The University of Rhode Island Democrats Club brought a group of students to Boston last weekend to see presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders address his largest crowd yet.
A growing number of democrats support Sanders and a large number of college students belong to that group. Thousands of people crowded into the convention center, and many were in their teens and early twenties. I’ve noticed that, if you look for them, you can see a Sanders t-shirt or hoodie every once in awhile making its way around URI campus. They’ve begun to replace the Che Guevara paraphernalia, which I’m considerably happy about.
Socialists have historically found themselves in the minority in America, so much so that the word itself is stigmatized. Saying that one identifies as a socialist often elicits a severely negative response. The problem is that Sanders is a self-described socialist, so to support Sanders is to support socialist ideals.
Times are changing, and identifying as a socialist among the URI College Democrats isn’t that big of a deal. Plenty of people are beginning to take Sanders as a serious candidate. He beat Hillary Clinton in the Iowa Straw Polls in September and surpassed her in New Hampshire as early as August, which are arguably two of the most important states for a primary candidate to carry.
Though Sanders was once considered an extremely unlikely candidate by most news organizations, his media attention is growing. The URI College Democrats have spent a good portion of each of their meetings talking about him, more so than even Clinton. Socialist numbers seem to be growing among the larger student population too, but the stigma is certainly not gone completely.
So, for full disclosure, I support Bernie Sanders for president. I also believe that to stigmatize any political ideology is harmful to productive discourse, so I want to dispel the stigma that surrounds socialism. I think the only way to do that is to define what exactly socialism is.
One could probably find many different definitions of what socialism is, as one could with any other political ideology. At its basis, socialism advocates for a partitioning of the regulation of the economy and the means of distribution between the private sector and the government that falls a bit to the left of the democratic party.
The ideology calls for policy that directly benefits middle America. It favors subsidizing the middle class rather than the upper class. It’s mostly an economic theory and is more liberal than the majority of the American public, but it’s not extremist. This explains why such a large number of people in the URI College Democrats are open to a Sanders presidency, as those who are closer to the left or the right of the spectrum tend to be more politically active.
As a group, college students are also steryotipically further to the left than the general public. URI as a northern, state college is expected to house a more liberal populous. I believe this is why our campus seems to be on the leading edge of a national discourse that trends towards liberalism. So long as that trend continues, and where URI’s concerned, the nation is likely to follow suit. Â Â