Believing that there should be a social safety net and that this should include government provision of health care for those who cannot afford it is not “socialism.” This not exactly radical worldview could be called a lot of other things though, including “Reaganism” or “Thatcherism.” Putting aside his views on so-called social issues, which are all but obligatory in today’s Democratic Party, Sanders is about as radical as the average New Deal Democrat of the ’30s. The fact that he has himself pointed this out on numerous occasions does not make the picture any clearer. Even the Democratic Socialists of America admit that “regulated markets can guarantee efficiency, consumer choice and labor mobility.”
This leads me to two conclusions. The first is that nobody in America today with any kind of meaningful public platform is actually a “socialist.” (Though I did meet an actual communist once at a rally in Washington, D.C., years ago. His name was Carl, and he told me that Trump was better on economic issues than Hillary Clinton.) This is in large part because the word itself does not mean anything in roughly 99 percent of the occasions in which it is used. It is one of those bizarre nouns — I could be cheeky and argue that “capitalism” is another one — that suggests something vaguely good to one group of people and something indescribably wicked to another.
Which brings me to my second conclusion, namely, that all the people who are moaning about socialism in America today need one another desperately.