On Monday night, in a Concord bookstore, author John Nichols discussed his new book, The “S” Word. In his book, Nichols writes about the presence of socialism throughout American history. The word socialism often has a negative connotation in American political discourse. However, as Nichols pointed out, our country has benefitted from socialist ideas throughout history. Prominent institutions like Social Security and public housing were created when our political discussion expanded to include socialist ideas. While Nichols wasn’t necessarily advocating for socialism, he was advocating for expanding the political discourse. In other words, Nichols is asking: Why can’t we sample from socialist ideas in order to know all of our options before choosing which one is best?
Nichols’ “S” word is relevant to the upcoming primary elections. Bernie Sander’s progressive, or as he sometimes calls them “radical”, ideas have broadened the political discourse to include policy ideas that have not seriously been considered in the recent past. Sander’s radical ideas have sparked enthusiasm and amassed large support. However, in my experience canvassing for Hillary, many voters are skeptical of his ability to make progress with current congressional gridlock. But as Nichols pointed out, whether or not Sander’s ideas are realistically achievable, there is something to be said for expanding the discourse. Sander’s proposals may not be achievable, but they have broadened American political discourse to include more progressive ideas. While this new progressive discourse may be more idealistic than pragmatic in its current state, the broadened political discussion allows Americans to be exposed to ideas that our political system and the media have previously overlooked.
-Lindsay Mattei is a St. Olaf sophomore ecomonics major from Grand Rapids, MN. She is in New Hampshire studying the presidential primary process and interning for a political campaign.