Voters feelings on socialism have shifted with half of those under 40 saying they would prefer to live in a socialist country
In his 1998 film, Bulworth, Warren Beatty played a Democratic senator who goes rogue, embarking on a truth-telling binge in which he spouts radical truths no Democrat serious about election would ever utter. At one stage, Bulworth even mentions socialism.
In America thats like saying cocksucker, Beatty once told me with a chuckle over dinner at his home in Los Angeles shortly before the film came out in Britain a year later. We have this so-called thriving economy which has missed most people and while the disparity between rich and poor increases we have just one party the money party, made up of Republicans and Democrats.
When I suggested to him he sounded like a socialist he swatted the term away.
Im interested in a government that looks out for people who need to be looked out for, Beatty said. Ideology seems to be so unfashionable, so why not take advantage of it and not name oneself with a term that has become particularly problematic?
Polls vary on how Americans feel about socialism now. In May, Gallup found that 43% thought some form of socialism would be good for the country, putting socialism at a statistical tie with Trump, whos approval ratings were 42%. The term was particularly popular among the non-white and the young. A Harris poll released a couple of weeks earlier found that only 24% said they would vote for a socialist. An NBC poll indicated socialist was the least attractive trait voters were looking for in a president, significantly lagging someone over the age of 75 and a Muslim. A Harris poll from Marchsuggests half of those under the age of 40 would prefer to live in a socialist country. Three-quarters of Democrats believe the country would be better off if it were more socialist.
But quite what people mean by socialist is an open question.
The way I translated it to people was: you shouldnt have to choose between paying for prescription and paying for groceries, explains Sarah Innamorata, the socialist Pennsylvania state representative I met in Pittsburgh, who defeated a five-term incumbent who had been elected unopposed the last three times. If you work for 40 hours a week you deserve to be able to support yourself and your family. And when you go outside you should be able to breathe clean air and turn on the faucets and get clean water. And really none of that is going to change unless we change who represents us and we change the way our government works.