Cornel West tries to explain democratic socialism to Fox News' Tucker Carlson

Fox News, forever fearful of the left, is learning how to demonize democratic socialism, one interview at a time

Published July 7, 2018 10:57AM (EDT)

For years, Fox News derided former President Barack Obama, labeling him a closet socialist and an anti-capitalist. They said Obama's policies were the beginning of the end for the American Dream.

Obama's tenure came and went; yet, somehow, the U.S. did not collapse.

Now Fox News has to grapple with a real party that champions the tenets of socialism, and its opinion hosts are struggling to describe its rise.

To help explain what democratic socialism stands for, Tucker Carlson invited Cornel West onto his show. Who better to speak about this movement than West, recognized as the honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America Party (DSA)? While the interview was billed as an educative exercise, it soon turned into a debate about the success rate of socialism around the world.

Carlson began the interview by tying democratic socialists to the Democratic Party. He cited an interview with DNC chair Tom Perez, who recently said that DSA candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the future of the Democratic Party. Carlson did note that DSA was not a wing of the Democratic Party; rather, it is its own, separate party that can be, at times, antagonistic towards the Democratic establishment.

Carlson first asked West to provide an example of when socialism has worked around the world. It was a leading question, as Carlson suggested that Venezuela might be a good place to start the conversation.

West said that democratic socialism "as an ideal" has not been embodied in a larger, social context.

"There's different forms of it," West said. "Some are bad, some are medium, and some are better. The fundamental commitment is to the dignity of ordinary people and to make sure they can live lives of decency. It is not an 'ism,' brother. It's about decency, it's about fairness and it's about the accountability of the powerful."

Carlson did not seem entirely convinced that this was what democratic socialism stood for. The conservative host insinuated that he would register as a DSA member if this was the basis of the party.

"If that is what democratic socialism is, then I am basically on board," Carlson said. "I do think that ordinary people, middle class people, ought to have dignity. And I think that our current systems make it hard for them to have dignity."

West agreed and said that Carlson was not alone in those beliefs. West rattled off the names of famous figures, from Albert Einstein to Martin Luther King Jr., who have been recognized as modern-day democratic socialists.

Carlson, realizing that this interview was actually portraying democratic socialism as a sensible party, returned to his original question: Why hasn't socialism worked anywhere? Or, to put it more crudely, as Carlson did:

"What happened in Venezuela? They'd call that democratic socialism, but they do not have toilet paper."

West asserted that U.S. foreign policy hasn't exactly allowed outside states to embrace socialism. He said that countries have tried to engage in "self-determination" only to have external forces, such as the U.S., cripple their desired goals.

Carlson moved on from socialism's historical standing and turned to the DSA's party platform. In recent weeks, DSA Twitter accounts have called for the abolishment of borders, prisons and even profit. Carlson asked West if he supported the calls for no prisons.

"What would the countries without prisons look like? What would you do with murderers or rapists without prisons?" Carlson asked.

West maintained that the DSA was not literally advocating for the abolishment of prisons. He said that socialists believe in rehabilitation and that prisons and the U.S. justice system fail to treat prisoners humanely.

Carlson appeared to be mostly offended with the concept of open borders. Carlson's views on immigration have been well-documented. He doesn't hide his detest for illegal immigrants or the changing demographics in America. Carlson asked how open borders would help the poor population if migrants from the "third-world" flooded the country.

West again reminded Carlson that there a "variety of voices" within democratic socialism and that not everyone wanted the abolishment of borders.

"We're like a jazz orchestra," West said. "We got different perspectives and orientations. We do not all agree on one particular policy all the time."

West then explained that the pertinent question about immigration was how to protect the "rich humanity" of Latin Americans when they come to the U.S. West took Carlson down the path of memory lane, highlighting America's history with immigrants. West said that the U.S. welcomed millions of migrants into the country during the 1800s and 1900s. The country did not crumble.

Carlson, habitually concerned for the plight of the white working class in America, said that the U.S. would ignore poor Americans' problems if it devoted energy and resources to migrants.

Watch the full interview between Carlson and West below:

By Taylor Link

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Cornel West Democratic Socialism Economy Fox News Immigration Socialism Tucker Carlson