CNN did a townhall event Tuesday night with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. During the event a young man named Trevor Hill, who was identified as a college student, pointed out that recent polling suggests younger people are not as committed to capitalism as the older generation. “Fifty-one percent of people between 18 and 29 no longer support the system of capitalism,” Hill said. “I wonder if there’s anywhere you feel that Democrats could move left to a more populist message the way the alt-right has sort of captured this populist strain on the right wing,” he added.
Pelosi replied, “Well, I thank you for your question but I have to say we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is.” This brought a bit of a chuckle from the audience. But then, Pelosi launched into her socialist critique. “However, we do think that capitalism is not necessarily meeting the needs with the income inequality in the country.” Pelosi then went into a discussion of income inequality and how CEO pay was now many times higher than the average worker’s wage than it had been in the past.
Democratic commitment to capitalism is one brief, generic statement followed by two minutes of criticism, including air-graphs Pelosi made with her hands. Pelosi’s commitment to capitalism is the equivalent of saying, ‘I’m committed to marriage. However, my husband is not necessarily meeting my needs and let me explain in detail how he seems to be failing.’
What’s missing is any real passion for how beneficial capitalism has been to the world, especially to the world’s poorest who have been lifted out of extreme poverty by the hundreds of millions thanks to capitalism. What’s also missing is any sense of the connection between capitalism and the American ideal of freedom, the idea that one can make his or her own way in the world through hard work and creativity. Pelosi may be a capitalist but not one who seems to have any real passion or conviction. She is, after all, the same person who praised the explicitly anti-capitalist group Occupy Wall Street a few years ago.
Pelosi represents an older generation that retains a remnant of commitment to capitalism but as Trevor Hill pointed out, the young generation does not share her views. Last February, a telephone poll of 1,000 likely Democratic voters found that, in a head-to-head matchup, 40% preferred socialism and just 25% preferred capitalism. Other questions in the poll suggested those figures may be on the low side:
Asked to Agree/Disagree with the following statement, “The Federal government, not the private sector, is best equipped to run, regulate, and innovate the economy in order to help every American and not just the rich and powerful.” Fifty-six percent of Democratic primary voters agreed with that statement…
Fifty-two percent of respondents agreed with the following statement: “In some cases the government should take control of certain industries such as airlines or health care to better manage them because they are too important to our whole society to leave up the private businesses.”
A Gallup poll published last May asked Democrats to give a positive or negative response to a number of broad ideas. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they had a positive view of capitalism but 58% had a positive view of socialism. I suspect if this were broken down by party and age you would find support among younger Democrats was well over two-thirds.
One only needs to look at the Democratic campaign for President in 2016 to see that roughly half the party, and the majority of young people, are ready to vote for a genuine socialist. If 76 year-old Nancy Pelosi wants to pretend her party is capitalist, she can do that, but it’s pretty clear Trevor Hill is right. It won’t be long before the Democratic party is explicitly socialist rather than capitalist in name only.