Democratic socialism is a flexible concept, embracing a range of institutional alternatives. However the concept surely encompasses the right to free elections, a major role for the state as producer and distributor of goods and services, and a major role for the state in redistributing income and wealth through progressive taxation and extensive transfer programs.
Democratic socialism requires a larger role for the state in these areas than would be required for a social market economy. In other words, democratic socialism requires a more expansive role for the state than is currently provided by any member of the EU.
A recent New York Times column drawing on the exit data from the November 6, 2012 elections reports that Barack Obama achieved a mandate for democratic socialism in his re-election to the presidency. Here is the basis for that assessment:
If the same electorate that turned out to vote in 2010 had turned out to vote in November 2012, President Romney would now be planning his Inauguration. However, the 2012 turnout was markedly different. It was much younger, much more diverse, and significantly less well educated.
Only 12 per cent of the participating electorate were aged 18-29 in 2010, but they made up 19 per cent of the electorate in 2012. Whites made up 77 per cent of the electorate in 2010, but they only made up on 72 per cent in 2012. The percentage of college-educated voters also fell, from 52 to 47 per cent. If blacks and voters aged between 18 and 29 (admittedly an overlapping population) had stayed home in 2012 in the way they did in 2010, Obama would have lost the election. Obama’s mandate in 2012 comes largely from those voters, together with liberal Democrats.
What did those voters want?
Exit poll data show that these voters support much more strongly than any others Obama’s call for higher taxes on the rich and for a government that should do more to solve problems. Both groups, however, are much more supportive of democratic socialism than is the general population.
According to a December 2011 Pew Foundation study, while 60 per cent of Americans view socialism negatively, a plurality of Americans aged between 18 and 29 (49 per cent to 42 per cent) view socialism positively. A majority of blacks (55 per cent to 36 per cent) view socialism positively.
The groups that view socialism positively constitute Obama’s vote base – not surprisingly since Obama is a socialist himself. Only one other demographic in America views socialism as positively as these sub-groups: liberal Democrats. While 90 per cent of liberal Republicans and 51 per cent of moderate Democrats oppose socialism, 59 per cent of liberal Democrats view socialism positively.
So the pro-socialists constitute Obama’s base and provide him with a mandate to attempt to move the United States to the left of all of continental Europe.Fortunately for those of us who have experienced democratic socialism (the UK between 1945 and 1979 was more than I could stomach), James Madison arranged for a separation of powers that will hold Obama on something of a House of Representatives’ leash.
For the future who knows. My advice for anyone who loves free markets and individual liberty is to keep your passport up to date!
Hat Tip: Conn Carroll, ‘A mandate for socialism’, Sunday Examiner, November 25, 2012