If you are a middle-of-the-road Democratic candidate, Democratic Capitalism is probably your philosophy of government. (Link: https://demcastusa.com/2020/01/17/democratic-capitalism-the-compromise-that-made-our-country-great/.) You believe in the free market — you don’t want government taking over companies — but you also believe that we should use democracy and government to ensure that everyone benefits from our economy, everyone has a chance to participate, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.
There’s also a pretty good chance you don’t talk about Democratic Capitalism much on the campaign trail. People vote on real world concerns, on issues that affect their lives and of course that’s what you campaign on. But every once in a while an earnest high school student might ask you about your philosophy of government.
“I believe in Democratic Capitalism” is the short, easy answer. It’s also a very flexible answer, easy to customize to your platform or style. You can add historical context: “It’s been the philosophy of the Democratic Party since the 1930s, and it served our country well for many decades.” You can avoid the word “capitalism”: “I believe in the free market moderated by democracy.” You can avoid the philosophy altogether and just talk about the role of government: “Government has an obligation to make sure every American has access to opportunities.” Or add some oomph: “I believe we should use the power of government to make sure every American has the ability to pursue their version of the American dream.” Or you can do the long-form, adding “every person should benefit from our economy, every person should have a chance to participate and every person should play by the same set of rules.”
Once the philosophy question is answered, Democratic Capitalism allows an easy transition back to the issues you are highlighting. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that almost every issue Democratic candidates pursue can be tied to one of the key concepts of Democratic Capitalism:
- Everyone should benefit
- Everyone should have a chance to participate
- Everyone should play by the same set of rules
Education: “We have an obligation to make sure that every child has a chance to participate in our system — we need to make sure that every student gets a good education. My policy for …” Or if your strategy is to highlight your opponent’s failures: “I am running because my opponent has failed to deliver the educational reforms our children need to be able to succeed in our economy, in life.”
Financial: “We need to get back to making sure that every person has an opportunity to participate in our economy. My proposal for … will extend opportunity to more of our citizens.” Or if your opponent is a scoundrel: “Our system depends on everyone playing by the same set of rules. My opponent has slipped in a second set of rules to benefit his cronies at the expense of everyone else. We need to get back to one set of rules for everyone.”
Policing Reform: “We need to ensure that all of our citizens, regardless of color, know that they are welcome in our society, and have the same opportunity to pursue their dreams.”
Higher Minimum Wage: “We have slipped away from this commitment that every person should benefit from our economy. Increasing the minimum wage will give more Americans the ability to participate in the American dream.”
Campaigns aren’t usually won or lost on philosophy of government, but it is a background issue that many voters wonder about. The Republican Party relentlessly tries to convince people that Socialism is the philosophy of the Democratic Party. Talking about Democratic Capitalism or the free market moderated by democracy pushes back against the Republicans’ false narrative. It’s an easy, simple answer that is reassuring to a great number of voters. And if enough Democratic candidates across the country start talking about it, maybe voters will again remember that it has been Democrats who have been the best stewards of our economy. Democrats invented Democratic Capitalism and it served our country well for many decades. It’s worth bragging on.
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