It’s happening already, and boy, are you going to be bored with it by the time November of 2020 comes around. It’s the Socialist Scare. It’s been around for many years, and has been used by many politicians, even ones more scrupulous than Trump—though that is setting the ethical bar as low as possible without actually dropping it in the mud that is Trump’s natural habitat. Politicians recognize the notion of socialism as a useful scare tactic because it is not formally an idea that originated in America (damn foreign stuff!), and because though it is a complex notion in today’s world, opposition to a simplified version of it can easily be shaped into mindless campaign chants in the great tradition of—oh, I don’t know—say, “Lock Her Up!” or “Build That Wall!”
With a little imagination, you can picture some of the “headlines” Fox and Friends will feed Mr. Trump to get the ball rolling: “Welfare queens own salad spinners!” “Destitute deadbeats are coming for your gold fillings!” Maybe even “Catholic priests are getting ready to molest your check book!”
Some of this nonsense was already on display at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, where people who used to be Republicans came to place their withered sense of integrity and decency on the flaming altar of Trumpism.
In Trump’s two-hour eructation there, he tossed out some real doozies about socialism, none of them accurate; but then to be accurate he would have had to introduce complexity and shading into his discussion, and Donald doesn’t do any of that. Too much trouble. And it’s not what his zombies go to him for, anyway. They want raw, bloody fear-steaks, and he was very free in distributing those.
To focus on just two of his most inane remarks, we first have: “America will never be a socialist country.” It’s a lot like saying Emma Stone will never star in every American movie. True enough, but not because we don’t like a lot of things about Emma; it’s because we are all very clear that she wouldn’t be best as an exclusive diet for moviegoers.
It is not in the interest of Trump’s fear-mongering to make clear that pure socialism, i.e., collective or government ownership of virtually all business and industry, is absolutely not the vision of ANY American politician, regardless of their stripe. If he had pointed out that pure socialism is just as undesirable as pure capitalism, he would have confounded everyone by having told the truth. Instead, he chose to look at his audience with that grim, constipated-Mussolini expression and make his misleading statement: partly true, in that America will never be purely socialist; but also false in that there are already many socialistic features in American society, such as Social Security and Medicare, that are recognized as having helped millions of citizens to live more fulfilled lives.
Trump’s most absurd remark about socialism, however, was this: “Socialism is not about the environment. It’s not about justice. It’s not about virtue. It’s about only one thing. It’s called ‘power for the ruling class.’”
This is enough of a face-palm to break the average person’s nose. As long as we are talking about socialistic programs that genuinely enhance the lives of its citizens—like agencies assuring clean air and water, providing decent health care, social security, and public education, then yes, actually, socialism IS about the environment, justice, and virtue. But “power for the ruling class”? That’s just a piece of brassy Trump twaddle. It assumes that the government is the “ruling class;” so what does that make the hugely wealthy interests in America, ones like the financial, tech, industrial, and health care sectors? Since when are they the handmaidens of government? Truth is, it’s the other way around, of course. The money moves the politicians, pulls their strings, and that is just the way money wants it. They don’t WANT to be the government. They know that if they were to openly make that move, it would likely spark a revolt even among our heavily sedated, somnambulant citizenry. No, they are happier being the “ruling class” that buys influence with lobbying and massive campaign contributions, ruling from behind the screen of our republican form of government.
Contrary to Trump’s nonsense, socialistic elements of government are actually a firewall for ordinary citizens, guarding against the overwhelming power of concentrated wealth in America; and a mix of capitalism and socialism is a very sensible way to organize any society. Just ask well-served citizens in scores of socialistically-inflected republics today. Trump’s decision to stand this idea on its head doesn’t reveal anything beyond his consistent willingness to misrepresent the truth to score cheap political points. Which unfortunately isn’t news to anyone.