MSNBC panelists struggled Thursday to explain the concept of democracy while considering the rise of socialist ideas in the United States.
The discussion on MSNBC Live, hosted by Katy Tur, led off with a discussion about the latest college admissions scandal. The Department of Justice charged dozens of wealthy parents this week with fraudulently securing college admission for their children.
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Democratic strategist Waleed Shahid insisted the college scandal proved the need for radical proposals, no matter their financial absurdity. "I think we need politicians who are going to produce solutions as big as the problems that people face," he said. "That's the reason that things like Medicare for all and the Green New Deal are catching on."
Shahid is the communications director for Justice Democrats and previously worked for both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.). Both lawmakers support the policy proposals he referenced. Costs associated with implementing the Green New Deal would approach $100 trillion, according to a recent study from the American Action Forum. Existing Medicare costs are already the principal driver of the ballooning deficit.
The panelists considered whether realities like the admissions scandal drive Americans toward democratic socialism. "Looking at rise of democratic socialism as college cheating scandal prompts cries of inequality," the chyron read throughout the segment.
"I don't think it's about democratic socialism or any of these labels," Shahid said, before invoking another label. "It's about reclaiming what democracy means."
Shahid had a particular vision of democracy. "Democracy should mean taking power and wealth from those who hoard it, and making sure it belongs to everyone," he said.
Another guest, Anand Giridharadas, expressed support for the idea that government should be more heavily involved in the U.S. economy and institutions in order to prevent a "rigged" system. Ruminating on "the way whiteness works in America," he heralded the end of bipartisan American support for "markets" and "deregulation" as "the end of a 40-year era and the birth of a new era."
Sanders used to publicly support nationalizing many of the private institutions responsible for America's economic prosperity, CNN reported Thursday. "I favor the public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries," Sanders said in a 1976 interview.
The Constitution of the United States does not establish a "democracy." It guarantees a "Republican Form of Government" for each state. The 10th Amendment, which does mention power, secures that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Federalist No. 10, written by James Madison, outlines the benefits of a republic to a democracy.
Democracy, from the Greek for "rule of the people," is not historically defined by "taking power and wealth from those who hoard it, and making sure it belongs to everyone," as Shahid suggested. Rather—as outlined in numerous books and other writings over the past 2,500 years—it is about distributing power through citizen participation in government.