Thursday, August 9, 2018

F Troop

I leave town for a few days and all sorts of shenanigans break out. I was planning on spending the day figuring out how I can become the publisher of Aruba Today (“Aruba’s ONLY English newspaper”) within two years but that is going to have to wait.  Thanks.

Let’s focus on the Ben Jealous f-kerfuffle for a moment.  For a moment is all it deserves.

The more important story surrounding the campaign is the continuing trickle of the defectors known as “Democrats for Hogan.”  History will not remember them kindly, if at all. More on them later. That said, most Democrats (dare I say “real Democrats”) are enthusiastically supporting the Jealous-Turnbull ticket.

Turning to the core of the question recently posed by the reporter, the query which elicited an authentic if somewhat inelegant reply, neither Ben Jealous nor his campaign could be described as “socialist.”

If you fundamentally accept a capitalist framework, as Jealous (a venture capitalist himself) does, it’s hard to argue that he is a socialist…unless one is being obtuse. A more fitting descriptor would be “social democrat.”  At the risk of being reductive (and for the sake of brevity and accessibility), we can define a social democrat as one who believes that increased public control/oversight of certain services and industries…within the bounds of a capitalist economy…is a good thing.  The Nordic countries are the best representations of this model, where so-called “mixed economies” with strong welfare states exist within small-l liberal democracies.  They share certain features, such as universal health care systems and heavily subsidized public education programs.  In this regard, Medicare-for-All proposals fall within such a framework.  Of course Jealous is talking about enacting such a policy in Maryland apart from whatever transpires nationally.

A working definition of socialism, if I may borrow from Clause IV of the 1918 constitution of the UK’s Labour Party (which is not a socialist party, but one with socialists in it) involves a commitment… “to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

So while social democrats and democratic socialists may be close on whatever political spectrum you may wish to employ, there is a fundamental difference. Social democrats wish to reform capitalist systems to remove inequities wherever possible whilst democratic socialists want to replace capitalist structures with a competing economic system that centers on “common ownership.” 

Most of the present-day confusion about these terms stems from the fact that the Democratic Socialists of America (many of whom are really social democrats, including Bernie Sanders) has received so much media attention in recent years.  Meanwhile, there is no organization of any consequence in the United States that is waving the social democracy banner.    

Since Ben Jealous allied himself with Sanders, who is closely associated with the label “socialist” in the public consciousness although the Senator’s own history reveals a distancing from that descriptor  - check out this link:  - I suppose the fundamental question raised by the reporter isn’t completely out of line.  From an optical perspective, the campaign’s communications on this point could and should have been better.  That said, if people (notably Democrats) are using this as an excuse to chastise Jealous and consider voting for Hogan, well, they need to fucking grow up and think about what is really obscene: the f-word or policies that hurt the most vulnerable among us.

In solidarity.


  1. "I suppose the fundamental question raised by the reporter isn’t completely out of line. From an optical perspective, the campaign’s communications on this point could and should have been better. "

    For me, this passage is what hits home most in this column. I don't care about the word choice and anyone who would make their voting decision solely based on this is ridiculous. What I do care about is the continued coarsening of our discourse, which is particularly jarring when you look at some of the disparaging comments Erin and other reporters have faced in the episode's aftermath.

  2. Amen! I couldn't have said it better. The Maryland gubernatorial campaign is about policies. It's about whether we want to make progress with Ben Jealous or resist it with the Republican incumbent.