5 Misconceptions About Democratic Socialism

Bernie Sanders has only grown in popularity since the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign, and now promising newcomers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are becoming a more prominent voice within the Democratic Party. With these motivated Democratic Socialists stepping up to defend civil rights, many voters are wondering what exactly this political movement is all about.

Here are five common myths about democratic socialism — and the facts to set them straight.

1. It’s Communism

The term communism comes from the same root word as communal, and it means “commonly owned.” In pure communism, all property is public — not private.

In socialism, only responsibility and control over the means of production, distribution and exchange of goods are controlled publicly/communally. In other words, your privately-owned home and personal belongings are all yours, but you have a say in how those goods should be provided and accessed. For example, democratic citizens might vote to prevent a private, for-profit corporation from holding a monopoly that controls access to public education.

2. It’s Left Extremism

Taking a broader look at the “free world,” the United States is unique among developed countries with democratic political systems in not guaranteeing public services that most consider to be basic rights — like health care.

In Canada, Germany, Australia, Finland, the United Kingdom — I won’t provide a full list, but you get the point — health care is provided to every citizen and paid through taxes. Similarly, living wages in these countries are not nearly as rare as in the U.S.

The guaranteed provision of health care isn’t considered leftist — or even centrist. It’s so fundamental and politically universal, that it’s not a partisan issue at all.. In addition, none of these countries describe themselves as “socialist” in the way the term is bandied about by Republicans in the U.S.

Throughout the world, socialism is not used to describe such moderate positions as a rich country providing basic critical services to its own citizens.

3. It’s Anti-American

If the ideas espoused by Democratic Socialists, progressive as they are, were taking the country’s character too far from its traditional values and political norms, that could be cause for concern — except, these ideas are not new in the United States.

Over the past decades, many presidential administrations from both parties have ushered in or expanded the provision of social services for the benefit of all citizens. The eight-hour work day was thanks to a Republican-controlled Congress that overrode Andrew Johnson’s veto to do so, while FDR brought in a national minimum wage as part of the New Deal;.

The idea that people should not be, in the words of Ocasio-Cortez, “too poor to live” in one of the richest countries in the world was embraced by politicians of both parties. American politicians have, until recently, espoused the United States as a land of opportunity and one of the greatest places to live. It’s a fairly recent shift to see both parties take a step back from that basic belief.

4. It’s Anti-Democratic

Nope. Democracy is about representing the will of the people. With the GOP controlling three branches of government and pushing a repeal of the Affordable Care Act in 2017, only to face extreme resistance from constituents, it’s clear that Republicans are the ones ignoring their job as civil servants in a democratic republic.

The Democratic Socialist platform, which will only be implemented if these candidates receive voter support, is largely focused on the best interest and decided will of American voters — and that’s exactly how democracy works.

5. It’s Anti-Capitalism

No, capitalism is not the opposite of socialism. Capitalism is an economic system, while socialism is a governing philosophy. All markets are constrained, influenced and regulated in various ways by government legislation and other actions. Tax cuts for the rich benefit one group, while progressive taxation benefits the middle- and lower classes — but neither approach is free or fundamentally more capitalistic than the other.

Photo Credit: Jomar/Unsplash


David F
David F7 months ago

Julie W. If your so called socialist UK is somehow better for the people than the USA then why does the USA have about 40% better GDP per person than the UK?


Margaret G
Margaret G7 months ago

Ronald Walker mentioned Eugene McCarthy. Ronald, did you mean Senator Joseph McCarthy, the opportunistic Red hunter of the 1950s? In a way Joseph McCarthy is still around. His chief counsel was Roy Cohn, who had a big influence on Donald Trump.
Eugene McCarthy was a liberal Democrat, opposed to the United States war in Viet Nam, who started running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968. His successes and those of Robert Kennedy led to Lyndon Johnson’s decision to not run for reelection in 1968.

Leanne K
Leanne K7 months ago

People need to know this stuff. And know what appeals to them and why without the crazy nationalistic hoo ha surrounding right wing propaganda

Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E7 months ago

david f
Check your facts .

Julie W
Julie W7 months ago

" The United Kingdom gets the top rank this year for the first time, up from fifth last year."

UK is a socialist country - on top of the list, so you must be reading upside down.

Deborah W
Deborah W7 months ago


David F
David F7 months ago

Julie W, the socialist countries were at the bottom of the list.

Anne M
Anne Moran7 months ago

It boggles the mind...

Colin Clauscen
Colin Clauscen7 months ago

Nothing wrong with Democratic Socialism but even social democratic governments can be influenced by big business to the detriment of the public.

Julie W
Julie W7 months ago

Forbes: best countries for business: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2017/12/19/best-countries-for-business-2018-behind-the-numbers/#2c2aba243437

Note the ones at the top of the list are socialist countries.