A new Gallup poll shows a majority of Democrats are favorable towards socialism and their opinion of capitalism is quickly souring, a trend that one respected expert chalks up to the political rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders and a full century of education steering America’s youth to appreciate a system that has failed everywhere it’s been tried.
In the survey, 57 percent of Democrats and Americans who lean to the political left have a favorable view toward socialism. That is largely unchanged since 2016 and only five points higher than in 2010.
However, only 47 percent of Democrats have a favorable view towards capitalism. Fifty-six percent of Democrats endorsed capitalism in 2016.
In contrast, 71 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents approve of capitalism. Just 16 percent are favorable towards socialism.
Not only are Democrats willing to back socialism in opinion polls, they are making political stars out of figures like Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
So how did socialism become so popular just one generation after the fall of the Iron Curtain? Heritage Foundation Distinguished Fellow Lee Edwards says this supposedly sudden shift is really decades in the making.
“This is really the result of about one century of progressive politics in education, going all the way back to Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt through President Franklin D. Roosevelt to [Lyndon B. Johnson], culminating with Mr. Obama and his Obamacare.
“All of those are marks of socialism and progressive belief that the government knows better than the average American what to do with his life,” said Edwards, who is also chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
Edwards points out that socialism has failed everywhere it’s been tried, from the Soviet Union to China to Cuba, and resulted in mass repression or even mass murder by the tens of millions.
Still, he says the allure of getting something for nothing is very strong.
“They think it’s a free lunch. Remember our friend Milton Friedman used to say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But those people, young millennials particularly, think they can get not only a free lunch and a free breakfast, a free dinner, free education, and maybe a job guaranteed,” said Edwards.
He says young people trying to navigate adulthood are especially susceptible.
“Democrats, particularly, young Democrats, particularly millennials looking for answers to life are saying, ‘Gee, socialism sounds wonderful. Let’s try that.’ Then some of these victories have come along like the lady up in New York City and people say that is the future.
“What they don’t realize of course is that socialism has never worked. It’s failed in every single country where it’s been tried in the last one hundred years,” said Edwards, adding that young progressives people love the benefits of capitalism without even realizing it.
“I have to wonder if these millennials would be willing to give up their iPhones. I don’t think so, but that is what would happen if you take socialism to its logical outcomes,” said Edwards.
Socialists push back against the argument that socialism is a universal failure, often pointing to Scandinavian countries as success stories. Edwards says there’s just one problem with that assertion.
“Denmark and Sweden, which are always held up as examples by the socialists in this country are not socialist. Yes, they have high taxes, but both of them are on the record as saying, ‘We believe in private ownership of major industries and we are not socialist.’ Recently, the prime minister of Denmark said that here in Washington, D.C.,” said Edwards.
Criticizing the fundamentals of the American system is now mainstream among liberals. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., drew strong condemnation Wednesday for dismissing the notion of American greatness.
“We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great. We have not reached greatness,” said Cuomo, arguing that greatness cannot be achieved until more equality is achieved on behalf of women.
Edwards was floored.
“That is all too predictable, because a socialist is not a patriot. He is not for the country in which he lives. He’s an internationalist, so he is not for private property. He is for the government dictating or circumscribing what people are going to be allowed to do with their own property.
“Mr. Cuomo ought to be ashamed of himself. It was his father who fought for this country and was a patriot and was proud of it. His forebears came from Italy and they made their way here. Why? Because they thought America was great,” said Edwards.
The challenge for Edwards and his allies is to combat the messages of socialism throughout our culture. He says education got us into this mess and it is the only way to turn the tide back towards freedom. He says it’s not hard to punch holes in the case for socialism.
“It does sound good until you begin to pick it apart and until you begin asking questions like who’s going to pay for it and what are you going to have to give up to get all of this wonderful free stuff.
“It seems to us at Heritage that it’s a matter of education and of setting the record straight about the absolute, abject failure of socialism for a century and more,” said Edwards.
Edwards says conservatives also need to do a better job of proclaiming the virtues of capitalism and free enterprise, but he believes there are already some signs of improvement.
“I see some encouraging signs of teaching high school teachers what socialism is all about, taking that message back and then educating our young people.
“We have to do it. We can’t let this thing slip and slide until we find ourselves in the murky socialist depths,” said Edwards.