If you’ve tuned into politics during this presidential primary season, you’ve probably heard the scaremongering about socialism being the monster that will bring down our country. The majority of this, of course, is from the Republican leader as he battles for his second term.
This is nothing new. The term socialism has been used for decades in trying to shame Democrats when they attempt action benefiting the people. Think of the comments made to FDR and his Social Security plan, not to mention the other New Deal programs.
Defining socialism can be a bit confusing and so most Democrat politicians want to stay clear of the label even though they campaign on the issues. Elizabeth Warren calls herself “capitalist to the bone,” but her efforts against inequality and for “capitalism with serious rules” have been loud and clear.
Joe Biden claims the one percent aren’t really the bad guys. Bernie Sanders believes they are exactly the ones killing our democracy and collapsing capitalism.
Mike Bloomberg’s billions have bought him huge campaign ads on these issues, but in fact he’s far from thinking about equality. He has a well-known past of blatant racism and misogyny, besides being an active player in the one percent.
Why is defining socialism so confusing to Americans?
Most self-described American socialists have a high regard for Nordic political practices. This includes treating their workers respectfully with better wages, benefits and pensions. This includes providing healthcare and education and nearly eliminating poverty. Their capitalistic economy is also highly regulated.
Critics of today’s socialism may instead see it as the type of authoritarian-style socialist policies used in Venezuela, once a post-capitalist ideology. Some detractors even compare socialism to the repression of the old Soviet authoritarian communism.
Combining “democratic socialism” and “social democracy” together with American-style socialism also gives extra ammo to the critics. This is especially true since Sanders declared himself to be a democratic socialist.
Detractors now have their own definitions to construe how Sanders plans to destroy the nation. Among these are false claims that he will sacrifice capitalism in order to give all the power to the people.
Sanders replies, “What democratic socialism means to me is we expand Medicare, we provide educational opportunity to all Americans, we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure… In other words, government serves the needs of all people rather than just wealthy campaign contributors.”
Interestingly, many opposed to socialism have difficulty seeing Social Security and Medicare as socialist.
We need our public libraries, fire departments, public schools and sheriff’s departments. Most of us want our taxes to keep providing and upgrading the infrastructure and public transit.
If you don’t like socialism and paying taxes, you may want to reconsider calling 911, FEMA, FBI, state troopers, or a doctor licensed by the state. You might also reconsider using any state university, the judiciary system or public restrooms.
Don’t forget to vote by March 10.
Olds is an opinion columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.