Thomas Friedman is wrong about ‘democratic socialism’

I sent this letter off to the New York Times two weeks ago. They have not published it. But I thought some of you might find it of interest.

Thomas Friedman in his column “Trump Is Blowing Apart the G.O.P. God Bless Him” (January 12, 2021) urges the Democrats to “be smart”.  He gives three examples of what they should do, one of which reads: “Instead of ‘democratic socialism,’ talk about ‘more just and inclusive capitalism.'” 

I disagree.

First of all, there are hardly any elected Democrats who call themselves “socialists” — no Senators that I can think of and perhaps a handful in the House of Representatives.

Second, there’s no real evidence that talk of “democratic socialism” actually hurts politicians who are accused of it. Sanders, who wore the label proudly, did rather well in primaries and in public opinion polls.  Support for “democratic socialism” among younger voters, according to polls, has rarely been higher.

And finally, as a U.S. citizen living in Britain today, I feel lucky to have a National Health Service which was created by the “democratic socialist” Labour Party after the Second World War. Many of the good things about living in Europe — even during a pandemic — are due to the “democratic socialist” policies followed by many governments here in the last few decades.

Friedman is right to suggest that the Democrats not embrace “cancel culture” and reconsider the “defund the police” rhetoric. But “democratic socialism”?  I think America is moving on, and fears of being “red-baited” — which date to the Cold War — are no longer relevant.