As an immigrant from Latin America, I have found the current presidential election to be both depressing and terrifying — but not for the obvious reason. The negativity in rhetoric concerns me, of course. Yet it pales in comparison to the growing acceptance of socialism, which I thought I left behind in my formerly rich homeland, Venezuela.
Socialism has been the defining theme of the Democratic contest. Bernie Sanders, a self-described “Democratic Socialist,” has come closer to toppling Hillary Clinton than most people thought possible. College students and recent graduates in particular have flocked to his message of a government controlled and directed economy and a cradle-to-grave welfare state.
Although he will likely fall short, Sanders’ success has nonetheless pulled both Clinton and the entire Democratic Party to the left, giving socialism a mainstream pedigree that will undoubtedly affect future elections.
I understand where socialism’s young devotees are coming from. I was a teenager when Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela’s 1998 presidential election. Then, my countrymen were disenchanted with our trajectory and demanded a radical change, not unlike millions of Americans today. As a young and idealistic student myself, I was captivated by socialism’s promise of a more equal, fair and just society.
Reality has opened my eyes to just how wrong I was. Venezuela’s 17-year experience with socialism has taught me a number of lessons about its inherent problems and inevitable failure.