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How and why the term 'socialism' has resurfaced in mainstream political rhetoric

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California on June 7, 2016. 
Sanders refused to concede defeat to Hillary Clinton late on June 7, vowing to "continue the fight" for the Democratic nomination despite his rival declaring herself the party's flagbearer for the US presidential race. / AFP / JONATHAN ALCORN        (Photo credit should read JONATHAN ALCORN/AFP/Getty Images)
Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California on June 7, 2016.

The Green New Deal. Medicare for all.

The Green New Deal. Medicare for all.

These are just a couple of examples of how, with their young, new majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats continue to work to form a unified identify within their party as the nation inches closer to the 2020 presidential election. And while some view these ideas as politically groundbreaking and a refreshing departure from politics as usual, President Trump and other Republicans have been quick to cast these ideas as socialism in advance of 2020, as they hope to sway voters away from the opposition party.

The president alluded to this idea during his State of the Union address earlier in February and other Republicans in Congress have since taken up the mantle. Democrats say this is just the latest move by Republicans to paint the new Democratic majority, many of whom are women and people of color, as “radical” and dangerous. And even within their own party, Democrats are divided on what should be considered socialism vs. more mainstream, traditional progressivism.

How will Democrats handle the calls of socialism, whether it be from Republicans or people within their own party? Should Democratic voters be worried if the party is unable to unify itself behind a way to respond to calls of socialism? Can policy ideas that are viewed by some as socialist ever truly gain traction within the Democratic Party?


Caroline Heldman, associate professor of politics at Occidental College and author of ‘Protest Politics in the Marketplace: Consumer Activism in the Corporate Age’ (Cornell University Press, 2017); she tweets

Sean T. Walsh, Republican political analyst and partner at Wilson Walsh Consulting in San Francisco; he is a former adviser to California Governors Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger and a former White House staffer for Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush

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