There is an age-old political tactic used in American politics called “red-baiting.” It is used to discredit an opponent by bringing to bear any negative ideas or feelings related to socialism, communism or the “Red Scare.”

When invoked, the target of said attacks usually genuflects in fear, vigorously denies any such affiliations, and waves the American flag.

Such tried-and-true smear and scare tactics have been on hiatus of late. Except when Republicans attacked President Obama for being a socialist during his effort to pass Obamacare. But hold on to your hats and tighten your seatbelt, because it will be in full bloom and display come the general election for president 2020.

Bernie Sanders

Interestingly, if Sen. Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic Party nomination, when “red baited,” he will not cower in political fear. To the contrary, he has already openly and unabashedly defined himself as a “democratic socialist.” Note, whoever wins the Dem nomination will be tagged with the “socialist” label. That’s because it’s in the basic Republican Party campaign playbook and Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and to a degree Andrew Yang have already set the tone for the Republican Party attack strategy.

So, the bogeyman will be brought out to play and he’s already reared his ugly head. But, it’s unfair to say only the Republicans are going to use this tactic. Already some Democratic Party leaders and political pundits have pooh-poohed Sanders as the party standard bearer. They argue that the American people will reject his socialistic policies and his policy ideas will tarnish all the down-ticket Democratic candidates and we’ll not only lose the White House but also the Congress, and on and on. As I’ve said, it’s a scare tactic.

But what is democratic socialism? I contend it is a hybrid term and note the “d” is lowercase, so we’re not talking about Democrats or the Democratic Party. It’s the principle of democracy or the will of the people that is being identified. The term socialism is also used with a lowercase “s,” meaning the principle of government taking care of those in need and policies being based on the greater good for society, not the traditional definition of Socialism.

I prefer the term social democracy, which Wikipedia defines as a political, social and economic philosophy that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity (means “process”) and a capitalist-oriented economy.” “It has also been seen by some political commentators as a synonym for modern socialism and as overlapping with democratic socialism.”

Consequently, any social programs that will be enacted by the government will be determined by a democratic process, meaning by a vote of the people or in a republic like the United States, by its duly elected officials. We currently have a hybrid system both economically and socially that’s capitalist and socialist and governed by a democratic system.

So instead of reacting to what you think the term democratic socialism means, look at the policies and programs that are being put forward and debated. Do they make sense, are they affordable, will they help our country, our people, the world?

As I see it, when you are advocating or campaigning, you are doing so by putting forth ideas. You talk about what you want to do, why you want to do it and even when you want to get it done. But once elected and now in the position to govern, you do so with solutions. In other words, HOW you’re going to get it done.

A democratic government is not a dictatorship, nor a monarchy, and you can’t run it by executive order or edict. So, no matter if Bernie is proposing “Medicare for All” or the ideas other candidates are proposing, our government is not a “my way or the highway” situation determined by one person.

Changes in laws that dictate programmatic change must be voted on by both houses of the legislature, pass the constitutional scrutiny of the judicial system and then be signed or vetoed by the president. This means when our government is operating at its best, it is a checks-and-balances system where, yes, compromise usually comes into play.

The obvious political labels and terms will be thrown around during the campaign. I suggest rather than reacting to these labels and terms, examine and scrutinize the policy ideas the candidates are putting forward. Let’s debate and dialogue, not demonize and “red-bait.”


Warren Furutani is a former member of the State Assembly and served on the Los Angeles Unified School District and Los Angeles Community College District boards. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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