America’s Problem with the S-Word…Socialism

Photo by Kyle Mills | Unsplash
Photo by Kyle Mills | Unsplash

Socialism. The word sends chills down the spines of many Americans. Yet even as large swaths of the country rail against the concept, many can not define it correctly, identify Democratic Socialist countries, or realize that America is already, in many respects, a Democratic Socialist nation. As a teacher for 41 years, I always told my students to define their terms before engaging in a discussion. I will use the definition that members of the Democratic Party espouse: “Socialism is taxpayer funds being used collectively to benefit society as a whole, despite income, contribution, or ability.”


The term has taken on such pejorative connotations that even people who espouse its practices will deny being a member of such a vile group. When Republicans tried pinning the label on Joe Biden in this last election, he recoiled with, “I beat the socialist,” Biden said. He then added, “Ask yourself: Do I look to you like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?”


We continue to see this aversion to socialist ideas play out down the ballot. While the Democrats maintained control of the House on Election Night, many within the party were shocked to see the GOP gain eight more House seats. In a three-hour private call among House Democrats, Centrist Dems blamed the “far-left” wing of their party for the loss. “We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again… We lost good members because of that,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia) said heatedly.


This shows that many politicians – on both sides of the aisle – treat the term socialist as if it is just a notch above social deviant.


The truth is that we all benefit from socialist ideals. Yes, think about it. I’m talking about the obvious, like Social Security and everyday things that we take for granted. So, if you disavow socialism, you may have to give up these governmental benefits:


  • Don’t ride on that road or highway. These are entirely paid for by taxes for the benefit of the public.


  • Do you have an overdue book out of the public library? Better return it. Tax funds support libraries.


  • Did you ever need to call 911? Well, suck it up. Taxes support the police, many fire companies, rescue squads, etc.


  • Our armed forces are the most massive example of socialism our country has ever known. The military received nearly one trillion dollars this year alone.


  • You may pay to have someone pick up your trash, but where does it go? A public landfill, thanks to socialist policies. I thought you got me there. My grandparents used to bury it in their yard before, but now we have to deal with plastics.


  • Are you going to Washington, D.C. to visit museums and monuments on your next vacation? The government funds the entirety of the Smithsonian. If you don’t like socialism, then the arts will soon become a privilege for the rich.


  • Republicans love business subsidies: they are what keeps our nation’s farmers in business. Without them, our farmers would get priced out by markets overseas and we’d have to pay more at the grocery store. Government subsidies are just another way to use taxpayer dollars for public benefit.


  • And finally, there is the Environmental Protection Agency (or “EPA”). They monitor poisons in our water and air and programs to combat climate change. Who knows what our country would look like without them?


The irritating truth is that Joe Biden may have lost Florida because of the word socialism. In their advertising and door-to-door canvassing, Republicans repeatedly stressed to the Cuban and Venezuelan communities the notion that he was in bed with the extreme, radical socialist wing of the Democratic Party. They succeeded in associating Biden, the supposed socialist, to the tyrants many Hispanic immigrants fled. These staunchly patriotic Americans despise Madera, Castro, and Chavez. However, these dictators were socialist in name only, and Florida’s Latin-American community was conned into believing that Biden is another socialist authoritarian. This quote from President Truman is especially pertinent:

“Socialism is a scare word that they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they have called public power. Socialism is what they have called Social Security. Socialism is what they have called farm Price supports. Socialism is what they have called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.”


Bolstered by a vast right-wing media ecosystem, conservatives are so much better at the use of propaganda than liberals. Constantly on the defensive, liberal politicians are frequently demonized, especially by Trump. Perhaps Democrats are holding themselves by a higher standard, but it clearly isn’t helping their efforts to push progressive reform. President-elect Biden and Democrats in general need to stop being so evenhanded, put on their gator-skinned gloves and use some messaging if they want to silence their critics.


President-elect Biden, if you would rather not upset the aura of compromise, find a surrogate who will. We need to find a means to combat the misinformation and right-wing propaganda trying to destroy any chance of civil discussion. I suggest Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Please give her a tall platform and step back! I don’t understand why Democrats cave to the demonization of this brilliant woman and acquiesce with Republican’s effort to tarnish her name. She is the sharpest tool in your shed. Why else do they go after a 31-year-old first-term woman from the Bronx with such vengeance and wrath? She scares the pants off Republicans.


The next four years should be spent educating the public on socialism – and any form of politics for that matter. The public is woefully undereducated on the realities of political science and has fallen victim to every form of misinformation. In reality, so much needed reform hinges on socialist policies. Healthcare reform hinges on socialism. The environment, clean air, clean water, and clean soil hinges on it. More urgently, when the COVID-19 vaccination comes out, it will be funded and distributed through publicly funded initiatives. But any reform will be blasted by effective, right-wing propaganda and branded as a precursor to a socialist apocalypse. Like it or not, we need socialist approaches to our problems, even in America.


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