On his Fox News show Friday night, Tucker Carlson invited on liberal Harvard professor Cornel West to discuss the ideology of “the future” of the Democratic Party, Democratic Socialism, and what it would look like in America. The problem, Carlson underscored, is that Democratic Socialism has “never actually worked anywhere.” People in Venezuela, which describes itself as a Democratic Socialist country, currently “don’t have toilet paper” and the country is “less equal than ever,” noted Carlson. But West dismissed such ugly realities and stood by the “ideals” of the movement.
Carlson began by noting that radical New York Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was famously described by the head of the Democratic National Committee as representing “the future of our party.” Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also describes himself as a Democratic Socialist.
So what is Democratic Socialism?, asked Carlson. “Democratic socialism is not a wing of the Democratic Party, at least not yet; it’s an entirely separate movement with its own national organization, the Democratic Socialists of America,” he explained (video below). The rapidly growing group’s platform is clear: “They support socialism. State ownership of major industries, that would include healthcare, technology, manufacturing. Some of them explicitly support communism.” Among some of the other positions promoted by the DSA: race-based reparations, retroactive forgiveness of student loans, a guaranteed lifetime minimum income, and the end to all deportations of illegal immigrants.
Here are a few tweets by New York City’s chapter of the DSA calling on the abolition of profits, prison, cash bail, borders and ICE and promoting Ocasio-Cortez as a pure socialist:
“Not all Democratic Socialists have the same views on everything, but that gives you some idea: Unlimited, uncontrolled immigration into the U.S., coupled with race-based reparations, the abolition of prisons and by extension law and order itself, and a massive expansion of the welfare state financed by an economic system that does not recognize profit,” said Carlson. “How would that work exactly? Has it ever worked in any country in the world?”
To answer that question, he invited on West, the most famous advocate of Democratic Socialism. West initially tried to stay as abstract as he could in defining the movement, but eventually was forced to acknowledge that Democratic Socialism has never been successfully instituted anywhere. The blame, he tried to suggest in reference to Venezuela, was external forces, like the United States, “crushing” the utopian socialist vision.
“Can you point to an example, an extant example, of it that works? Venezuela seems like an example of Democratic Socialism. Would you say that it is and if so does it work?” Carlson asked.
“No, I don’t think that Democratic Socialism as an ideal has been able to be embodied in a larger social context,” West replied in a particularly revealing response. “There’s different forms of it. Some are bad, some are medium, some are better, but the fundamental commitment is to the dignity of ordinary people and to make sure they can live lives of decency. So it is not an -ism, though brother, it is about decency, it’s about fairness, it’s about the accountability of the powerful vis-a-vis those who have less power. The work place, women, dealing with the household, gays, lesbians, trans, black people, indigenous people, immigrants. How do we ensure that they are treated decently and that the powerful don’t in anyway manipulate, subjugate and exploit them?”
Carlson responded by saying if that’s the definition, then he along with most people would be on board. But clearly not satisfied by that markedly abstract definition, Carlson tried to move the conversation into more real-world specifics.
“Has it struck you as interesting that it’s never actually worked anywhere?” said Carlson. As an example, he pointed to Venezuela. “What happened in Venezuela? They call it Democratic Socialism but they don’t have toilet paper and it’s less equal than ever.”
The dramatic failure of Democratic Socialism in Venezuela, suggested West, is really the result of external pressures by other countries, like the United States, which he blamed for having “crushed” Venezuela.
“Any time there’s been the attempts of ordinary people to engage in self-determination, they can get crushed by external nations, look at U.S. policies toward Venezuela has been very, very ugly,” said the professor. “So we’ve never had a chance to really pull it off.”
Asked about all the radical calls for the abolition of major institutions by the DSA of New York, West said they really just want them to be replaced by better versions of those institutions. “They can be changed, they can be transformed when the right kind of intervention takes place,” he said.
On the issue of “abolishing ICE and borders,” Carlson noted that that doesn’t do a lot to “elevate” poor Americans. “I don’t see any evidence that they get richer or happier when you bring in more poor people,” said the host. “You ignore their problems.”