It has suddenly become fashionable among the left wing of the Democratic Party to attach “Socialist” to their political moniker, perhaps in the vain hope it will make their brand of benign political extremism more palatable than Donald Trump’s populist tripe. Very nuovo chic indeed!
Self-described benevolent Democratic Socialists like New York’s newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and veteran Vermont campaigner Sen. Bernard “Bernie” Sanders are the most prominent of this breed. They advocate “free” higher education, medical care, and mandated social and economic reforms. How to pay for all that munificence remains to be discovered. The nation is $22 trillion in debt.
Sanders, the junior United States senator from Vermont since 2007, is the longest serving independent in the Senate. He got that way keeping his socialist message behind mainstream Democratic demands for social and economic justice.
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez now say everything necessary for an upwardly mobile life in America should be free. Ideally, why not? Louisiana Kingfish Huey Long offered a chicken. Realistically, get real! Nothing indicates that the understandably insecure middle class is hot to give up what it works so hard to get for the good of larger “society.”
Perhaps these modern denizens of a socialist utopia don’t know that socialists and socialism has a checkered history in American politics. Trump certainly knows it. He is already raising the specter of socialism’s evils.
“Progressives” who think driving a socio-economic wedge into the seams of the Democratic Party will make Dems more electable need to re-examine their thinking. Defining what a so-called Democratic Socialist is might be a good first step before offering carte blanche inclusion of Democratic Socialists onto the Democratic Party platform.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines socialism as:
1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
2a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property.
2b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.
3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.
A typical American college civics class usually allows that economic theorists embrace definition #1. Social scientists prefer definition #2a, and capitalists and communists draw on definition #3 to persuade or deter the unschooled to the beneficence and dangers of Socialism, Marxism, Communism and Capitalism.
The same dictionary defines democracy as:
a: government by the people, especially rule of the majority.
b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.
There is no mention of socialism or capitalism, the economic engine that drives American democracy.
Perhaps most current proponents of socialism are too young to understand that 28 years ago, half of Europe was literally in the chains of a vicious socialist political system. Communism’s “worker’s paradise” was a Clockwork Orange compendium of deceit, denial and incredible injustice.
A trip to Eastern Europe still in the sway of Communism after the breakup of the Soviet Union in late 1992 offered a startling contrast to Western democratic capitalism. It was impossible not to compare the caste of the two cultures when confronted endlessly by the ubiquitous symbols of socialism meant to convince the unbelievers. For those who couldn’t be convinced there was stark justice in the form of gulags, prison islands, Siberian exile or drumhead trials and a bullet in the neck.
Socialism’s stark fundamentalism in 1993 offered repetitious odes to a political system in Eastern Europe and Russia that stank of coal and decay everywhere the Communists dominated. The rich and powerful “reborn communists” in Eastern Europe trying to sell themselves as benevolent democratic socialists often had to run for their lives.
Nothing born in Eastern European socialism worked well, from the strange green hue of their televisions to the elevators that may or may not work at the moment. Making a telephone call between two cities, much less countries, involved long periods of being assured that somebody was working to connect your call.
A routine trip on Aeroflot, the national airlines of the Soviet Union and a crown jewel of Communist technological achievement, would merit a story on cable news. Imagine a U.S. carrier incessantly belching putrid odors or emitting noxious white smoke that barely draws more than a muttered “Communist shit” from the passengers.
The presumption that being a Democratic Socialist is daringly seductive suggests believers may be unfamiliar with the system that gave the world Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Vladimir Putin and Joseph Stalin, arguably the worst mass murderer in history. Stalin used genocide like a scalpel to rid the Soviet Union of dissidents.
Stalin was the dictator of the USSR between 1924 and 1953, the golden age of Soviet Socialist accomplishments. His regime killed 50 million people who got in his way. “One death is a tragedy; one million deaths is a statistic,” he reputedly said.
The heirs of authoritarian socialism are today interfering with America’s political system. The self-assurance and panache that made the United States an economic and political pillar in the world has gone missing.
For the good of the Democratic Party, the horrendous name that new socialists have taken needs to be expunged. Selling more extremism with jingoistic bullshit is not an an option, no matter how smart and trendy.