OPINION: In search for the left

After four days of uncertainty, there was very little doubt that Joe Biden would be the forty-sixth president-elect of the United States as the counts in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada were winding down. Donald Trump’s legal team has filed suits alleging fraud in the states in which Biden secured the nomination by close margins in post-Election Day counts. However, the claims are largely unfounded outside of the web of haphazard disinformation that is ubiquitous in the Trump administration. Even Fox News refused to air the White House press secretary’s accusations of fraudulent votes and insinuated that the only way Democrats could have won the election was by encouraging and welcoming mass voter fraud. To further delegitimize these claims, Trump’s legal team has already lost multiple cases in Pennsylvania and Georgia. While the inflammatory interviews and social media tantrums may energize an increasingly alienated base, there is no material basis for these accusations. As the president and his supporters move into the fringes, Joe Biden and a “return to normalcy” will increasingly fill the mainstream zeitgeist.

Yet, given the insanity that is the Trump administration, the election was decided by razor-thin margins in multiple states. It turns out that the message of “national healing” and promises of sensible compromise did not persuade Republicans or conservative-minded independents to vote for Biden. In fact, the number of Republicans who voted for Trump increased from ninety percent in 2016 to ninety-three percent in the 2020 election.

There are many mainstream pundits and Democratic party veterans that blame this laughably close electoral margin on the near endless uprisings against police brutality and state violence. Elites blame the losses on a “crazy socialist agenda”, such as “defund the police” and calls for policies like Medicare for All. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. A fifteen-dollar-an-hour living wage initiative passed in Florida, a state that Trump won by hundreds of thousands of votes. Additionally, public support for these policies is higher than ever. Why would Democrats blame these policies that have swaths of support for a lackluster victory this election cycle? It seems that “nothing fundamentally changing” and repeatedly saying Trump is bad is not a path towards victory and a popular mandate. Furthermore, just because a state is a liberal bastion of Democratic support does not mean pro-worker policies will succeed. California recently passed Prop 22, which stripped protections for gig economy workers (Uber, DoorDash, Lyft) and classified them as independent contractors. The passage of Prop 22 kneecaps workers. They have no rights to collective bargaining (unionization), and other benefits that all full-time workers receive, such as healthcare and paid time off. The passage only helps enrich companies like Uber, and puts a severe damper in labor rights campaigns. 

With this information, what exactly is the American “Left”? Why do those in power fight so hard against the calls for reasonable change? What exactly even is the “radical left” in this country to most people beyond Cold War-esque fear mongering and positive statements about Scandinavia? 

Well, in today’s strange, (post)modern time, it is hard to avoid an encounter with the idea of a so-called “radical left.” This can be seen simply by turning on any major news outlet in America, whereby both sides of the political spectrum will happily denounce this spectral entity. From the right, the “radical left” is out in the streets waging a war against fundamental elements of the American identity. Conversely, from the liberal perspective, the “radical left” is simply a non-substantial category of overzealous, idealistic youth, who do not understand how power functions (and that concessions are a necessary element of it).

In any case, both of these conceptions of the “radical left” are generally grounded in the Sanders movement, and that of “the Squad,” which have gained favorability across America. The common theme between these progressive politicians is their support for “democratic socialism,” and this is precisely the element which strikes fear, and anxiety, into the hearts of those who subscribe to the more traditional two-party schema. Although, for anyone on the left, we feel that this necessitates further investigation: what is “democratic socialism,” and does it offer us a way out of the current situation?

As Jameson, and others, have noted, we are living in a time in which the end of the world (whether due to climate change, war or our new world health crisis) seems to be more plausible than the end of capitalism. This is largely due to the success of capitalism reconstituting itself, with no one the wiser, following the 2008 economic collapse; rather than prosecuting those who initiated the fall, we instead bailed them out, gave them raises, and repressed the fact that anything had happened at all. Due to this, anyone talking about building a new future, one based in a complete restructuring of values, will be seen as a raving lunatic!  

The most significant result of this is that pro-capitalist ideology has successfully wormed its way into what should be intrinsically anti-capitalist struggles: this is precisely what is represented by “democratic socialism.”  Time after time, Sanders has denounced authentic, anti-capitalist projects, ranging from the late Soviet Union to current-day Venezuela, in favor of thoroughly capitalist welfare states (which he dubs, “the Nordic model”).  Similarly, House Representative and member of “the Squad” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes it clear that democratic socialism and capitalism are not mutually exclusive. Thus, what they are advocating for is simply a revise in the flow of capital; rather than the spoils of global exploitation being funneled into the hands of a fraction of society, it should instead be more equally redistributed amongst the members of the imperial core.  

At this juncture, the natural response might be that, “yes — our politicians, even the most radical, are still nothing other than compromised, servants to the standing order, but the movement of people behind them, on the ground, is much more”. While we can agree that this statement may hold some merit, as polls show, “socialism” is a belief on the rise in the youth; we maintain little has come from it. Furthering this point, the largest and most well-funded “socialist” organization in the United States, the Democratic Socialists of America (D.S.A.), spends the majority of their time working on electoral campaigns rather than advocating for any true change. Instead of backsliding into a middle-ground position, what is necessary today is none other than the truly radical act, calling for the complete abolition of the antagonism: the demolition of capitalism in all its forms. 

Colt Hutchinson and Bryce Schlenker are opinion writers. Schlenker can be contacted at [email protected] and Hutchinson can be contacted at [email protected]


Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.