Social democracy in the US

Specific Purpose: To inform you the audience about social democracy in the United States.

Thesis: Despite the word “socialism” historically having a negative connotation in the United States, the ideology of a social democracy is a much larger part of this country that many realize.

I. Introduction

  • Attention Getter: What comes to mind when I say the word “socialism”? (Gesture to slide). Maybe something like these images. Well whether you like it or not, you are probably a socialist too. In a sense.

  • Thesis: Despite the word “socialism” historically having a negative connotation in the United States, the ideology of a social democracy is a much larger part of this country that many realize.
  • Specific Purpose: The purpose of this speech is to inform you the audience about social democracy in the US.
  •  Credibility Statement:
  1. I am someone who tries to be as politically informed as possible.
  2.  I have thoroughly researched this topic on the Internet.
  • Relevancy: Being informed about the history of politics in the US informs you as a voter, and as an informed voter you will have the knowledge of what remains in your own best interest.

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  • F. Preview:
  1. First I will dispel misconceptions about the ideology as well as common conflations with similar terms.
  2. Then I will generally overview “social democracy” and its usage in the US.
  3. And finally, I will discuss Medicare-for-All as an example of its relevance today .

II. Firstly, it’s important to clarify what a social democracy is not in order to get a better understanding of it is.

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  •  “Socialism” is a term that has been used to mean so many different things that its become virtually meaningless.
  1. In a poll conducted in 2015 by YouGov, respondents were asked to label themselves as capitalists, socialists, or neither. It was found that “capitalists outnumber socialists by three-to-one…overall, but the majority say neither… or ‘Not sure’”.
  2. Going back as far as 1924 in the Dictionary of Socialism, Dr. Angelo S Rappoport listed 39 definitions of the word “socialism”. It’s hard to discuss the topic without everyone being on the same page, so for the purposes of this speech I will define socialism as a theory that advocates collective or governmental ownership of the means of production.
  3. It’s sometimes used synonymously with the term “communism”. Communism has a somewhat similar definition, though when most people talk about it they generally refer to Karl Marx’s theory of revolutionary socialism, which calls for the overthrowing of capitalist structures via revolution.
  •  The last important distinction to make is between a social democracy and democratic socialism.
  1. Democratic socialism advocates for the erosion of capitalism, albeit through democratic means.
  2. You may heard the term “democratic socialist”, which politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have often been labeled as. It’d be a bit inaccurate to label them as such. I’ve never heard either of these people say they want to seize business from private sectors and make them publicly owned.
  3. The two terms mean very different things.

Transition: With that established, we can talk about social democracy and its usage in the US.

  • So what is a social democracy?
  1. A social democracy is a hybrid of capitalism and socialism, a mixed market economy.
  2. It works to achieve the goals of socialism, creating a larger social safety net and greater equality for the working class, while at the same time retaining the capitalist economy we have now.
  3. The means of production can stay privatized, but the government intervenes where necessary to ensure fair competition, protection of workers rights, economic protection, and support for the poor.
  • A social democracy is not so far removed from the American government as you may think.
  1. An excellent example of social democratic ideas being put in place in America are the New Deal programs established by President Roosevelt, which greatly limited the effects of the Great Depression.
  2. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Civil Works Administration created jobs. Social Security Administration was established to assist the retired and disabled. The Food Stamp Plan benefited the urban poor and farmers. The 1933 Banking Act created federal bank regulations to protect people’s savings accounts, and another regulation set a national minimum wage.
  3. These series of programs are a great demonstration of the government stepping in in order to help mitigate the damage of a failing private sector.
  4. Today, you can thank socialized programs for public K-12 education, public libraries, public police forces, fire departments, public roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, parks, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, just to name a few.

Transition: Now with an understanding of what a social democracy is, I will talk Medicare-for-All as an example of the emergence of socialist ideas in the US.

  • Perhaps the biggest socialist issue being talked about is a single payer healthcare system, also known as Medicare-for-All, a type of universal healthcare financed by taxes that covers the costs of essential healthcare for all citizens.
  1. According to a 2018 study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the US ranked 27th in the world on the metrics of education and health as of 2016. The highest ranking in the study mainly consisted of countries which have universal, publicly funded healthcare.
  2. A 2018 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showing that nearly 60% of Californians believe it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health coverage. Opponents of the idea believe that though it sounds like a nice idea, the US cannot be compared with European nations and it would be too costly.
  3. Whether you agree or disagree with the idea, the fact that a socialistic institution has become a mainstream political topic in the US dispels the idea that socialism is un-American.

III. Conclusion

  • Review of Main Points:
  1. First I clarified misconceptions about the ideology.
  2. Then I generally overviewed “social democracy” and its place in the United States.
  3. And finally, I used Medicare-for-All as example of its relevance today.
  • Restate Thesis: Despite the word “socialism” historically having a negative connotation in the United States, the ideology of a social democracy is a much larger part of this country that many realize.
  • Closure: In conclusion, it’s quite difficult to talk about socialism in America without the word either being vilified or mislabeled. Since no one knows what they’re talking about, I think someone needs to find a new word.


  • Jordon, William. “Debate Recap: Most Americans Agree with Bernie about Hillary’s Emails.” YouGov, 17 Oct. 2015,
  • Rappoport, Angelo S. Dictionary of Socialism. T.F. Unwin, 1924.
  • Lim SS, Updike RL, Kaldjian AS, Barber RM, Cowling K, York H, Friedman J, Xu R, Whisnant JL, Taylor HJ, Leever AT, Roman Y, Bryant MF, Dieleman J, Gakidou E, Murray CJL. Measuring human capital: a systematic analysis of 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016. The Lancet. 24 September 2018. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31941-X.
  • Baldassare, Mark, et al. PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government. 2018, PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government,

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Social democracy in the US. (2021, Aug 18). Retrieved from

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