A recent New York Times headline warned readers that “Republicans Already Are Demonizing Democrats as Socialists and Baby Killers.” The article pivots on President Donald Trump’s strategy of portraying Democratic Party leaders as a gaggle of radicalized socialists.
Judging from the media’s reaction, there is much apprehension about Democrats’ being portrayed as “socialists,” which one expects isn’t as popular, even theoretically speaking, in suburban areas or Middle America as it is among the blue-check Twitterati and journalists in urban newsrooms.
Trump has a good case to make. For starters, nearly every Democratic presidential candidate now frames his or her political case within the context of a class struggle. Every one proposes fixing the scourge of “inequality,” not by loosening regulatory controls or finding ways to create a more meritocratic society but by confiscating wealth and redistributing it to the alleged victims of capitalism. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s confiscatory “wealth tax,” although ostensibly about funding her pet project, is sold as a way of instituting state-induced societal fairness.
She’s not alone. These days, the left’s big argument is one giant zero-sum economic fallacy — the idea, for example, that successful Americans are “taking” bigger pieces of the pie than they deserve, to the detriment of society. The argument, the spirit, the aim and the execution have far more in common with Karl Marx than with Adam Smith.
The fact that Democrats propose using our vast capitalistic success to create this hybrid system doesn’t change the tenor or dogmatic nature of their agenda. Nor does sticking the word “democratic” in front of “socialist” make them any less dangerous. For one thing, socialists who operate in “democratic” nations do so because they have no choice. For another, democratically instituting redistributive policies doesn’t make those policies any less authoritarian.
When President Trump promised in his latest State of the Union address that “America will never be a socialist country,” it surprised a lot of Democrats. They didn’t seem to fully comprehend their own ideological positions. I’m not sure why. You might have socialistic tendencies, for instance, if you propose a federally run health care system that would ban consumers from purchasing private medical insurance, which is what leading presidential candidate Kamala Harris has done. Though she’s technically not suggesting that the Politburo run the means of production, she’s certainly headed in that direction.
You might also be a socialist if you propose a government takeover of the energy sector, which is what every politician who supports the Green New Deal is doing. Even if we stretch the imagination and concede, for the sake of argument, that these Democrats didn’t endorse the car-banning, cow fart-eliminating proposal offered by socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ridding America of 90 percent of its most affordable, most efficient and predominant energy sources in 10 — or 20 or 40 — years would necessitate a giant coercive government project that would bring unprecedented intrusions into American life.
Nearly every Democratic presidential hopeful supports the aims of this plan. Nearly every Democratic politician wants the state to lord over the entire education sector. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single problem in American life, in fact, for which Democrats don’t have a gigantic state-driven coercive solution.
These are just some of the reasons socialist Bernie Sanders has become a force on the left despite attempts to dismiss him. No Democrat running, in fact, has experienced more national success. He may not win the primary, but Sanders’ poll numbers are as good as any other current candidate’s. In a more democratic primary contest, Sanders could very easily have faced Trump as a nominee for president in 2016. Moreover, he represents the youngest and most animated faction of the left — which is to say, the future.
The thing is, Bernie hasn’t changed in his 40 years in politics. It has been the Democratic Party, whose conception of policy is now almost indistinguishable from his, that has dramatically transformed. The perceptible differences between Sanders and Warren, Harris, Beto O’Rourke and Kirsten Gillibrand are tactics and timelines, not endgames.
Nor does the fact that we’re still far from being a socialist nation negate Democrats’ central argument. Polls show that their constituents are increasingly comfortable with the word “socialism,” and though sometimes they don’t understand what it means, liberals have become increasingly comfortable with ideas associated with the philosophy, as well.
These ideas run counter to the ideals of American individual liberty and economic freedom (and are why liberals increasingly find themselves at odds with the Constitution; just ask O’Rourke). The people normalizing collectivist notions deserve to be treated with the kind of contempt and derision that Trump has thrown their way.
“America was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion, domination and control,” Trump said. “We are born free, and we will stay free.” He’s inarguably correct about the first. The second is yet to be determined.