An old clip of Fox News host Tucker Carlson interviewing Dr. Cornel West started making the rounds Friday morning. In the span of 45 seconds, West explains that Democratic Socialism is about allowing people—all people—to live with dignity without fear of exploitation.
“If that’s what Democratic Socialism is,” Carlson responds, “then I’m basically on board.”
How old is this interview? I can't find it on YouTube
— JakeTheHuman ? #YangGang4Life? (@JakeTheHuman28) September 18, 2020
The interview is from July 2018, shortly after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had upset Joe Crowley and helped bring Democratic Socialism to the forefront of American political consciousness. Fox News was having a hard time attacking it then, so enter West—honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)—to explain it to the gaping maw of the network’s favorite white nationalist host.
It’s no shock that Carlson agreed with West and the basic tenets of Democratic Socialism. Carlson fancies himself as a populist, regularly posturing himself against elites even though he is one. His everyman shtick is purely performative—Carlson isn’t actually interested in exposing elitist exploitation or greed that goes beyond simple culture war nonsense that raises Fox viewers’ blood pressure. By railing against the ruling class and things like the military industrial complex, however, it allows him to occasionally cozy up to leftists who appear to have some ideological overlap.
The thing is, Carlson doesn’t agree with Democratic Socialism. The basic tenets, as West laid them out, include all people living with dignity. Carlson fundamentally doesn’t view certain segments of the population as people worthy of that distinction. Watch the clip again—Carlson makes a clear distinction to say that he agrees that “ordinary people, middle class people” should be able to live with dignity, omitting the out groups (namely LGBTQ people) that West mentions specifically. And that all comes before remembering this clip is more than two years old. Since then, Carlson has taken up Fox News’ mantle of defending Trump to the hilt, lambasted Black Lives Matter and the “radical left,” lost his openly white supremacist head writer, and spewed all kinds of other hateful rhetoric.
Clips like the one above spread for a few different reasons. One is that people love getting their enemies to agree with them, even on basic principles. The other is that Democratic Socialists believe their core political precepts are easily agreeable and easy to grasp, in part because they are. But that doesn’t mean Tucker Carlson agrees, even when he says he does.