"The threat posed to all of us, and to the democratic process from giving in to extreme rhetoric is not theoretical. Some of us faced it on a baseball field in Alexandria in June. And all of us have witnessed its corrosive effect”- Jeff Flake, Twitter (12-22-17):
I recently read a column in a major national magazine regarding millennials, Democrats, communism and socialism that I believe to be misleading. I am a capitalist – although one of this paper’s readers decided in a letter that I am a socialist, but I still believe that it is unfortunate that a respected magazine printed such a biased piece. However, it spurred me to examine the complex subject matter.
There are major differences between a Bernie Sanders-type Democratic Socialist, who wants indirect redistribution of wealth via societal programs like Social Security and Medicare, and a true Socialist, who requires that all means of production for major industries be owned and operated by the state.
Many Democrats and Republicans over the last hundred years could have … and actually have … supported Democratic Socialist ideals. The majority of House Republicans voted for the original Medicare bill in the ‘60s. So did 13 GOP Senators.
None were socialists.
Both then and now – when it is convenient for their purposes, the right wing of both parties has thrown around terms like communism and socialism in order to scare the average citizen. Dixiecrats falsely called MLK a communist and worse.
Reagan, for example, called Medicare socialism both before and after it was enacted. On the other hand, I never heard him … or others on the right today… talking about our "socialist" armed forces – employed and directed by the very government he thought so incompetent – and the urgent need to privatize our defense forces. (Full disclosure: recently there has been an increased use of mercenary private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan by Presidents of both parties.)
Many right-wingers sincerely believe that Sanders is advocating for socialized medicine. Factually, that is clearly not the case. For Sanders to be proposing "socialized medicine," consistent with the true definition of socialism, the production/delivery would have to be done by the state, as it is with the VA or the British National Health Service.
Bernie does not advocate this course of action and never has. Sanders is simply asking that we expand Medicare, one of our most popular governmental programs, to cover 100 percent of all eligible health care bills and age groups, rather than arbitrarily cutting off at 65. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that U.S. health care costs much more per capita than any and all nations with single payer… and that their mortality and morbidity rates are much better than ours in every case.
I also am tired of people on the right making the terms “socialist” and “communist” sound like they are the same thing. They are not.
In fact, if one listens to right-wing talk radio, one might think that a typical socialist believes in Trotsky’s communist idea of permanent revolution throughout the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Communists believe, among other things, in the abolishment of private property, a dictatorship of the proletariat and a one-party system. Socialists do not.
Finally, as Flake said, there is extreme rhetoric on the left. I did not like the foreign policy of “W” and believe that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died unnecessarily because of it. But, he was not a fascist. Neither is Trump, although he foments division and nationalism. Some of the things he does – like attacking the free press – are anti-democratic. He may well be the worst president in my lifetime, but he is not a fascist or Nazi.
With the current occupant of the White House leading the way, both the right and the left have increased their name calling. It is past time to stop labeling and using talking points. It is now time to clearly analyze what is actually being said and done by our pundits and politicians and to call them out when they are wrong.
Jack Bernard of Fayette County, a retired corporate executive, was a two-term county commissioner and former county Republican Party chairman in Jasper County.