Let’s take a moment to consider what comes to mind when you hear the word “socialist.”
If negative connotations of some sort abound when you hear this word spoken, you are not alone. Horror at the idea doesn’t originate in the 21st century. In the Vermont Cynic, a student publication at the University of Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders wrote in 1976, “People have been brainwashed into thinking socialism automatically means slave-labor camps, dictatorship, and lack of freedom of speech.”
And perhaps Americans’ terror at the thought of “scary Socialists” was justified in 1976.
But we now live in a 21st century post-Cold War era: after Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and the Korean War.
No longer is it valid to blindly follow the biases and judgements of the communist-phobic 20th-century America. And yet these stereotypes and unfounded opinions regarding socialism flourish as a self-proclaimed democratic socialist vies for the 2016 presidency.
As voters and effective citizens of society, we must approach each candidate with equal consideration and open-mindedness. We must be educated with respect to both our own ideologies as well as those of others. And that starts with an understanding of what democratic socialism is and, in particular, what it isn’t.
by Andrew Zhang’16