Giancarlo Sopo writes in USA Today:
Cuba’s socialist revolution was supposed to work for workers — like my grandparents who lived in Miami during Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship. In January 1959, just two weeks after Fidel Castro seized power, they returned to the island to care for my grandmother’s ailing mother. For the next 20 years, they remained prisoners in their own country.
As Cuba’s political and economic situation worsened, my grandfather told a friend he wanted to return to the United States. Someone overheard the conversation and reported him to the authorities. For this, the Castro regime threw him in jail. He was later stripped of his job and salary as an accountant and assigned to feed zoo animals. In addition to the emotional distress it caused, this made my family’s financial circumstances even more precarious.
To understand my grandparents’ desperation to flee socialism, imagine leaving everything behind and starting anew at almost 60 years old.
I was born in Miami a little after my family was able to return to America — when President Jimmy Carter allowed travel restrictions to lapse. Growing up, a framed photo of my parents with President Ronald Reagan was a mainstay in the living room of our modest duplex. Yet, during the first election I was able to vote, I served as a precinct captain for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Four years later, I knocked on doors in New Hampshire for then-Sen. Barack Obama. In 2016, my wife and I drove 14 hours to volunteer for Hillary Clinton and this June, we marched in support of immigrant families.
The popularity of ‘democratic socialism’
Despite my working-class immigrant roots, I am concerned by the popularity of socialism within my party. On the night of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York, I thought her use of the term was a misnomer. Then I began studying the views of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the rapidly growing national organization she belongs to, and was disturbed by what I learned.
Like those of yesteryear, today’s socialists believe the government should nationalize major industries, propose eliminating private ownership of companies, and reject profits. In other words, democratic socialism is a lot like the system my family fled, except its proponents promise to be nicer when seizing your business.
When I confronted some progressive friends about this, they initially dismissed my concerns. After sharing some articles with them, the conversation shifted to “they just want us to be more like the Nordic countries” and “they’re not like real socialists!” Both are reductionist, self-delusions to avoid confronting difficult truths.
The latter is a particularly absurd fallacy because it requires one to believe that adults who willfully join socialist organizations, sound like socialists and call themselves socialists are not what they claim to be.
Claims of “Nordic socialism” are also largely exaggerated. As Jostein Skaar, of Oslo Economics, told me, “I would stress that the Norwegian economic system is capitalistic, heavily influenced by the U.S. and U.K.”
This is probably why DSA argues that the Nordic model is not good enough.
The ideological counterparts of America’s democratic socialists are likelier to be found to our south than in northern Europe. For instance, Cuba — where the state controls three-fourths of the economy, limits private-sector activity, and employs the majority of workers — is clearly more representative of DSA’s economic vision than Denmark, where 89 percent of the wealth is privately owned and seven out of 10 Danes work in the private sector.
Moreover, as an investigation by Transparency International revealed, the Venezuelan government owns at least 511 companies — resulting in a state-owned enterprises per-capita ratio that is more than three times greater than all of Scandinavia’s combined.
As someone who spent years defending Democrats from “socialista” charges, I understand why people roll their eyes when Cuba and Venezuela are mentioned alongside democratic socialism, but to reject the comparison simply because we don’t like those countries’ outcomes misses the point of why they turned out the way they did. I’m under no illusion that increased access to health care and education will turn us into the Venezuelan capital Caracas, but it’s foolish to believe that democratic socialists — who promise to end capitalism — would be satisfied with Medicare for all, if given the reins of power.
This must never happen. The descendants of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels should have no place in the party of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. Given its horrific record of human suffering, it would be a moral disgrace for Democrats to embrace socialism just to win elections, as some suggest. Those who use the blitheful ignorance of many for the political gain of a few deserve to lose. Indeed, if socialism represents the future of the Democratic Party, that’s a dystopia no American should want to be a part of.
A Gallup poll has discovered that, for the first time, Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners support the state-run economic system, while just 47 percent support free enterprise.
Did these people fall asleep in history class during the lectures about the Soviet Union and the Khmer Rouge? Miss the past few years of Venezuelans unable to find medicine, milk or toilet paper? Forget that just last month, Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega shot up a bunch of university students in a church?