Radical Politics as an Approach to the November Election

The unexpected wins of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Presley in 2018 are evidence of growing support for democratic socialism. Support for policies like Medicare for All and free college is on the rise as left-leaning, so-called “radical” politicians gain popularity. All of this begs the question: What does it mean to be “radical”?

In mathematics, the word “radical” refers to getting to the root of a number, and in the case of radical politics, the root of a problem. 

Radicals attempt to understand the root of a problem, the complexity of social phenomena and beliefs. When Bernie Sanders was criticized for not being proactive on the issues that mattered to Black people, it was because he was presenting policies that addressed poverty reduction in general instead of solutions specific to Black people. Bernie understood that in order to truly solve the problem, the underfunded, ill-equipped, broken systems underpinning poverty needed to be addressed. 

The same applies to education and healthcare. When approached with a radical viewpoint, one realizes that adequate nutrition, infrastructure, and stable housing all play a role in the quality of a child’s education, even if these things aren’t directly related to education.

Normally, radicalism is associated with extreme views and the desire for rapid political change. However, the policies that make up a  “radical”  platform vary by country. In the United States, government-subsidized healthcare is seen as a radical idea, while in the United Kingdom access to public healthcare has historically been considered a normal political stance. Similarly, the idea of getting rid of college tuition is seen as “radical” in the United States, while, in Germany, free tuition to all public universities is offered to both citizens and foreigners. 

Donald Trump’s years in office have brought steadily-encroaching conservative values. The ultra-wealthy continue to benefit from the inequality resulting from an economy rigged in their favor. Immigration policy is the worst it has been in years. Trump has nearly decimated the United States Postal Service in an effort to ensure his reelection. This barely scratches the surface of everything this administration has done.

Not only has the Trump administration brought about significant changes, but the political climate of the United States has become more open to extremes in recent years. There has been a resurgence of the far-right movement and far-right ideals; clearly, people aren’t opposed to radical political opinions and change. And the radical standpoint, which strives to look deep into the heart of issues impacting social phenomena, will be essential to rebuilding our society.