Socialism and the College Student

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The 2020 presidential election is less than a year away and the term “socialism” is being thrown around by candidates and the media in reference to leftist policies. The term is mostly being used alongside names of Democratic candidates such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Conservatives are skeptical about policies the left has proposed but young voters seem to support them.

Most people probably have a rough idea about socialism and its history. Socialism is defined as a set of political and economic theories based on the belief that everyone has an equal right to a share of a country’s wealth and the government should own and control main industries, according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. 

There’s a range of ways to implement socialism into a government system. Most successful implementations mix socialism and capitalism where most business is privately owned but the country provides free social support such as healthcare, education and pensions. Norway and Sweden have successfully incorporated these socialist systems, according to an editorial by personal financial blog The Balance. 

There are, however, examples where socialism has failed the general population of a country. Venezuela claims to be a socialist government in its constitution. Their government controls social services such as health care, as well as the media. “Fox and Friends” used the example of Venezuela to discredit the belief in interviewed college students that socialism can be effective in U.S. policy. 

The popularity of the Democratic presidential candidate front runners is high among college students. Sanders is popular with 34 percent of Democrat leaning college students and Warren is trailing at 24 percent, according to the Chegg Election Tracker. 

Something about Sanders’ far-left beliefs is resonating with students.

Gage Skidmore | Flickr Sen. Bernie Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist, popular with young voters.

The promise, from some of these candidates, to eliminate all or most student debt may add to the appeal of voting left but there’s more behind the support college students give to these ideas. Students see a broken system where accumulating debt is encouraged and necessary but can be nearly impossible to pay. They’re pushed to work together but thrown into a job market to compete for wages. Students see these contradictions and look to these Democratic candidates for solutions.

During a “Fox and Friends” report, conservative social activist Cabot Phillips commented on the popularity of Democratic presidential candidates with college students who are supporting “these crazy socialist policies.” 

“I think many young people view these ideas as free everything, not as unrealistic but as something that’s helping people. Sadly I think a lot of that stems from a lack of history,” Phillips said on “Fox and Friends.”

Conservatives including Phillips bash younger voters for believing in ideals and “unrealistic” systems but these have been ideas that have been reinforced through education and media. It’s the idea that if there’s a better way to do something then that is the way it needs to be done. Young liberal voters recognize the capitalistic society they live in is far from perfect and it’s only a matter of time before change has to occur to better suit people’s needs.

Betsy Devos, U.S. secretary of education, accused educators of pushing anti-conservative ideas on students while giving her remarks at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference. 

“The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think,” Devos said. “They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community,” 

College students are placed in a liberal environment. There’s pressure from both professors and classmates to conform to left thinking. Conservative students hold more exclusivity on campuses within organizations such as fraternities and activist groups. Although conservatives are generally in the minority on college campuses, there’s a clash between the two. 

There have been reports of protests on college campuses that invited conservative speakers to speak at their events. Locally, DePaul University had protests on campus after a group invited conservative speaker, Ben Shapiro, to speak on campus. Northwestern University and the University of Chicago also had student protests due to controversial speakers which The Phoenix references in an editorial

The support of these “socialist” policies from college students shows their desire to shake things up in a big way. These young voters have decided their needs to be a different way of doing things and it needs to happen now.

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