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Democratic Socialism Is Not New

Democratic Socialism is the underlying principle of American Democracy. Social Security, Medicare, public roads, environmental protection, law enforcement, elections — these are all programs of Democratic Socialism, paid for by the people for the benefit of the people. Democratic Socialism is another phrase for what the preamble of the Constitution calls “the general welfare.” This is one of the six purposes of our constitutional government, together with a more perfect union, justice, domestic tranquility, the common defense, and the blessings of liberty.  

Opposing our Democratic Socialism are forces that call themselves “conservative.” These are the forces that have given us endless wars in defense of nothing, the largest military budget in the world, international torture programs, out of control debt, and tax shelters for the rich. These forces are anti-democratic in Iraq and Honduras, and they are anti-democratic at home, where the right to vote is under constant attack, where human life goes unprotected from police state violence or corporate toxins.

Democracy for a Change

When people hear “Democratic Socialism,” they often react strongly to the “Socialist” label, but the truly radical part is “Democracy.” American Democracy means that the power to govern is derived from the people themselves, that the rule of law is meant to protect the rights and lives of the people, and that equal protection under the law applies all people under the law. When corporations and oligarchs are able to spend unlimited money to finance parties and candidates, they have the ability to control both parties, leaving few voices left speaking for the common good of the people, the general welfare, or democratic socialism.  

Here are steps we must take to move toward a government more responsive to the needs of people:

  1. Protect voting rights at all levels, restore the Voting Rights Act

  2. Outlaw gerrymandering

  3. Reverse Citizens United: corporations are not people

  4. Enact public financing of all elections

  5. Enshrine “Net Neutrality” under Freedom of the Press 

American Democracy is an experiment that has yet to fulfill the true potential of its promise. By decentralizing control of information, the internet age has ushered in a new opportunity to increase democracy. With the barriers to access eliminated, it is now possible for people to peaceably assemble and redress their grievances in a way never conceived by the Founders. From the “Arab Spring” to Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, the revolution in information technology has opened a window of possibility for representative democracy, through unprecedented, universal access to communication.

Socialism Means Public Ownership

Democratic socialism recognizes the benefits of free market capitalism for much of the economy, but we believe taxpayers will often get a better deal when we actually own equity in the resources for which we pay. The record shows that private police and private prisons are inimical to a healthy, free society. Public ownership can have a dramatic impact in the very areas where Vermonters have lost the most ground.

Public Housing

Rather than paying some real estate developer the top rent for “subsidized” or “low income” housing, socialism suggests the taxpayers should own the buildings themselves. Imagine being able to attract young people to come live in Vermont by offering income-sensitive housing in beautifully constructed and well-maintained units with access to public transportation. 

Medicare for All

Rather than paying some insurance company to sell us our healthcare, the taxpayer can hire the doctors directly. We should double the number of doctors accepted into US medical schools and then directly hire doctors to settle in under-served rural communities.

Public Power 

Rather than paying federal subsidies and outrageous monthly premiums to private international companies — who charge $150 an hour for service to Vermonters, but pay their workers only $15 — we should build publicly owned hydroelectric systems for baseload, and develop municipal solar and wind projects to offset property taxes and reduce carbon emissions.

Not only do the taxpayers get a better deal when we own the resources, but the investment pays for itself over time, often generating revenue as initial costs are paid off.

Why now?   

In 2016, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders demonstrated that a socialist can compete in a Democratic primary with small contributions from working people — people whose voices are rarely part of the collective conversation. The near-universal accessibility of modern telecommunications has completely revolutionized the freedom of political speech — from Go Fund Me to Russian disinformation bots — the media and telecommunications conglomerates have lost the centralized control of political discourse. As Fox News, NBC, AT&T and Comcast scramble to reassert the dominance of their centralized control, we still live in this closing window of free exchange of information. This presents a true opportunity to reboot American Democracy in a more perfect way — one in which the values and the needs of the 80% who see little benefit from the status quo carry more authority than the propaganda of the privileged.

By refusing donations from corporations and PACs, I have the freedom to challenge the assumptions of corporate democracy, which leaves me free to challenge the institutions that centralize power and turn to the voters themselves to fund my campaign.

 

Committee to Elect Ben Mitchell
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