Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) penned an op-ed last week for the Washington Post titled “I’m a Proud Democrat. I’m Also a Proud Capitalist.” in response to recent media coverage of her comments in which she declared herself a proud capitalist.
Rep. Murphy notes that while the word socialism can mean different things to different people, she describes it as signaling a “disenchantment with and desire to discard the capitalist model that the United States has embraced since its founding.”
Murphy cites her own life experience as the reason why she celebrates the opportunities that a system built on capitalism provides. When she was a baby, her family fled communist-run Vietnam to come to America for a better life. In the states, her parents worked hard to make ends meet and shipped supplies back to relatives in Vietnam, where “the pursuit of socialist economic policies had resulted in shortages and suffering.”
It’s nice to see a Democrat praising free market capitalism, which has led to some of the greatest achievements of poverty alleviation in human history. As Murphy explains, "It’s not easy for me to explain to my Florida constituents who escaped Fidel Castro’s Cuba or Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela that the socialism proposed by several of my colleagues is different than the socialism they endured."
However, Murphy’s piece downplays the popularity that socialism is gaining within the Democratic party. She writes, "For partisan reasons, [Republicans] seek to paint the entire Democratic Party as drifting toward socialism, when the philosophy is espoused by a small minority of members.” She argues that the Democrats who accept socialism are few and far between.
The data proves otherwise. Pew Research Center’s decades of surveys show that while the Republican center has moved slightly to the right over the past 25 years, the center of the Democratic party has shifted far to the left. Last year, Gallup reported that 57% of Democrats—a majority—had a positive view of socialism, while only 47% had a positive view of capitalism.
Perhaps the Democratic leadership in Congress hasn’t embraced socialism yet, but it sure looks as though their voters are warming to it. In pursuit of a freer and more equitable society, we should heed the words of economist Milton Friedman: “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”