What is “democratic socialism” in contemporary America? In November 2015, with the Iowa caucuses on the horizon, Bernie Sanders finally tackled the question head-on in a much-publicized speech at Georgetown University. Democratic socialism, he told his audience, is what Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal did. FDR’s unfinished vision of a second bill of rights, an “economic bill of rights,” “is my vision today,” Sanders remarked.
Now, two and a half years later, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has vaulted onto the national political scene on a platform that sounds unmistakably familiar to students of American liberalism: Medicare for all, a job guarantee, housing programs, a new Glass-Steagall Act, and a green . . . New Deal. Democratic socialism, apparently, is less Eugene V. Debs than it is a more successful Harry Truman.
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