Statement of Principles
On a cold and sunny January day sixty years ago, a young and charismatic politician implored us to ask what we could do for our country. Some of us actually heard President Kennedy’s statement; all of us are determined to act in the spirit of its idealistic call to public service to our community, nation, and our world. Our view of the United States specifically is that it remains in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s words a “great unfinished symphony.”
It is our mission as social democrats to add essential notes and passages to the score of the national creation, extending its revolutionary principles of liberty, equality, and democracy as deeply and widely as possible. This is a radical agenda which by its nature can never be completed. What we ultimately pledge is unceasing effort and movement toward these objectives.
Join us in the New Social Democrats as part of a historic new beginning!
(right) Hjalmar Branting, leader of the Swedish Social Democrats from 1889 to 1925
We are Social Democrats. We take those two words seriously. We are "Social," because history has shown that the movement toward a more humane and egalitarian society stems from reform work steeped in economic, social, and environmental justice, within the electoral framework of the Democratic Party, and through non-violent public protest.
We are “Democrats" because we seek to abolish all current forms of voter suppression, including registration barriers, limitations on the number of polling sites or on voting by mail, reduction of the number of voting days, disfranchisement of felons, photo ID requirements that discriminate against people of color, etc. We seek the abolition of the Electoral College, the end of gerrymandering, the restriction of big money in our political campaigns, the creation of an easier process for the formation of political parties, and the protection of the integrity of our electoral results, ensuring that all votes are properly counted. Our commitment to democracy is absolute. We see it as the foundation of the good society and seek its extension in all directions. The reforms we advocate should not be an end in themselves but should continually move us toward the goal of a more humane, egalitarian, and democratic society.
Our concern with capitalism in 21st century America is its undemocratic nature and the insecurity it produces. Unbridled capitalism results in extremes of wealth and poverty, is characterized by a boom and boost cycle that devastates working people during downturns, and does untold environmental damage due to its imperative of unceasing growth and consumption. It corrupts our democracy due to the power it gives to the billionaire class it produces.
As New Social Democrats, we support a mixed economy, expanding the public sector where feasible and beneficial in areas like health care, education, and mass transportation, and regulating the private sector in ways which advance security, cooperation and community. We would encourage employee ownership of private firms to serve as an alternative model in our economy and require worker membership on corporate boards to democratize big business as our counterparts in countries like Germany have already done with the policy known as "codetermination." We would rebuild the American labor movement to restore what John Kenneth Galbraith called “countervailing power” in our economy, balancing the power of corporate bosses with that of rank and file employees. We are mindful of the crisis of small business. Small businesses create nearly half of all new jobs in America, but are restricted by a tax and credit system which prevents them from paying fairer wages and providing better benefits to employees. We need to create more stability for small business through a variety of supportive policies, creating more economic diversity and further dispersing power in society. Michael Harrington once defined socialism as “the extension of democracy from politics to economics.” Objectives like the above are meaningful steps toward that end.
Further policies we advocate are comprehensive health care for all, better child care programs that assist parents who work, availability of social security at the age of 60, prevention of the shipment of jobs overseas, furtherance of the rights of workers to organize and join unions, and reduction of the work week from 40 to 30 hours to address the loss of jobs through technology. We support the kind of “soak the rich” income and inheritance taxes that French economist, Thomas Piketty, has recently advocated, that would redress the aggravated maldistribution of wealth and income that has been so evident in this country since at least the 1980’s.
We would roll back the vast military industrial complex and pursue resolution of international crises through the United Nations, always seeking diplomatic solutions. And let us not forget our current environmental crisis, which threatens the survival of the planet and requires a global response. We support the blueprint for a "green new deal," already proposed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Ed Markey, and other progressives in the Democratic party. We also seek to find our niche in movement politics, taking part in popular action for causes like women’s rights and Black Lives Matter. As New Social Democrats, we see these causes as related to one another. We have so much in common already with groups out front and center advancing causes important to New Social Democrats. There is so much to do! We intend to find a supportive role we can play.
And who will pay for these initiatives? "We, the people" as a nation, together! We will enthusiastically do so as stated in the Constitution’s Preamble, “to create a more perfect union.” Nothing is free and all of us must contribute in a way proportional to our financial means. We need to support labor, business and government working together and engaging in planning for our economy and society, based on our advanced social democratic principles.
As New Social Democrats, we acknowledge that our movement in Europe and elsewhere in recent years in some ways “lost steam,” compromising its principles by conceding too much in policy areas to neoliberalism’s exaggerated faith in market solutions and much more limited vision of an acceptable society. This was an understandable if regrettable response to the economic challenges of globalization and the resulting new difficulties of electoral success. Many of our sister movements paid a heavy price, suffering losses of support in countries like France and the Netherlands.
But now, there are encouraging signs of “lessons learned” and a return to first principles. The Scandinavian countries once more lead the way with Denmark, for example, continually ranking at or near the top in surveys of countries with high levels of prosperity and personal happiness. Portugal and Spain have seen social democratic approaches to marriage equality, health care, and drug policy flourish in places which for decades lived under right-wing repression. And on October 17, 2020, New Zealand’s Labor Party scored a landslide victory as a reward for the courageously effective leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern against gun violence and against the threat of COVID-19. Social Democracy clearly has new life and we intend to build upon that momentum in the United States.
The Social Democrats of Sweden maintained they were a "people's party." For now, we believe that same popular model can take root through reform work within the Democratic party. That model is admittedly imperfect, but at this stage there are signs of progress given the influence of the Sanders/Warren wing of the party and the adoption in 2020 of the most progressive platform in its history. Our critique of the Democratic Party is not from outside looking in, which is all too easy, but from being active participants within. One thing of which we are certain is the utter futility of third-party efforts given the fact that ours is not a parliamentary system. This is confirmed by the long history of minor-party candidates at best serving as spoilers as when Ralph Nader threw the crucial state of Florida to George W. Bush in 2000. One comfort from the 2020 campaign was the utter irrelevance of Green Party nominee, Howie Hawkins, who tallied a miserable 0.2% of the national vote. Voters on the democratic left understood almost unanimously the imperative of supporting the Democratic ticket, the only alternative to four more years of the most vicious and incompetent administration in U.S. history.
Michael Harrington (1928-1989), founder of the Democratic Socialists of America
OUR SHORT AND LONG TERM GOALS
For now, we are New Social Democrats, a small local group limited to the Houston Area. At this time, organizationally, educating ourselves and the public at large in order to attract new members to our movement is paramount. We hold monthly business meetings, reading groups, live public forums, and online events featuring speakers related to Social Democracy or other important political issues related to our work and efforts. We view this as a modest but essential beginning.
As far as our own political activity, there will be individuals who join our effort who presently contribute to or are active in other worthy causes. We consider that valued social democratic work. We do not tell members what to do or what to think as a matter of common decency and mutual respect. Membership is open, independent of your job, career, or persuasion. We seek the free flow of conversation and information. This is what makes us a viable organization. We also need to be open to self-criticism. As the group enlarges, there will be opportunity to discuss involvement in common efforts, like campaigns for elected office or other forms of activity in movement politics.
Our eventual goal is to be part of a national organization that is active, engaged, and out in front on the important issues of the day. The ultimate form that takes remains to be seen and will depend on our short and long-term efforts.