The Problem with Democratic-Socialism

If you’re like me, you probably first heard the term “Democratic-Socialism” in regards to Bernie Sanders in 2015 or 2016.  Since then, he’s been keeping it in the news a fair amount, but over the course of the last couple of months, a second big name in “Democratic-Socialism” has risen: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez, is Democratic nominee for New York’s 14th district (Queens and the Bronx) US Congressional seat.  She recently upset the primary when she won the seat, both as the younger candidate, as well as because she is a self-proclaimed “Democratic-Socialist.”

There was some conversation on The View, in which not only Ocasio-Cortez’s stances, but the term “Democratic-Socialism” were discussed.  Notably Meghan McCain dismissed the policies, which ended up as a trending topic on Twitter, but to me the more interesting piece was Whoopi Goldberg’s response.  “If you’re a socialist, tell me that,” Goldberg said. “Don’t say that you’re a Democrat… we don’t have the same ideas of what should be happening.”

So, I want to talk about what Whoopi said.  You see, I think Whoopi innocently brings to the forefront the real issue with “Democratic-Socialism,” which as far as I can tell, is that few people seem to know what Socialism is.

I’m sure, you’re probably thinking, “I know what Socialism is, it’s a redistribution of wealth,” or perhaps you’re slightly more accurate, “it’s an institutionalized social safety net.”  That’s not what I’m talking about.

Socialism, is a system put in place by a government, but it is not itself a type of government.  Who is the head of a socialist government?  What structure in the form of branches does a socialist government have?  None, because it’s not a type.

Democracy, on the other hand, is a type of government.  “A government run by the people.”  In the United States, we’re actually a Democratic Republic, but I won’t get into that right now.

For argument’s sake, let’s say we’re a pure democracy, 1 citizen+1 vote.  If more than 50% of the people of a pure democracy vote to redistribute wealth in the form of social services, and attempt to create “equality of opportunity,” that would be a democratic decision, and it was also be a socialist decision.  These two things are not mutually exclusive.

One of the issues with talking about communism and socialism in real-world examples, is that we often conflate the structure of government, and this service of government.  People who want to discredit either term will point to places like Cuba and Russia, as obvious failures.  What isn’t taken into account, is that these are dictatorships, and authoritarian governments, which are fundamentally non-democratic.

I got into a debate a couple of years ago with someone who cited them, and I asked if communism/socialism (not the same but almost always used interchangeably in these arguments) were to blame for the problems, or the dictators, and I was given the answer that they were inseparable, and that totalitarianism is always a problem.  I was then told how we shouldn’t have any regulation and that the market will always correct itself, which I tried to argue was totalitarianism capitalism, and I got the two blink, “Dora The Explorer” stare.

Is Democratic-Socialism a good thing?  That’s a point worth debating, and discussing, but ultimately to have an honest discussion, and come to an honest conclusion, we need to actually understand what we’re talking about.  Unfortunately, I suspect Whoopi’s statement was pretty indicative of the norm.

I should mention, that I am glad Whoopi said what she did, because it hadn’t been expressed as clearly as she did, what the problem was, and I hope that her statement, which I think was born of sincerity will kick off a better dialogue.

Let Me Tell You About My Best Friend

I want to talk a little bit about my relationship with my wife.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get too mushy, I have a point to make.

A lot of people refer to their spouse as their best friend, and for many it seems an exaggeration, but for me, it is not.  If you take out the physical attraction to her (and the returned attraction from her) I’d still have someone who makes me laugh harder than any other person.  When she makes me laugh uncontrollably, she calls it ‘dragon tongue’ because the face I make resembles a fire-breathing dragon.  Well, I rarely hit ‘dragon tongue’ level with anyone else in my life, but Sarah makes me do often.

It’s tough when I’m trying hard to launch Chocolate Diamond Media, and editing books as a second job, and working my regular job, and we’re raising a 2 year old (who is great, but has so much energy) to find time for each other.  There are days where we spend hours together, only to realize we miss each other, because there wasn’t twenty full minutes of just us talking, uninterrupted.

It can be a struggle to find any kind of real connection time, anything that stimulates our brains in more than an “aww, isn’t he cute” kind of way.  So, we went looking for something, some dedicated ‘us time,’ to feel like adults again.  Then, on a road-trip back from Massachusetts to North Carolina, Sarah found the joys of podcasts, and said “we should do a podcast together!”  The podcasts she enjoyed, and the ones I listen too, are vastly different, but she finally got what I’d been talking about for a couple years.

We started brainstorming for a podcast concept that worked for both of us.  We didn’t want one where we felt the need to talk about relationships, or babies, or any of that, we wanted one that engaged us more intellectually and less emotionally, to give us a different direction from the rest of our life together.

After much discussion, and a bit debate about what ‘list’ of movies to watch, we decided upon, and launched “Mike and Sarah’s Best Picture Podcast.”  We’ve done 21 episodes so far, and it’s really difficult for us to find the time to record, and we haven’t been able to maintain the release schedule of one episode per week, but we’re doing our best.  What we have found though, is that it’s really fun, and that it brings us something that was definitely missing the last year or so.  The podcast wasn’t just an excuse for us to watch a different movie every week and talk about it, but in the better situations (the most recent episode about 1948’s Gentleman’s Agreement for example) it served as a spring board for a larger conversation, and exchange of ideas.

Throughout the process, as has always been the case with Sarah, I’ve been surprised.  I’ve been a major movie buff my whole life, and took “Language of Film” kinds of classes, and so I knew I was going in well prepared, but I’ve been stunned at how well versed she’s been in all of it.  I stupidly thought this would be me giving her a film education, but it hasn’t (and I’m glad for that).

The point that I wanted to make in writing this, is that finding something fun and different and new for us has been the thing that keeps our relationship feeling vibrant and not like work.  We’ve always made a concerted effort to do things together, whether it was planning trips, or our wedding (I participated more than most grooms).  We know that a little effort to stay connected will beat the effort it will take to reconnect.

Sorry if this was too mushy, but I hope I got my point across.