American democracy is often seen as a balance, between socialism and capitalism, what people often refer to as a "mixed economy". It is a balance between what should be "public" and what should be "private". Everything government is considered "socialism", and everything private sector is considered "capitalism". It's a simplistic (and inaccurate) view, but nevertheless it's how people think today.
Democratic socialism (DS) has been riding on the recent Sanders campaign, to the point that spreading this term has really become the focus of the campaign and not Sanders himself. DS roots go back to the libertarian left, best characterized by Noam Chomsky. But it's policies, if you read them over at the DSA website , go to great lengths explaining how NOT socialist their policies really are.
FDR was not a "democratic socialist". Roads are not socialism, single-payer isn't socialism, and free air isn't socialism. Everything public isn't socialism. Rome wasn't a "socialist republic". America's golden age of capitalism began in 1935 and ended around 1970 with the neoliberal revolution we live under to this day.
But that's my view, and not the view of the many DS supporters or their detractors on the libertarian right. The key feature of DS is in the first term, "democratic", and not in the use of socialism as an ideological foundation.
After 33 years as an active member and candidate for the Libertarian Party, I came to the realization that Liberty and Democracy are not opposing ideas, rather two sides of the same (fiat) coin. The neoliberal agenda is to privatize everything and end all democracy. This will not bring us liberty, but the very "tyranny" that libertarians claim to oppose.
Tyranny, or authoritarianism, is defined as private authority over the state; the absence of democracy. Any tin pot dictatorship, past or present, offers evidence to this. Anarcho-capitalism provides a moral argument for authoritarianism. In fact, the only difference between monarchism and anarchism is scale.
Socialism is a neoclassical ideology that has been tried in many forms throughout our industrial age. It is a belief ("-ism") that attempts to impose public ownership over the "means of production" and thus requires a type of totalitarian rule, where even labor is publicly owned. It is not the "political revolution" that people want today.
The term "capitalism" was first used in the mid-19th century by a French socialist as a pejorative. It wasn't until a century later that Ayn Rand turned it into a full-fledged ideology with its own moral lexicon. The Austrian school has consolidated and promoted this ideological view through various "movements" over the past half century.
Democracy itself isn't an ideology, but a means to settle political differences. Citizens require the protections of their government in order that their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are secured, "to provide for the common defense and the general welfare" (USC Art 1 Sec 8).
Progressive policies seek to expand rights for citizens, and conservative policies seek to contract, or at least retain, rights already won. Neoliberalism is thus a very conservative movement that views citizenship, and the Nation itself, as irrelevant.
DS is currently a progressive movement, but the use of the term "socialism", and the constant use of "capitalism" as the satanic source of all evil, is simply wrong. The only way it can succeed is by its redefining terms-- in effect, adopting the very redefinitions that neoliberalism has imposed on our national discourse.
The GOP was part of our progressive era- 1865-1965- with such iconic presidencies as Lincoln, Teddy and Ike. They were not socialists by any means, yet champions of democracy and civil society, who realized the importance of Federal government in providing for the common defense and the general welfare.
The term "democratic capitalism" (DC) is my response to DS as the best description of American system-- not a "mixed" economy, but a clear separation between the public and private sectors. Privatization of the public sphere should be called what it's always been known as, "corruption", and not some mystical source of Liberty.
DC is a belief ("-ism") that the private sector should produce and distribute the goods and services of our society, all within a vibrant framework of public infrastructure-- which includes civil law, public services and citizen benefits. It is on this principle, combined with an honest comprehension of sovereign money, that I base my own proposals:
1) Federal grants to every city, county, school district and state in the nation for infrastructure upgrades and employment;
2) Citizen benefits, without a payroll tax, to include health insurance (single payer), free education and full SSA pensions.
3) Raise the standard deduction to $100k, fix rates on land and severance taxes (collected by local governments), and reduce or eliminate the reliance on consumption taxes.
4) Separate the banking sector from the financial sector, permanently set the FFR at 1/4%, and insure all deposits.
None of these proposals point to "socialism" and, in fact, rely on and support our market economy. It's through demand-side deficit spending, not nationalization or expropriation, that we can restore the American dream that is now faded to distant memory.
While DS may try to "fix" the modern Democratic party, I believe DC is the best solution to restoring the GOP as a champion of liberty and democracy.
A hundred or so Congressional primaries could be formed around this common view. While proposals will differ from one candidate to the next, the guiding principle of DC should hold it together.
It's time to wave the American flag again, to champion our democratic republic and the rights of Citizens. We cannot allow our nation to collapse into darkness and despair, ruled by ideological zealotry, secular or religious. We, the People, deserve better.