As the midterm elections approach, alumna and TIME magazine writer Olivia B. Waxman ’11 focused on socialism’s growing acceptance and popularity in an article that included significant input from Professor of History Maurice Isserman, biographer of the founder of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and Georgetown History Professor Michael Kazin, editor of Dissent magazine. In Socialism Was Once America's Political Taboo. Now Democratic Socialism Is a Viable Platform. Here's What to Know, Isserman attributed socialism’s rising profile to the fate that the “Cold War bogeyman” is gone. To many, the Soviet Union is no longer the evil empire, and socialism is no longer taboo. Isserman conjectured that young voters, seeking a departure from politics as usual, have been drawn to socialism as an alternative.
As Waxman reported, “Isserman traces that impulse to the recession after the 2008 financial crisis, which opened a window for the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) to appeal to millennials graduating with insurmountable college debt into an economy in which full-time jobs with benefits have been hard to land. And the Occupy Wall Street protesters, who camped out near the New York Stock Exchange in the financial district in Manhattan, made a key democratic socialist tenet — closing the wage gap — part of the national conversation by framing the problem as one of the 1% versus the 99%.”
Waxman concluded her article with a warning from Isserman, “This is the moment of DSA’s greatest opportunity, and it’s also the moment of DSA’s greatest peril,” says Isserman. “In the history of the American left, periods of great expansion led to collapse.”