Stop me if you’ve heard this before (you have): Progressives are proposing some form of government spending/program and conservatives are calling it “socialism.”

You’ve heard it before because it’s always socialism.

When FDR proposed Social Security, that was socialism.

When the idea of Medicare came about, that was socialism (Ronald Reagan said so!)

And of course, most recently, Obamacare – the system in which health insurance access was expanded to millions via the existing private insurance network – well, that was socialism too.

It’s always socialism, all the time, from the right. It is boring in its consistency and repetitiveness. Can’t they come up with something new? The best variation they can ever come up with usually seems to be communism, but they just mean A LOT of socialism.

That appears to be the buzzword they’re going to ride from now until election day 2020, which as of this writing means we collectively have 634 days of writing to contend with.

The problem for the right is that after having described every social program of the last 80 years or so “socialism,” the attack has lost all potency and effectiveness.

To paraphrase The Incredibles, if everything is socialism, nothing is.

The dirty secret of American politics is that people really like these programs.

We like old people having a pension because during the Depression it really sucked to see them wither on the vine with nothing to fall back on.

We like having health care for everybody. It’s extremely popular. Why wouldn’t it be? It means you won’t die. It means that you don’t have to wait for a medical situation to reach an emergency room crisis before you have it taken care of.

“Socialism,” as conservatives describe it, is very popular. In the real world of America, where these programs do nothing to impede the creation of capital and the exchange of goods – aka capitalism – this isn’t much of a controversy.

It’s just that in the past the right was reliably able to wave their hands in the air, make ghost noises, and scare off people with the “socialism” boogeyman.

I think those days are numbered.

For all their scaremongering and electoral success, Obamacare has been the law for nearly a decade now. Republicans held the entire government and did not repeal it (though they attacked the hell out of it). It’s so enshrined now in the law that these very same Republicans campaigned at the end of 2018 in favor of preserving coverage for pre-existing conditions.

We’ve seen this show before, over and over again.

In 2012, Paul Ryan, who never saw an old person enjoying their sunset years that he likes, ludicrously campaigned in retirement communities in Florida in favor of Medicare and Social Security. He spent his entire political career trying to turn these programs into mulch for the Koch Brothers, but when his rear was on the line as part of the Romney-Ryan ticket, he sang from the FDR playbook.

The generation of people who are instantly triggered by “socialism” and the related red scare are dying off.

Every year there are less and less of them in the electorate, replaced by younger generations – from later Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials – who don’t automatically make brown streaks in their underpants when a politician screams about “socialism.”

Even if they don’t consider themselves socialists in the numbers that the youngest demographics do, the rest of us have heard it invoked so many times for so many things that it has a numbing effect.

Weighing the societal upside of universal health care and increased taxation for the ultra-rich compared to being labeled a “socialist” is not as lopsided in favor of effectively doing nothing in 2019-2020 as it was in 1991 or 1971.

After hearing about the mythical Obamacare death panel in which a group of government bureaucrats would choke out Grandma, but then never seeing that materialize, most Americans are probably likely to at least be socialism-curious when it comes to these great ideas.

I think the socialism attack is dead, or at best, in its last throes. It was used far too dishonestly by the right and now they’re only screaming amongst themselves.

Republicans can keep running through the village that “the socialists are coming, the socialists are coming,” but the villagers are more and more likely to respond with a loud, collective yawn.

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1 Comment

  1. First, I contend that Obamacare has been so gutted, underfunded, or changed over the past years that the envisioned system can not function. It was a well thought out plan; though perhaps the computer system was under-tested. But it’s dead now & there’s no way to resuscitate it while Republicans hold any lever of power.

    You’re right about “socialism”. It’s been an attack slogan for 100 years plus. Yet I see no reason to waive that red flag in the face of those that might otherwise support the intended program. Why alienate even one voter for sake of a name? Why create opposition; however unwarranted?

    I suggest that the polling you cite tends to reflect only the wide goals. Support diminishes when we get into the specifics of how to achieve those goals. As we learned with Obamacare; don’t rely on polling support for vague goals.

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