The Universal Notebook: Socialism, you know you want it

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Donald Trump and his followers are all “fascists” and all Democrats are “socialists.”

Neither is true, but in post-truth America just saying so makes it so.

“America was founded on liberty and independence,” Trump said in his State of the Union address, “and not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

But the choice between freedom and socialism is a false choice. Trump points to authoritarian regimes in Russia, North Korea and Venezuela, dictatorships he actually admires, and calls that socialism. It’s not.

The socialism espoused by Americans in 2019 is not state socialism, government ownership of the means of production, centralized economies and collective farms. The new American socialism looks to Scandinavia, perhaps the most successful societies the world has ever known; free-market economies that share the wealth so that all citizens can have an education, health care, a living wage and housing.

Progressives believe “we are all in this together.” What gets called socialism by conservatives, we see simply as Americanism, E Pluribus Unum. Conservatives believe in “Every man (and they do mean ‘man’) for himself.” They see helping others as a sign of weakness that only encourages dependency.

This is nothing new of course. Republicans brayed “Socialism!” at FDR and the New Deal. They opposed Social Security as state socialism. They screamed that LBJ and Medicare were “Socialist!” More recently, they branded Obamacare “Socialism,” ignoring the fact that it’s what the American people want. Look for a lot more “Socialist” hysteria from the right as 2020 approaches.

Socialism is the new GOP bogeyman. “Socialist” scares the pants off Trump supporters the way “Communist” did a generation ago. Conservatives are scared witless by people of color, powerful women and socialism. So Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is their worst nightmare – a powerful Latina woman who is a Democratic Socialist.

AOC has emerged as a champion of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. The devil will be in the details, but the aims of universal health coverage and an economic reform plan aimed at combating climate change while making the United States a more just and sustainable place to live should be core Democratic ideals.

The free-market capitalism that Republicans espouse is a short-sighted system of exploitation of resources and labor that results in abuses such as mortgage-backed securities that lead to economic collapse requiring government bailout. (Socialism?). Unregulated capitalism begets criminal pricing for health care and pharmaceuticals, and the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

The top 10 percent in America own more than 70 percent of the wealth, while the bottom 50 percent own less than 2 percent. In 2017, 82 percent of the wealth created worldwide went to the top 1 percent. This is why AOC has famously called capitalism “irredeemable.” The few profit from the misery of the many.

“Capitalism, to me, is an ideology of capital,” Ocasio-Cortez said earlier this month. “The most important thing is the concentration of capital, and it means that we seek and prioritize profit and the accumulation of money above all else, and we seek it at any human and environmental costs.”

Money, money, money, not freedom, is what Trump and his followers are all about. So what is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez all about?

“When we talk about ideas, for example, like democratic socialism,” she explained, “it means putting democracy and society first, instead of capital first.”

Sounds downright all-American to me. Bring it on.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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