Neal: The split left: preparing for 2020

With the Iowa caucuses almost exactly a year away, Democrats must unify, and not shut down Democratic Socialism and other leftist ideas.

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Neal: The split left: preparing for 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, speaks during the annual Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, speaks during the annual Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Joseph Cress

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, speaks during the annual Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Joseph Cress

Joseph Cress

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, speaks during the annual Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Madeleine Neal, Opinions Columnist

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The start of the new year signals more than just our two-year-long wait for the new-age “Roaring 20s,” it signals the urgency to prepare for 2020’s long-awaited election. This means that in a few weeks, Iowa caucuses will only be a year away. 

As a 21-year-old Democrat registered in Iowa, I can’t help but think back to my first time voting, in 2016.

The top Democratic contenders, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, presented me with an interesting choice between a more traditional, establishment Democrat, in the case of Clinton, or a radical, populist, democratic socialist who technically calls himself an independent, in the case of Sanders.

I’ll be honest, the word socialism scared me. Its connotation seemed almost anti-American in meaning, and it certainly seemed the antithesis of capitalism, which has undoubtedly become our nation’s norm.

But I soon realized I was just confused. Very confused.

By the Democratic Socialists of America’s definition, democratic socialism is merely a way to ensure that society is run by those who know its needs instead of those who only are contributing to the luxuries of a few.

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In other words, this ideology suggests that the power should be in the people, not in large corporations (sounds like the battle cry of a certain Vermont senator, doesn’t it?) Democratic socialists believe that the decisions should be made by those directly affected by the decisions.

Makes sense, right? Not to all left-leaners.

… Democratic socialism is merely a way to ensure that society is run by those who know its needs instead of those who only are contributing to the luxuries of a few.”

People such as newly elected New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are under fire for their “radical” progressive views, like putting a  70 percent marginal tax on the wealthy to fund the Green New Deal, as discussed in a January “60 Minutes” interview with Anderson Cooper.

It’s no surprise that conservatives such Sean Hannity refer to Ocasio-Cortez’s radical proposals as “scary,” but even Joe Lieberman, who was once a Democratic vice-presidential candidate and a former Connecticut senator, also said he hoped Ocasio-Cortez was not the future of the Democratic Party.

RELATED: Do Sanders supporters really understand socialism?

But it’s this mindset of close-mindedness on the left that could be the greatest detriment to the Democratic Party — an internal divide is not what Democrats need going into 2020.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said it perfectly during her visit to “The View”: We should discuss Ocasio-Cortez’s ideas, even if they’re radical.

And this goes with any idea, even across the aisle.

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But with only a year left until Iowa caucuses, we need to evaluate our party as progressives.

If we shut down ideas coinciding with democratic socialism in the Democratic Party, aren’t we inflicting some sort of self-sabotage?

New York Times polling data from the 2016 Iowa caucuses show that Clinton, a more center-leaning Democrat, versus Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, were almost too close to count — Clinton with about 49.9 percent of the vote and Sanders with 49.6 percent.

My point in noting these numbers is self-reflection: If people such as me, who were so hung up on the assumption that America wasn’t ready for someone who associated himself with the word “socialist,” had been more open to discuss Sanders’ radical ideas, would the outcome have been different?

Maybe.

But regardless of who holds the Democratic candidacy, he or she will most likely face President Trump. A radical, right-wing populist. So, my fellow left-wingers, let’s be open to these radical ideas, because they might just win us back the White House.

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