Is socialism still an effective political bogeyman?

If President Trump’s most recent State of the Union address is any indication, socialism could be at the forefront of his 2020 campaign rhetoric. In his Feb. 5 speech, Trump said that “we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country” and declared that “America will never be a socialist country.”

Trump’s concern might not be totally unfounded: America’s relationship to socialism has changed. Unlike in the 1940s, Americans today are more likely to identify socialism with “equality” than with “government ownership or control,” according to polling by Gallup. And, in addition to giving Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders a third term, voters recently sent two new members who identify as socialists to Congress — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.1

Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib are members of the Democratic Socialists of America, the country’s largest socialist organization. Sanders is not a member, although he identifies as a “democratic socialist.”