Richard Wolff and Lee Carter on what’s it’s like to be an elected socialist in American government

Richard Wolff and Lee Carter on what’s it’s like to be an elected socialist in American government


[CARTER] Well, you know I am the only socialist
elected to the Virginia General Assembly. The chamber I’m in has a Republican
majority. Tt’s the narrowest of Republican majorities. It’s a 51/49
chamber. But what I found is that my name is a party line issue. You know, every
every Republican looks at a bill with Lee Carter’s name at the top as an
automatic no, and every Democrat looks at a bill with Lee Carter’s name at the top
is a maybe. So I spend a lot of my time convincing my fellow members of the
Democratic caucus (I do caucus with the Democrats) that I spend a lot of time
convincing them that, you know, they can do more. We can do more to help people.
You know, we don’t have to accept the things that are presented to us by the
Republican majority. We can fight harder and we can deliver more. We can force
concessions out of the Republicans for now while we’re in the minority and we
can make big campaign issues out of it later so that we can actually have a
solid agenda going forward. And it’s a bit of a tough sell but it
happens in fits and spurts. [WOLFF] Is there an impact you can sense (I know this is
a difficult question)? Is there an impact you’re having at least on the
Democrats by your being there, by them having to deal with a socialist in their
midst who doesn’t have horns and who has something to say,
[CARTER] Yeah, well you know, I’ve
been I’ve been trying to get some time in front of the the full caucus to
explain what it means to have a socialist in the caucus. So far they just
haven’t been able to find time for that presentation. But you know, on a
day-to-day basis yeah, there’s a huge impact from just having someone who’s
willing to go and and touch what seen as the third rail and say, you know “It’s
not hot! You can touch it!” So, you know, the things like you know talking about
single-payer health care. You know, I campaigned on a platform of fighting for
single-payer health care at the state level in 2017 and I was up front with
everybody. I said “You know, we’re not gonna do this overnight. There’s gonna be
steps along the way.” But, you know, at a time when when the rest of the Virginia
Democratic Party was talking about “maybe we can expand
Medicaid…” I go in there and I started talking about single-payer health care
and, what do you know, the Republicans go “Whoa, we should probably expand Medicaid.
We should get that out of the way.” So now there’s 300,000 Virginians who have
health insurance today that did not have it two years ago.
[WOLFF] And part of that was by
pushing for the single-payer option. [CARTER] Oh absolutely, which I’m still doing, you
know. We got to keep our eyes on the prize. We can’t settle for the
intermediate steps. We have to say you know, “This is the end goal. The end goal
is making the Commonwealth of Virginia the kind of place where everyone can
live and work free from worry about how they’re going to put food on the table,
how they’re gonna make the rent, how they’re gonna pay a doctor when they
need to, how they’re going to put their kids through college, and free from all
forms of discrimination and exploitation” And, you know, we can talk about that end
goal.We can talk about the grand vision and also execute on the steps along the
way to get there. And I feel like that’s something that’s been really lost in
American politics for a long time.

9 thoughts on “Richard Wolff and Lee Carter on what’s it’s like to be an elected socialist in American government

  1. I'd like to recommend a few sources that can help provide a bit of historical background on the subject of Socialism in America. They aren't necessarily the most in-depth, encyclopedic works that discuss the whole history of American Socialism, but they do provide some context that I feel is a bit lacking in current discourse around Socialism within the anti-establishment left. All can be downloaded for free:

    “Americanism and Social Democracy”, by John Spargo
    https://archive.org/details/americanismsocia00sparuoft
    Golden jubilee of De Leonism, 1890-1940, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Socialist Labor party.
    https://archive.org/details/GoldenJubileeOfDeLeonism1890-1940CommemoratingTheFiftiethAnniversary
    “Fifty years of American Marxism, 1891-1941 : commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Weekly People.”
    https://archive.org/details/FiftyYearsOfAmericanMarxism1891-1941CommemoratingTheFiftieth/page/n17

  2. Been following Lee Carter on twitter for a while, and love him. Called someone "an absolute raincheck of a person" and I don't think I'll ever forget those words.

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