During the cold war, it was The dirty word in American politics. But, it's a popular idea today amongst millennial voters -- who one day will show up to vote in droves.
Slightly older voters still remember the USSR, Soviet Russia and many associate socialism with those failed communist authoritarian regimes.
Who can forget the torrent of Republican cries of socialism aimed at President Barack Obama after he famously said to Samuel J. Wurzelbacher aka 'Joe the Plumber' in 2008 that, "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
The good ol' US of A has actually implemented many concepts of Bernie Sanders' democratic socialism through the years, and you'd be surprised whose ideas we've used and who demands more social welfare programs.
Famously, a Tea Party Patriot demanded to, "get your government hands off of my Medicare" at a town hall about Obamacare.
We all carry a Social Security card.
And if we work, but don't earn enough to survive, then we get an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), that is money back from the government in the form of a "refundable tax credit" to the working poor.
The general concept is derived from the negative income tax.
Here's how the EITC and all Negative Income Tax programs work:
People who earn more money pay more in taxes, and the Federal government redistributes some of that money to those who earn very little money, but in our system a recipient must demonstrate that they're working to get a tax refund higher than their refund, which ultimately allows them to keep their homes and feed their children.
Republican Milton Friedman created the negative income tax.
He's also the conservative hero that created the "free market" orthodoxy you hear daily on CNBC and frequently in today's Republican political discourse.
His conservative "Chicago school" eventually became the subject of Naomi Klein's critically acclaimed "Shock Doctrine" whereby American advisors exported free market ideas to China, Latin America and Eastern Europe to fairly disastrous results.
Milton Freidman advised both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. He supported marriage equality, gay rights and legalization of marijuana too. But he wanted to abolish the Federal Reserve (where Sanders wants to Audit the Fed) and to abolish social security entirely in favor of his negative income tax idea.
That's right, Friedman wanted to eliminate all qualifications and simply guarantee each man, woman and child a certain amount of annual cash without strings. His original concept wouldn't have required work for welfare either.
So, we've established that even the esteemed Republican "with a big R" Mr. Milton Friedman the legend, turned to socialism when it came to promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of freedom to ourselves and our children.
It's why our Founding Fathers established the US Constitution.
When you think about it, we all depend on solid public works and use of the commons in our country to advance each individual's personal life goals.
Three hundred and thirty million people can't all be rugged individualists all of the time.
Public transit, public roads, public libraries, public schools, public records in real estate, the list is too numerous to name all of the important, government administered institutions, programs and the like.
Medicare, medicaid, depository insurance for banks by the FDIC, S-CHIP, the National Flood Insurance Program, Obamacare, crop insurance and many other insurance programs which rely on user fees, but are administered by the Federal Government to take risks which no private enterprise can reasonably accept.
In fact, one might say that the US Federal Government is the world's largest insurance company with side businesses in land management, homeland security and scientific research.
The essence of Bernie Sanders' democratic socialism is a minimalist approach to extending that safety net to envelop the middle class and those who've been pushed to the bottom of that middle class in income, but remain culturally in America's great median which arose after World War II.
Sanders seeks to target the big ticket items, which everyone needs.
Universal healthcare? We already have a fragmented and poorly administered flavor of this. It costs more money per capita than true social medicine countries (the entire rest of the so called First World) and requires people to postpone treatment until they can visit hospital emergency rooms when they're uninsured. Sanders' plan is to cut out the middle man, dump private insurance companies whose administrative costs (CEOs, advertising and private bureaucracies) for public insurance with low administrative costs.
Free college education? England has it, Germany has it. Neither of those countries have devolved into Marxist-Lenninist states -- at least the last time I checked. Free public school education wouldn't stop elites from attending private schools with higher tuition costs, but they'd certainly remove the disincentive millennials face today of leaving school with insurmountable and irrevocable debts to be paid.
Breaking up the big banks? Banks in America have a long history of booms and busts, and without the FDIC to insure deposits, none of them would've survived the Great Recession of 2008. Actually, it is American history which shows that Republicans birthed the idea of anti-monopoly laws and we've had them for over 100 years to prevent companies from growing into ideally capitalist sole sources of commerce in their fields. Oh, and we did it after the Great Depression ushering in an era of prosperity, and not coincidentally far higher esteem towards Wall Street.
Bernie Sanders wants to save America from Wall Street, by saving Wall Street from itself.
Actually, it is American history which shows that Republicans birthed the idea of anti-monopoly laws and we've had them for over 100 years to prevent companies from growing into ideally capitalist sole sources of commerce in their fields.
Chances are that you're reading this story on an iPhone, iPad or Mac computer. In a truly free market, you'd be reading this on a Desktop PC running windows because smart phones might never have caught on if Microsoft's unpopular offerings in the space were the only ones available.
Had we not had such laws, Microsoft would've long crowded Apple into history's dustbin as the company who popularized the personal computer, but couldn't stay afloat.
Self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders isn't proposing any direct redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, just to help the United States catch up to the rest of the industrialized world who offer universal healthcare as a human right, and many of whom offer free higher education.
Republican orthodoxy today is seeking to take some of Friedman's ideas about privatization -- which have a mixed record at best, atrocious at worst (like private prisons vs. private toll highways) -- and decouple them from his socialist redistribution of income ideas.
If the Republican hero who championed capitalism and freedom, the head of the free markets school also believed in socialism, then Republicans have award-winning, redistribution of wealth seeking, American socialist roots.