Ah, yes, the socialism debate in American politics. Its back; dusted off, re-polished and ready for reuse to score cheap political shots against Democrats trying dislodge President Donald Trump from his White House perch. From Republican talking points to deliberate obfuscation in the mainstream media, "socialism" is perhaps the most widely used political dog whistle in American politics a convenient and radio-actively charged word that conjures up in the populace's collective minds, an intrusive bogeyman watching their every move, making everyone poor by redistributing the riches of the wealthy, and a punitive, repressive government that oppresses and controls the daily lives of ordinary Americans.
Thrown in for more panic effect is the Cuban Menace and the Russian Red Scare. Ginned up First and Second Amendment zealots spew ignorant fake news adding to the toxic narrative of the evils of socialism tarring anyone who even utters the word or remotely mentions it as a political pariah. However, since the 2016 U.S. presidential elections people like Senator Bernie Sanders have had the courage to declare themselves as "Social Democrats." But that has not stopped republicans. and in particular President Trump, from declaring that America will never be "socialist."
That's good for rally applause, inane triumphalist pseudo-patriotism and chest thumping banking on Americans general ignorance of what EXACTLY socialism is and how it works. In the last State of the Union address, Republican Senators and House Representatives got far more exercise jumping to their feet to applaud almost every sentence of the endless Trumpian rhetoric. In fact, one the loudest applause was Trump's attempt to blame progressive Democrats for the problems of the current Venezuelan government, proclaiming the U.S. "will never be a socialist country" to a loud standing ovation from Republicans and many Democrats; and chants of "USA, USA, USA."
But let me inject a sobering dose of reality here: Like so much of Trump's speech, that statement was manifestly false. And let me be characteristically blunt: The United States of America like every other western nation with an advanced economy, such as the Great Britain, Germany, France, and Japan is already a partly socialist country, with a mixed economy and any number of government programs and services that serve the public good.
Thus, by this definition, the American Social Security system is a "socialist" program. It's a government-run pension system that cuts out private money managers. Add Medicare a single-payer, government-run health insurance program for those over 65 and the proposed Medicare-For-All that would simply extend this to the rest of the population and we see socialism in practice right here in the great USA. The push-back against a health system that could, in practice, benefit ALL Americans is in sync with the dredged up "Never Socialist America" political narrative.
More objective analysis of the American social and economic system points to the minimum wage, maximum work hours, and child labor laws that go back over a 100 years that are likewise "socialist" programs, in that the government intervenes in the capitalist free market system to require employers to meet minimum standards that might not be met in a pure, unregulated "free" market. Agricultural and energy subsidies are also socialist-type programs.
A sane, measured look at the American socio-economic and political system, stripped of opportunist Red-baiting and petty name-calling, reveals the real substantive debate is not between capitalism vs. socialism, but about the pragmatic appropriate balance between the two. For example, died-in-the-wool conservatives (Republicans) want to reduce Social Security and Medicare benefits and tinker with the numbers of people who qualify.
On the other hand, progressives (Democrats) want to increase and expand these programs to benefit more Americans. For instance, many progressives want to move towards a Medicare system covering all Americans, not just those over 65 ("Medicare for All") while so-called Clinton/centrist Democrats want to protect the Obama era, Affordable Care Act, which is a nothing more than a hybrid system between private insurance and government insurance and regulation. Lastly, conservatives want to go back to the all-private system which pre-dated the ACA.
Today, the U.S. government already supports higher education (that's socialism) but progressives want to make a public college education free or debt-free. Conservatives support government subsidies for agriculture and the oil energy (that's socialism too!) while many progressives believe this is "reverse welfare" for the rich and want to reduce them. Just recently, a Gallup poll this summer concluded that millennials are more favorable to the socialist side than the capitalist side of the American socio-economic and political equation, with 51% having a positive view of socialism, and only 47% having a positive view of capitalism.
This seismic political shift was manifested in the last mid-term election to Congress of New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other young mostly female progressives who dressed in dramatic white at the State of the Union - spoke louder than Trump's words. This represents a generational political and cultural shift that will likely transform the United States in the coming years.
That's because unlike their parents and grandparents, these young progressives were children, or not yet born, when the Red-baiting of the Cold War made socialism a dirty word. They do not and cannot identify with that bygone, charged political era.
President Trump's constantly proclamating that America "will never be a socialist country" is an historical throw-back and reactionary attempt to resurrect the banal McCarthyite red-baiting of his childhood in order to put his thumb on the capitalist side of the scale favored by the oligarchs in the ongoing debate over socialism and how much socialism America should have.
The political conundrum for an aging political cabal, especially in the United States Senate, and an American president more in line with the old, backward red-baiting era of the 1950s and 60s, when arguably these things "Made America Great," is now to straddle the line of old-time Republican political fundamentalism with this new generation that is viewing socialism sympathetically and favorably. So, there's the historical facts: the old guard, white males and those who build their political modus operandi on 20th century narratives and memes are on the losing side of history. Ultimately, this is a losing strategy. The fact is that progressives and a new generation of left-leaning, unabashed Democratic Socialists and savvy, astute voters represent the future of America.
AOC and the so-called "Squad" not the septuagenarians and octogenarians, and old white Republican politicians who represent the past are the Americans of today and tomorrow. And they are not afraid of socialism. The revolution may just be hiding in plain sight.