TIME’s 2020 Election series debuted a new video, Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire Victory Is a Big Deal for Socialism in America. Here’s What to Know About the History of the Idea, in which Professor of History Maurice Isserman appears as the sole expert commentator. The almost 10-minute piece begins with a discussion of socialism in the United States in the 19th century and traces how its popularity has waned and grown during different eras. Isserman notes that outside of the United States, socialism has always been “understood as a system that seeks to maximize benefits for all people” although in this country it has sometimes been erroneously associated with communism.
As he chronicles Eugene Debs’ leadership of the Socialist Party, Isserman explains socialism’s growth before World War I and how its membership shrank dramatically after the war. The financial collapse of 2008 and the Occupy Wall Street movement, Isserman feels, has played a part in a renewed interest in socialism.
Between 2015 and 2018, the Democratic Socialists of America party grew from 6,000 members to 50,000. “It reflects an important demographic change and important shift in political values and beliefs especially on the part of young Americans,” Isserman says.