, and the absence of individuality. In 2012, the Pew Research Center found that six in ten citizens evidenced a negative reaction to idea of socialism. More recently, in a 2015 Gallup poll, less than half of respondents (47 percent) said they would vote for a socialist. To put that in perspective, Gallup respondents reported that they were more likely to vote for an atheist (58 percent), a Muslim (60 percent), and an evangelical Christian (73 percent).
Perhaps it’s been the surface-level understanding of socialism, though that has provoked such sharp responses. Instead of Soviet-style authoritarianism, what Sanders has, in fact, proposed are comparatively (by international standards) modest reforms that purport to equalize access to our national resources and end the privileges that accrue to a finite number of individuals as a result of the chance of birth.
Put simply, Sanders has promised to democratize access to our national resources. This includes our hospitals and medical facilities, our universities, our political system, and our economy. For Sanders, this is what true democracy entails, allowing all to participate and benefit regardless of location in the socio economic hierarchy.
The most covert obstacles Sen. Sanders now faces are the politicized mental shortcuts that many have collectively assumed: Socialism equals dictatorship, socialism equals disincentive, socialism equals control. Let’s not forget that it was the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate, Eugene Debs, who was arrested in Canton, Ohio, in 1918 for delivering a speech against U.S. militarism and subsequently ran in the 1920 presidential election, and garnered nearly a million votes, from a federal prison cell.
Whatever the outcome, the durability of Sen. Sanders and his campaign is nothing short of historic. He has initiated a national rehabilitation of the idea of democratic socialism. In doing so, he has struck a national chord that will reverberate for decades to come.
Until tomorrow: In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
Dorothy Prats / [email protected]