Why many Americans find socialism appealing

Ernest Evans
Ernest Evans

Rich Kiper is a good friend of mine, and even when I disagree with what he has to say in his columns in the Leavenworth Times (which is most of the time), I always find his analysis interesting and insightful. So, I enjoyed reading his recent column on how large numbers of Democrats now find socialism appealing.

Sept. 1 marks the end of my 40th year as a college professor. I have taught at Kansas City Kansas Community College since 1998. From having worked with young people for so many years, I think that Kiper is right. Lots of the young students that I have taught in recent years do have favorable attitudes toward socialism. In my classes during the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, it was striking to me how many of the students were strong supporters of the openly socialistic Sen. Bernie Sanders.

While the question of whether socialism has any solutions for the problems of America is a most important issue. In this column I want to focus on the issue of why so many people in America, particularly young people, have favorable views of socialism. This is a most important development in U.S. political history because for most of the existence of the U.S. socialism has not had much public support.

In understanding the appeals of socialism to young people, it is critical to understand the concept of what is loosely called the “American Dream.” This term basically means that here in America, if you work hard and play by the rules, you and your family can enjoy the good life, that no one is automatically destined to spend their lives in poverty.

To many of the young people I teach, the “American Dream” seems to no longer be true. These young people are faced with the prospect of running up huge student loans to get their education. They will be so heavily in debt by the time that they graduate that buying a home will be out of the question. Working your way through college is now an impossibility for most students given the pay that they will be able to get working entry level jobs.

To these young people despairing of achieving the “American Dream” the promises of candidates like Bernie Sanders are most appealing. Sanders promises two free years at community college, forgiveness of student loans and a $15 an hour minimum wage. These campaign promises seem to offer young people a chance at the sort of financial stability and success that their parents had.

Whether the promises of people like Bernie Sanders are realistic can be debated, but what cannot be debated is that to millions of young people facing the prospect of not being able to achieve their dreams, these promises are very appealing. Given that reality, it is not surprising that so many people in America have a favorable view of socialists like Sen. Sanders.

Ernest Evans is a Leavenworth Times columnist.