What accounts for this dramatic shift in a party whose leadership made every effort to distance itself from open socialism only a few short years ago? Has adding the qualifier “democratic” really made socialism palatable, or is something more fundamental at work?
In his 1961 inaugural address, President Kennedy—whose positions once represented the Democratic Party mainstream—called on the new post-colonial nations of the Third World to resist the temptation to adopt Marxism and avoid the self-destruction that system always brings. “Remember,” he declared to these “new states” among the “ranks of the free,” “in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”
Yet increasingly, Kennedy’s commonsense wisdom has fallen by the wayside. It must certainly be one of the great ironies of American history that socialism has risen to its current prominence amid an historically strong economy and the highest living standards in modern history.
What are the other forces besides material desperation, then, that are fueling the popularity of socialism today?