The 'Differences' between Democrats and Socialists

What does it mean that when twice asked to distinguish between socialists and Democrats, Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democrat National Committee, could not or would not answer? Although Wasserman Schultz is not the brightest bulb in the House of Representatives, her inability or unwillingness to specify the differences between Democrats and socialists speaks volumes about the contemporary Democrat Party.

Socialists advocate many propositions, but most espouse all (or most) of the following: First, they are collectivists, bloviating about classes, groups, etc., seldom about individuals. Second, they are extreme egalitarians. Third, they are devoted to big government. Fourth, they favor government ownership (or at least control) of the economy’s basic industries. Fifth, they seek to establish cradle-to-grave welfare systems, so that as many people as possible are dependent on government.

There is no need to reiterate socialism’s failures in many nations. Perhaps the best assessment of socialism was by the late Margaret Thatcher, who observed that “[t]he trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

Once-upon-a-time, most Democrats were not overt socialists. Granted, since at least Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, and perhaps as far back as Woodrow Wilson’s presidency (1913-1921), they were to the left of most Republicans, favored big government, pushed for progressive income taxes, and espoused welfare-state policies. 

Seeking to explain why, alone among the industrialized nations, there was no large socialist party in the U.S., the late political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset contended that, in addition to socioeconomic and cultural factors unique to America, the Democrat Party tended to play a role akin to that of socialists in other nations. Since at least the 1930s, the Democrat Party has aligned itself with labor unions, espoused welfare-state programs, and sought to reduce socioeconomic inequality. 

Even so, as recently as 1960, Democrats nominated John F. Kennedy to be their presidential candidate. As Ira Stoll put it in 2013, “Kennedy’s tax cuts, his domestic spending restraint, his military buildup, his pro-growth economic policy, his emphasis on free trade and a strong dollar, and his foreign policy driven by the idea that America had a God-given mission to defend freedom all make him by the standards of both his time and our own, a conservative.” Nor should we forget JFK’s statement in his inaugural address that “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Today, someone echoing those words would receive a warmer reception in the GOP than in the Democrat Party. 

When did the transmogrification of the modern Democrat Party begin, and what factors were mainly responsible for the party’s reincarnation?

According to James Piereson, JFK’s assassination unhinged some American liberals, causing them to move well to the left of where most had been as late as November 22nd, 1963.

In 1968, the Vietnam War, the cultural revolution, assassinations, race riots, campus unrest, and especially the violence at the Democrat Party’s national nomination convention in Chicago had three consequences which are relevant here. First, these phenomena radicalized a significant number of Democrats. Second, they further politicized the mainstream media. Third, and perhaps more important, they weakened the will of conservative and moderate Democrats to resist leftists’ takeover of the party.

The story of how the McGovernite wing of the Democrat Party came to dominate first the presidential nomination process, then the national legislature, and eventually in many states and localities, is too well-known to require extended comment. Byron Shafer’s Quiet Revolution (1983) detailed the struggle for the Democrat Party’s soul between 1968 and 1972. The late Barry Rubin’s Silent Revolution (2014) put the American Left’s rise to political and cultural dominance in a broader context.

Less well known (and perhaps understood) is the decades-long shift by American socialists, such as the late Michael Harrington, to work through the Democrat Party to achieve the socialists’ goals. This shift began slowly in the late 1960s, but it accelerated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Today, there are still small socialist parties, but most socialists work through the Democrat Party in Congress and at election time. Bernie Sanders may be a good example of how this works.

If you have the stomach for it, read the Democrat Party’s campaign platforms for presidential elections over the last 40+ years. Again, if you have the intestinal strength to do so, you will find, with possible exceptions in 1992 and 1996 -- when the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council tried (unsuccessfully in the long run) to move the party toward the political center -- a growing number of planks that are indistinguishable from policies advocated by one or another of the many socialist movements in America.

The Democrat Party’s 2012 platform is an excellent example. The document has five major sections: “Moving America Forward,” “Rebuilding Middle Class Security,” “America Works When Everyone Plays by the Same Rules,” “Greater Together,” and “Stronger in the World, Safer and More Secure at Home.” These headings seem innocuous enough at first blush. But if one delves into specifics, the 2012 document reveals just how left-wing the Democrat Party has become. At bottom, the document manifests collectivist tendencies, class warfare, extreme egalitarianism, and genuine hostility toward any sense that America is an exceptional nation.

Another way to see how the Democrat Party has changed over the last 40+ years is to look at delegates to the party’s national nomination conventions. Delegates, both in terms of their demographic characteristics and especially in terms of their political orientations, tell a lot about how a party has changed.

Many years ago, when state and local party bosses dominated the party, convention delegates were chosen more for patronage purposes than any other. Delegates were mostly middle-aged white men, who were beholden to, and tended to share the political outlook of, the state and/or local party bigwigs.

The McGovern-Fraser Commission’s rules, enacted after the 1968 fiasco in Chicago, were designed to open up the Democrat Party’s national nomination conventions to previously “under-represented” groups, i.e., minorities -- especially blacks -- women, and young people. 

Those rules succeeded, perhaps beyond their designers’ wildest dreams. 

Fast-forward to the 2012 Democrat national nomination convention, and one sees just how the party’s delegates have changed.  Almost 500 of the delegates were from the LGBT movement. Women and minorities -- especially African Americans and Hispanics -- were well-represented.  Public school teachers -- mostly members of the National Education Association or the National Association of Teachers -- were the largest bloc of jobholders.

White working-class men and women were significantly underrepresented.

The delegates’ ideological orientations were equally important. The atmosphere in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte (NC) was rank with leftist cant. Remember, for example, how the delegates reacted to efforts to restore mention of God and reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the party’s platform? Obama’s convention bosses rammed those changes down the loudly protesting throats of most delegates.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Wasserman Schultz can’t or won’t distinguish between contemporary Democrats and socialists. There's virtually no difference worth mentioning.

What does it mean that when twice asked to distinguish between socialists and Democrats, Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democrat National Committee, could not or would not answer? Although Wasserman Schultz is not the brightest bulb in the House of Representatives, her inability or unwillingness to specify the differences between Democrats and socialists speaks volumes about the contemporary Democrat Party.

Socialists advocate many propositions, but most espouse all (or most) of the following: First, they are collectivists, bloviating about classes, groups, etc., seldom about individuals. Second, they are extreme egalitarians. Third, they are devoted to big government. Fourth, they favor government ownership (or at least control) of the economy’s basic industries. Fifth, they seek to establish cradle-to-grave welfare systems, so that as many people as possible are dependent on government.

There is no need to reiterate socialism’s failures in many nations. Perhaps the best assessment of socialism was by the late Margaret Thatcher, who observed that “[t]he trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

Once-upon-a-time, most Democrats were not overt socialists. Granted, since at least Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, and perhaps as far back as Woodrow Wilson’s presidency (1913-1921), they were to the left of most Republicans, favored big government, pushed for progressive income taxes, and espoused welfare-state policies. 

Seeking to explain why, alone among the industrialized nations, there was no large socialist party in the U.S., the late political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset contended that, in addition to socioeconomic and cultural factors unique to America, the Democrat Party tended to play a role akin to that of socialists in other nations. Since at least the 1930s, the Democrat Party has aligned itself with labor unions, espoused welfare-state programs, and sought to reduce socioeconomic inequality. 

Even so, as recently as 1960, Democrats nominated John F. Kennedy to be their presidential candidate. As Ira Stoll put it in 2013, “Kennedy’s tax cuts, his domestic spending restraint, his military buildup, his pro-growth economic policy, his emphasis on free trade and a strong dollar, and his foreign policy driven by the idea that America had a God-given mission to defend freedom all make him by the standards of both his time and our own, a conservative.” Nor should we forget JFK’s statement in his inaugural address that “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Today, someone echoing those words would receive a warmer reception in the GOP than in the Democrat Party. 

When did the transmogrification of the modern Democrat Party begin, and what factors were mainly responsible for the party’s reincarnation?

According to James Piereson, JFK’s assassination unhinged some American liberals, causing them to move well to the left of where most had been as late as November 22nd, 1963.

In 1968, the Vietnam War, the cultural revolution, assassinations, race riots, campus unrest, and especially the violence at the Democrat Party’s national nomination convention in Chicago had three consequences which are relevant here. First, these phenomena radicalized a significant number of Democrats. Second, they further politicized the mainstream media. Third, and perhaps more important, they weakened the will of conservative and moderate Democrats to resist leftists’ takeover of the party.

The story of how the McGovernite wing of the Democrat Party came to dominate first the presidential nomination process, then the national legislature, and eventually in many states and localities, is too well-known to require extended comment. Byron Shafer’s Quiet Revolution (1983) detailed the struggle for the Democrat Party’s soul between 1968 and 1972. The late Barry Rubin’s Silent Revolution (2014) put the American Left’s rise to political and cultural dominance in a broader context.

Less well known (and perhaps understood) is the decades-long shift by American socialists, such as the late Michael Harrington, to work through the Democrat Party to achieve the socialists’ goals. This shift began slowly in the late 1960s, but it accelerated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Today, there are still small socialist parties, but most socialists work through the Democrat Party in Congress and at election time. Bernie Sanders may be a good example of how this works.

If you have the stomach for it, read the Democrat Party’s campaign platforms for presidential elections over the last 40+ years. Again, if you have the intestinal strength to do so, you will find, with possible exceptions in 1992 and 1996 -- when the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council tried (unsuccessfully in the long run) to move the party toward the political center -- a growing number of planks that are indistinguishable from policies advocated by one or another of the many socialist movements in America.

The Democrat Party’s 2012 platform is an excellent example. The document has five major sections: “Moving America Forward,” “Rebuilding Middle Class Security,” “America Works When Everyone Plays by the Same Rules,” “Greater Together,” and “Stronger in the World, Safer and More Secure at Home.” These headings seem innocuous enough at first blush. But if one delves into specifics, the 2012 document reveals just how left-wing the Democrat Party has become. At bottom, the document manifests collectivist tendencies, class warfare, extreme egalitarianism, and genuine hostility toward any sense that America is an exceptional nation.

Another way to see how the Democrat Party has changed over the last 40+ years is to look at delegates to the party’s national nomination conventions. Delegates, both in terms of their demographic characteristics and especially in terms of their political orientations, tell a lot about how a party has changed.

Many years ago, when state and local party bosses dominated the party, convention delegates were chosen more for patronage purposes than any other. Delegates were mostly middle-aged white men, who were beholden to, and tended to share the political outlook of, the state and/or local party bigwigs.

The McGovern-Fraser Commission’s rules, enacted after the 1968 fiasco in Chicago, were designed to open up the Democrat Party’s national nomination conventions to previously “under-represented” groups, i.e., minorities -- especially blacks -- women, and young people. 

Those rules succeeded, perhaps beyond their designers’ wildest dreams. 

Fast-forward to the 2012 Democrat national nomination convention, and one sees just how the party’s delegates have changed.  Almost 500 of the delegates were from the LGBT movement. Women and minorities -- especially African Americans and Hispanics -- were well-represented.  Public school teachers -- mostly members of the National Education Association or the National Association of Teachers -- were the largest bloc of jobholders.

White working-class men and women were significantly underrepresented.

The delegates’ ideological orientations were equally important. The atmosphere in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte (NC) was rank with leftist cant. Remember, for example, how the delegates reacted to efforts to restore mention of God and reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the party’s platform? Obama’s convention bosses rammed those changes down the loudly protesting throats of most delegates.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Wasserman Schultz can’t or won’t distinguish between contemporary Democrats and socialists. There's virtually no difference worth mentioning.