- After 90 years, two freshman Assembly members have brought socialism back.
- Reps. Ryan Clancy and Darrin Madison made their first order of business clear; revive a socialist caucus.
- Clancy and Madison expressed it has been challenging to label themselves as socialists. They state that they wish to “redefine what it means to be a socialist in Wisconsin.”
- Socialist politicians go as far back as 1878 in the Wisconsin Legislature, but socialist state lawmakers held office between 1917-1935.
- Clancy said the top priorities are addressing issues with youth prisons and the prison system, improving access to child care, and pushing to make utilities public resources.
- In 2021, a Gallup poll revealed that the overwhelming majority of Americans opposed socialism and were much more positive about capitalism.
- According to Washington Times, a 2022 Pew survey revealed that the amount of American adults that favor socialism is declining.
Socialism is making its comeback in Wisconsin after 90 years because of two freshman Assembly members who took oaths of office on Tuesday. Reps. Ryan Clancy and Darrin Madison made their first order of business clear; revive a socialist caucus that has been dormant since the 1930s.
The two identify as democratic socialists, a movement that has been particularly gaining traction once again in the United States due to young Democrats. Clancy and Madison will hold meetings to advance their policy goals while caucusing with Assembly Democrats.
The Republican-controlled Legislature will likely make it difficult for the new caucus or Democrats to have their way on specific issues. However, Clancy is still optimistic. One idea is guaranteed counsel for tenants facing eviction.
He commented, “The things that we can get done are things which are common sense and have not been looked at as bipartisan fights.”
Republicans aren’t as accepting, and for a good reason. Rep. Tyler August stated, “Socialism has failed everywhere in the world that it has been tried.” He added, “It is not what makes our country great.”
Both Clancy and Madison hail from different areas within Milwaukee. This city sent the first socialist to Congress in 1910 and was the first major US city to elect a socialist mayor.
Socialist politicians go as far back as 1878 in the Wisconsin Legislature, but socialist state lawmakers held office between 1917-1935. The city elected a second socialist mayor, Daniel Hoan, who had the position for 24 years after initially taking office in 1916. Milwaukee went on again to elect a socialist mayor for the third and final time. Frank Zeidler served three terms up until 1960.
Now we are seeing the revival of the socialist party in Wisconsin. Madison said, “We want to continue this legacy and redefine what it means to be a socialist in the state of Wisconsin.”
Socialists are people who advocate or practice socialism. You don’t typically join a group, religion, or political party because you wish to change or “redefine what it means.” You join it because you believe in its core principles, philosophies, and ideas.
Clancy said the top priorities are addressing issues with youth prisons and the prison system, improving access to child care, and pushing to make utilities public resources.
Madison and Clancy agreed that branding themselves as “socialists” has been challenging. Especially on the campaign trail, as the term socialism is a dirty word. Even in Milwaukee, where socialist roots run deep, the socialist label is hard to sell to voters. People who work hard for their paycheck every day to help themselves and their families live comfortable lives, the people who are trying to better themselves and go to school so they can get a solid career in a field they are passionate about, aren’t necessarily going to jump at the idea of socialism.
America and Socialism: Oil and Water
Socialist societies force many to suffer to make it easier for a few. Like Winston Churchill once noted, “The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” Democratic socialism has been booming among younger liberal Americans, but they don’t seem to understand the true concept or meaning of socialism.
Economist Robert Lawson attended a convention in Chicago for the “largest gathering of American socialists” a few years back, and what he witnessed was surprising. Young leftists at the conference called one another “comrade” but were obviously unclear of the definition of socialism in its true and classical sense.
He recalled many of the young socialists expressing a desire to fight for more justice in America. I.e., pro-immigration, antiwar, and rolling back policing. The younger generation of Americans was coerced into believing the answer to these issues was socialism; much of that was sparked by Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Democratic socialism has seen a spike over the past decade, and a younger generation drawn to socialist ideals during the Trump administration was awakened.
Economist Benjamin Powell commented on the young socialists, “Many of them just don’t identify with abolishing private property. A lot of them think in aspirations and goals, rather than means of achieving them.”
Socialism has become a dirty word because it has built itself a poor reputation; it has failed time and time again. Slow economic growth, less entrepreneurial opportunity and competition, and lack of motivation among individuals due to lesser rewards. Socialism suppresses innovation and progress. A free economy permits unlimited growth, offering opportunities for even the poorest to become more prosperous.
The bottom line is that it’s generally viewed as unideal and unfair to those willing to make a living and work hard for what they have or those who actively try to do better, be better and create a better life for themselves. America is full of motivated, determined go-getters.
In 2021, a Gallup poll revealed that the overwhelming majority of Americans opposed socialism and were much more positive about capitalism. According to Washington Times, a 2022 Pew survey revealed that the amount of American adults that favor socialism is declining.
A New Start for Socialism in Wisconsin
Madison expressed that even his close friends discouraged him from being openly socialist. “There were folks who were really close to me and cared about me, who knew that carrying this label would put a target on my back.” He added, “They heavily encouraged me, ‘Don’t do it. Be a socialist internally, but don’t push that out into the world.’”
For an ideology that hasn’t been represented for decades, the opportunity to propose legislation is quite a significant step, even if the Republican-controlled Legislature will likely oppose everything they bring to the table. It’s going to take quite a bit of work to get socialism back on its feet when the state has intentionally done away with it for almost a century.
Clancy, who is also a Milwaukee County Supervisor of three years, says he’s hoping to overcome obstacles he faced locally for policies that they say will be beneficial for working-class people across Wisconsin. Republicans remain staunchly opposed to socialist policies, calling the idea disastrous.
“Those ‘disastrous’ programs are things like providing attorneys to folks who need it when they’re being evicted. It looks like paid parental leave; it looks like basic accountability. If these things are disastrous, I think that’s a disaster that’s much needed,” said Clancy.
Yes, these programs may be on their list of priorities. The real question is, what else is on their list?