A specter is haunting the Democratic Party – the specter of socialism. A question is being asked, mostly by Republicans, but also by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: What is the difference between a Democrat and a Socialist? Debbie Wasserman Schultz got it last July and, ever the robotic partisan, answered by saying the more important difference was between Democrats and Republicans. Senator Chuck Schumer said it depended on how you define the two, and then refused to define the two. And, most significantly, Hillary Clinton said, “Well, I can tell you what I am … I’m a progressive Democrat.”
Now this is not a difficult question to answer. Webster’s says socialism is “a social system or theory in which the government owns and controls the means of production.” Democrats tend to believe in free enterprise. They think government should regulate the means of production, not own it. They have taken great pains to separate themselves from socialism, which has always been a poison word in American politics. And yet, according to a recent Des Moines Register poll, 43% of Iowa Democrats describe themselves as socialists. What gives?