Studio portrait of Sid Salter. (photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)

By: Sid Salter

American politics has unfortunately long since devolved into a predictable battle between voters on the nation’s east and west coasts and in the largest cities who are predominantly liberal/progressive/socialist and rural voters in the nation’s “flyover” sections of the South, the Midwest, and other “heartland” areas who are predominantly conservative/evangelical/capitalist.

Yes, there are wide exceptions to those generalizations, but history shows that ideological divide widening since the Reagan years as conservatives and liberals alike gravitated to the extremes of their political philosophies leaving consensus and compromise – governing if you will – more and more elusive.

As a child of the Cold War and one who traveled behind the former Iron Curtain before capitalism and the jeans and cable television it embodied helped bring that curtain down, the notion of serious American politicians peddling their wares under the actual banner of Democratic Socialism seems bizarre at best.



But here we are. In the crowded Democratic Party presidential debates, we’ve heard from candidates proudly claiming adherence to the Democratic Socialist movement, campaigning on policy initiatives that embrace socialist ideals, and trying to convince voters socialist economic policies – slathered in democracy, mind you – are both superior to and preferable to capitalism.

Socialism, you will recall, is an economic system in which there exists no private property and the state controls both the means of production and the distribution of goods. Various forms of socialism exist in which the means of production are controlled or owned by workers.

Democratic Socialists argue that their version of socialism stops short of the classic definition. They say they generally don’t think government should take control of all economic aspects, just the ones they want to control – health care, housing, income equality, gender and cultural relationships to name a few.

Since those issues and philosophies are being debated in 2020 Democratic Party presidential debates, the perception of the party shifts farther to the left – giving rise to a new subset of the Democratic Party that the media has dubbed “the New Left.”

Across the political aisle, the Republican Party at every level is being tied to every Tweet or other utterance of President Donald Trump. Mississippians have seen in state, district, and local political advertising this year that the Trump name has become the political good housekeeping seal for Republican candidates. GOP candidates either argue the depth of their own loyalty to Trump or question the quality of fealty to Trump by their Republican opponents.

Trump either is or at the very least purports to be capitalism writ large. The fact that the president is fond of discussing and displaying his own wealth and his opulent pre-presidency lifestyle makes him almost a caricature of the voraciously successful capitalist.



In what increasingly appears to be his re-election strategy, the president speaks and writes about American nationalism in ways that push every Republican farther to the right. Some of those pronouncements ignore the inarguable reality that America is a nation of immigrants. And no matter how outrageous or incendiary the Trump Tweet of the day might be, all Republicans are painted with the Trump brush by their Democratic opponents.

What is apparent, at least what I believe is apparent, is that voters in the South, the Midwest and the rest of the nation’s heartland simply aren’t ready to embrace Democratic Socialism as an alternative to the incumbent president. If the New Left succeeds in hijacking the Democratic Party away from a more centrist candidate like Joe Biden, they will win that primary battle only to lose the 2020 general election war.

The bashing of “The Squad” and other “New Left” provocations by the president are strategic. Trump is framing his 2020 race to be one of voters choosing between socialism and capitalism, between American First or open borders – and about the future of Roe v. Wade, the Second Amendment, and the flag.

Few prognosticators gave Trump a prayer in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. But he won. His detractors now read his Tweets and say daily: “Trump is crazy!” Yeah, crazy like a fox.