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Our Socialist Democratic Party

While certain left-of-center commenters on this blog say that I’m being an alarmist in talking about socialism among Democratic presidential candidates, it doesn’t look that way from inside the party’s strategists. In National Journal today, this from Josh Kraushaar: [1]

Anyone tracking the positions of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates would think there weren’t any moderates left in the party. California Sen. Kamala Harris reiterated [2] that her co-sponsorship of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All legislation would mean the abolition of private insurance at a nationally-televised town hall last month. Five leading candidates endorsed a Green New Deal that imposes a top-down revolution of American society to mitigate the impact of climate change.

But when you look at the polls breaking down the actual Democratic electorate, you’ll find limited support for such socialist-minded schemes. Broaden out to the overall electorate, and it’s easy to see how Democrats could be giving President Trump a lifeline to a second term despite his widespread unpopularity.

“We are on an out-of-control roller coaster going 100 miles-per-hour, and we have no functioning brake,” said one liberal Democratic strategist who is alarmed by the rising tide of socialism within the party. “No one is leading and that void could not be more clear.”

What’s so remarkable about this rapid leftward shift is that it’s working against the party’s best interests—both for the individual candidates and their chances of defeating Trump next year. So many candidates are trying to fill the most-progressive lane of the party that they’re splitting that share of the vote evenly. At the same time, there’s plenty of evidence that many rank-and-file Democrats are looking for a pragmatist who can actually win the presidency.

Whee! I cannot wait to get started on this book about the danger socialism poses to the US. The proposal is going out to publishers in a few days.

Some of you fault me for tying economic socialism to cultural progressivism. I agree that in theory, one can have a stronger welfare state without adopting the moral and cultural values of the Social Justice Warriors. But that’s not how the real world works. It is true that people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez focus more on economics than on culture, but they do that because they already assume far-left cultural positions. Neither Sanders nor Ocasio-Cortez has to run in polities where abortion, LGBT rights, racial politics, etc., are contested. There is already a high degree of cultural heterogeneity homogeneity around these issues within their constituencies.

Ask yourself: would any Democratic presidential primary contender in 2020 stand a ghost of a chance if he or she took a moderate stance on issues pertaining to race, gender (= abortion), or sexuality (= transgender rights)? Be honest. You can’t just wish these things away.

It’s true that the Republicans have a similar problem. Both parties are beholden to extreme partisans in their bases. But President Trump has his base onside. The conventional wisdom in 2016 was that the Republicans had nominated someone so extreme that he couldn’t possibly win. Yet he did. You watch: the Democrats are going to nominate someone so extreme on economics and culture that they’re going to ensure Trump’s re-election.

It is possible, of course, that the Dems could pull a Trump, and nominate some out-of-left-field candidate who manages to pull off a victory anyway, because enough people in the middle are so sick of Trump that they prefer to take a chance on the devil they don’t know. But I don’t see that as likely. In any case, the New York Times might believe that Trump is manufacturing a fake villain in “socialism,” but it’s pretty clear that he’s not.

UPDATE: Reader “EarlyBird” comments:

I agree that the economic left-progressive-“socialists” taking over the Dem Party right now are also on the extreme left of social issues.

But besides the Supreme Court – which I understand is no small thing – how will the Darwinian-libertarian Republicans slow the leftward drift? Yes, the USSC will help protect the erosion of religious rights. That’s very important. But what else?

Are national Republicans somehow going to be able to break the spell of the left’s toxic identity politics? Do they even care? No.

And state Republicans will continue to do well in states where Republicans do well, i.e., deep red ones, so that’s a wash either way.

Simply put, professional conservative politicians are not going to save our culture, but will continue to erode Americans’ faith in a fair capitalism, undermine the middle class and thereby add to the havoc that does to our culture.

They are done even pretending to care about “fiscal restraint,” and have decided to shrink government by bankrupting it by giving away more tax cuts to billionaires.

Guy’s got a point about the cluelessness of standard-grade Republicans. It’s not 1980. The big corporations that they love so much are woke as hell.

UPDATE.2: Robby Soave at Reason explains this better than I have. The reason why you cannot separate economic socialism from cultural leftism is intersectionality. [3] Excerpts:

As I explain my forthcoming book, PANIC ATTACK: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (pre-order it here [4]), intersectionality is a philosophical framework that has come to completely dominate progressive activist thinking in the 30 years since the sociologist Kimberle Crenshaw first coined it. An intersectional progressive recognizes that racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and transphobia, and age-ism, and classism, and so on, are separate-but-related phenomena. To ignore just one of these sources of oppression is to fail intersectionality; the seriously social-justice minded must treat all of these issues as equally important and confront them en masse.

 

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119 Comments To "Our Socialist Democratic Party"

#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On February 9, 2019 @ 1:05 pm

I read Breitbart News regularly. Although I am daily offended by their pro-Israel/Likud slant to foreign policy issues, I find their coverage of immigration issues and their coverage of jobs and trade issues directly affecting American workers to be first rate – often indispensible.

In the aftermath of President Trump’s State of the Union Address Breitbart Store has begun marketing “#NEVERSOCIALIST USA” T-shirts, long-sleeved T-shirts, pullovers, hats, bumper stickers, coolies (pack of 6), and mugs.

[5]

As a Trump supporter, I think of this Breitbart #NEVERSOCIALIST USA project as a faux-project — a distraction from the real issues facing Trump supporters and the rest of America.

For example, this #NEVERSOCIALIST USA distraction will surely lend demagogic support to Republican establishment politicians who refuse to have an honest debate about all sorts of issues (universal medical care is a good example), but who instead will label whatever changes they oppose as “socialist.”

I am certainly not accusing you, Mr. Dreher, of being a conscious part of this demagogic, right wing, #NEVERSOCIALIST USA distraction. But I fear that what you are proposing to write a book about will lend aid and comfort to this demagogic distraction.

#2 Comment By Russell Arben Fox On February 9, 2019 @ 2:24 pm

Once again, skipping lots of comments, going back to the original post. First you suggest that:

Anyone tracking the positions of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates would think there weren’t any moderates left in the party.

So, okay, there are no moderates left in the Democratic party, they’ve all become socialists, because of Medicare-for-All (an important policy vision that, should it be legislatively worked out and implemented, would probably do much to save the family of the friend of yours you mentioned who lost his job, Rod, but leave that aside) and the Green New Deal (an admittedly ambitious and difficult to construct legislatively policy vision that almost certainly couldn’t ever be fully accomplished, but at least is a vision that is taking the catastrophic predictions of an overwhelmingly majority of every serious scientist in the world seriously, but again, leave that aside).

Okay. Then you suggest:

I agree that in theory, one can have a stronger welfare state without adopting the moral and cultural values of the Social Justice Warriors. But that’s not how the real world works.

So…the evidence that “socialists” are fully committed to using the Democratic party as the vehicle to deliver a fully secularizing transgender ideology upon the heterosexual families of America is…Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal? Economic socialism is proof that “socialism” as it may be realized through the Democratic party in the real world can only be coherent if it is understood as identical with the imposition of an irreligious and fully abstract metaphysics?

Ah.

#3 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On February 9, 2019 @ 2:45 pm

@MikeCA

Am glad you at least narrowed the very vague “socialism” down to the democratic variety (to the extent it actually IS “democratic”). We have yet to go the full monty i.e. Western Europe and O Canada! but, with SS and Medicare–not mention Medicare For All proposals–we’re on the way.

#4 Comment By Barry F Keane On February 9, 2019 @ 4:40 pm

If you want to measure how socialist a country is, the simplest objective indicator is the ratio of total government spending to GDP: per OECD that’s about the same (38 to 41%) in the USA, Japan, and UK. USA spending is equal to those outright democratic-socialist countries because we’ve socialized the military-industrial complex, healthcare for the elderly, and the too-big-to-fail financial sector. I wish Republicans would spare us the dogma that everything’s a manichean choice between socialism vs individualism. Democratic-socialist countries recognize they can’t compete in modern industry without government involvement: infrastructure, tax policy, education. USA won WWII but lost the peace because our economy was not devastated by the war and so the baby-boomer generation has never considered industry to be a national security issue.

The Green New Deal may not be the right answer, but neither was Trump and people voted for him anyway as a protest against our clueless ruling class. Likewise, unless the Republicans come up with positive solutions instead of negative mud-slinging then 2020 will be a major upset.

In 2016 Trump proved that a candidate could be unanimously hated by Wall St and still lose. Trump won because the two party alignment had dramatically changed: the Democratic Party definitively abandoned the working class and aligned itself 100% with Wall St. Trump had a golden opportunity to capture the Democrat’s former constituency: get control over military adventurism, protect the working class against unchecked immigration, and develop free-market alternatives to control medical costs. Instead his government spends $800 billion/year on military and has done nothing about immigration and medical costs. So $7 trillion over 10 years for the GND is not beyond the pale, and even if it solves nothing, at least it acknowledges that the government should at least try to do something for the working and middle classes. The Democrats will regain the working class, and for Republicans it will be game over.

#5 Comment By Deggjr On February 9, 2019 @ 5:18 pm

Others have asked the question but I don’t think I saw the answer; what is your definition of socialism Mr. Dreher?

Is it universal healthcare, wealth taxation, guaranteed income, free college, green power, other?

What programs, if any, are excluded from the definition of socialism? Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, energy and water public utilities, graduated income tax, infrastructure, other?

(I think we can all agree no one wants Khmer Rouge/Great Leap Forward style socialism.)

Note One: One way to implement Medicare For All would be to continue to allow Employer Sponsored Healthcare. If you lose it, you can elect Medicare For All but you can never go back. It might take ten(?) years to eliminate Employer Sponsored Healthcare in the private sector.

Note Two: If you own a home you pay a wealth tax now in the form of property taxes. For many years I paid a wealth tax on wealth held by the bank.

#6 Comment By Lamm2 On February 9, 2019 @ 5:32 pm

“7 trillion over 10 years for the GND is not beyond the pale, and even if it solves nothing, at least it acknowledges that the government should at least try to do something for the working and middle classes.“

That’s awfully expensive virtue signaling. It also lacks the collateral damage costs in the human lives harmed above and beyond.

#7 Comment By New England Dissident On February 9, 2019 @ 6:05 pm

The reason why leftist economics is so strongly correlated with cultural leftism is not due to the concept of intersectionality. Rather, it is that the Left has abandoned nature as a standard. In consequence, they believe that economic relations are socially constructed and that it is not by nature that productive individuals have the primary title to the property that they have produced. And so, private property can be rearranged more or less at will. The Left’s abandonment of nature also causes them to believe that personal identity and social relations are socially constructed. Hence, they argue for transgenderism, gay rights, radical feminism, etc. Each fragment of the Left is in rebellion against one or another aspect of nature. This fragmentation threatens to weaken them politically. And so they have devised intersectionality as a way to permit them to connect various “injustices” in order to multiply their political power. No one is free unless all are free. Intersectionality reflects the Critical Theory “insight” that our society is shot through with structures of oppression that marginalize the weak. In reality, the “intersectionality” crowd is an alliance of rebels who refuse to meet nature’s unforgiving standard.

#8 Comment By cka2nd On February 10, 2019 @ 2:24 pm

Dear Janwaar Bibi,

I can’t be concerned about the BJP because my government supports Saudi Arabia and Israel? I can’t be concerned about a right-wing and sectarian Hindu party (I don’t know enough about the BJP to call them fascist, and I try to shy away from fundamentalist in discussing religions about which I am not all that familiar, so I used neither word to describe the BJP) because there is also Islamist violence in India? I assure you, I am capable of entertaining two thoughts in my head at once, sometimes even three, four or five.

Sincerely,

cka2nd

#9 Comment By JonF On February 10, 2019 @ 6:35 pm

Re: Trump had a golden opportunity to capture the Democrat’s former constituency

Except he didn’t: he managed to get only the WHITE working class. What’s more, Trump’s electorate as a whole was above median income, suggesting it was not exactly a coalition on the put-upon workers.

#10 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 11, 2019 @ 4:53 am

“Trump’s electorate as a whole was above median income, suggesting it was not exactly a coalition on the put-upon workers.”

I’m below poverty according to income, and the people I know who voted for Trump are too.

Even Hillary acknowledged this, bragging that “her people” were the makers, not the deplorable “takers”, her coastal elites responsible for most of the wealth generation, even if it was all for themselves.

Yep, I even know minority individuals – Latino, black, women – who voted for Trump out of a sense of outrage at the self-serving elites who keep choosing who we even are allowed to vote for.

#11 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On February 11, 2019 @ 9:05 am

Many doctors simply won’t accept Medicare as presently constituted. And God knows how much the system has been bilked via Medicare fraud! Now here we are, talking about Medicare For All. Will doctors be COMPELLED to accept Medicare under pain of losing their licenses to practice? And who’s going to mind the cash register? As to the latter I would hope that they would do a better job than they’re doing now.

Notwithstanding that eventually this country will probably have some form of socialized medicine, just know that the road is a crooked thoroughfare–in more ways than one.

#12 Comment By JonF On February 11, 2019 @ 11:34 am

Connecticut Farmer, a noncoercive path toward expanding physician acceptance of a universal health program (Medicare or whatever) would be loan forgiveness or public funding of medical educations.
These days however an increasing number of doctors are employees of large corporate medical practices so the decision of what insurance networks to join is out of their hands.

#13 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 11, 2019 @ 2:12 pm

Notwithstanding that eventually this country will probably have some form of socialized medicine, just know that the road is a crooked thoroughfare–in more ways than one.

I’d be happy to deal on that basis. Yes, any good thing can and will be scammed, so measures should be taken to keep it to a minimum. And I’ve read that Senator Sanders proposes to end Medicare Part C, aka Medicare Managed Care. I can relate to a desire to cut private profit makers out of the public financing stream. But, as it happend, this socialist just signed up for a Part C plan. Why? Because under traditional Medicare, I pay an $800+ annual deductible, and a 20 percent coinsurance. The particular Part C plan I signed up for has no deductible, very little coinsurance, and a lot of copays. I’d rather have the copays. At least I know up front what I’m going to be paying. I know I could never afford the premiums for Medigap insurance.

Which brings me to one of my favorite points about doing socialism right: diversity! If we’re going to have a single payer system, there need to be multiple options. Right now, the for-profit Part C providers are offering the options. But there is no reason there couldn’t be five or ten different public options within Medicare for All. The books have to balance for all of them, but how to do it could vary a good deal.

#14 Comment By Lizzy1980 On February 11, 2019 @ 2:42 pm

Rod: I suppose it could also be the case that facially neutral policies on race that disproportionately affect blacks could be racist (e.g., literacy tests for voting under Jim Crow), but I don’t believe that disproportionate impact is itself sufficient to call something racist (or anti-Christian).”

Just to be clear, this is not how disproportionate impact analysis works. Courts do not rely on the disproportionate impact to determine whether a policy or practice constitutes illegal discrimination. Instead, a disproportionate impact raises the inference that a policy or practice illegally discriminates. Once this inference has been raised, then the proponent of the policy/practice is required to show that, notwithstanding its disproportionate impact on given class (race, gender, religion, etc.), there are legitimate, legally permissible reasons for the policy or practice. If the proponent can demonstrate a bona fide reason, then plaintiff who has alleged illegal discrimination will lose.

The textbook example of this would be a requirement for, say, warehouse workers to be able to comfortably lift 40 lbs. This requirement will result in fewer women qualifying for those warehouse jobs; it will have a disproportionate impact on women. If women applicants filed a lawsuit against the warehouse alleging they weren’t hired because of sex discrimination, once they demonstrated the disproportionate impact, the warehouse owners would have to show that the actual job duties of a warehouse worker require the worker to lift boxes that routinely weigh as much as 40 lbs. If most of the boxes do, in fact, weigh that much, then the women will lose their lawsuit. However, if most boxes weigh only 10 lbs and not 40 lbs, the women will most likely win because the job can really be performed by people that can only lift 10 lbs.

From a quick Wikipedia search:

This form of discrimination occurs where an employer does not intend to discriminate; to the contrary, it occurs when identical standards or procedures are applied to everyone, despite the fact that they lead to a substantial difference in employment outcomes for the members of a particular group and they are unrelated to successful job performance. An important thing to note is that disparate impact is not, in and of itself, illegal.[13] This is because disparate impact only becomes illegal if the employer cannot justify the employment practice causing the adverse impact as a “job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity” (called the “business necessity defense”).

[6]

#15 Comment By Lizzy1980 On February 11, 2019 @ 2:54 pm

Noah172: These questions are about vague feelings rather than more specific policies. “Racism a big problem, you say? So, you’re okay with paying out of your pocket for reparations for the blacks? No?”

Unless there are data that indicate most Dems want reparations for blacks, I don’t see how your statement here undercuts my claim that Democratic views on race are aligned with the majority and Republican views are not. Do you have any data on race issues that show that most Dems are outside the majority and most Republicans are with the majority?

“But all =/= most. A person who agrees with legal pre-viability abortions but opposes post-viability is in the “most” category, and to the right of the national Democratic Party. “All”, the position of every Democratic Presidential contender and almost every Congressional Democrat, is nowhere near a majority of the public.

Again, your statement here does not rebut my claim, nor the polling data, that the Dems’ view on abortion is the majoritarian view and the Republican view is not. Also, do you have any data that support your claim that Democratic politicians support abortion in “All” cases? I can’t find any studies that show that, but I’m happy to revise my thinking on this if you can provide data that supports your claim.

Even the survey you cite does not show increasing legal immigration to be a majority view.

The survey shows that, among Democrats as well as all Americans, the most widely-held view is that legal immigration levels should remain level. The next largest view is that immigration levels should increase. The least-widely held view is that immigration levels should decrease. However, among Republicans, the number who think immigration should decrease is larger than the number who think it should increase. Clearly, the Democratic view is aligned with more Americans than the Republican view.

How about you: Without googling, give me a ballpark number of new green cards (permanent residencies) our government grants on a yearly basis. A number, not, “I know some nice people from _____. I also like ethnic restaurants. That’s why I am pro-immigration.”

This implies that if I knew the number, I would have a more valid opinion on whether immigration should increase or decrease. In reality, however, I would need to know both the number of green cards issued and the number the government would need to issue in order to achieve my objectives for population growth. I don’t know the latter number, but I do know that natural birth rates are too low to create the level of economic growth that is necessary to support the retiring Boomer generation.

Revealed preferences also show what white Americans really think about immigration and race, versus what they tell pollsters: where they choose to live (especially buying v. renting), where they choose to send their children to school, and so forth.

I’m not sure why you’ve switched from discussing the preferences of Americans, generally, to discussing the preferences of white Americans, specifically. None of my claims were about only white Americans since they are not the only ones who vote or make up the “mainstream” of society.

Moreover, unless you can demonstrate that those white Americans who live in neighborhoods, or send their kids to schools, that are exclusively white are the same Americans that give survey answers that are favorable to immigration, there is no reason to believe that the “revealed” preferences of these particular white Americans are different from the preferences expressed in their survey responses. I suspect it is more likely that those white Americans who live in those neighborhoods and send their kids to those schools because they don’t want to be around racial minorities are the ones who provide survey questions that are unfavorable to immigration.

#16 Comment By Janwaar Bibi On February 11, 2019 @ 3:56 pm

Cka2nd, You can support or oppose anyone you want to – it’s a free country. But there is a phrase in the Bible about people swallowing camels but straining at gnats, and I suggest to you that being concerned about Tulsi Gabbard’s support from Hindus and BJP supporters in the US while tolerating the hijacking of the US government by Israeli and Saudi thugs is like straining at gnats while swallowing camels.

Like many educated Hindus, I used to be wary of the BJP. But in my last post, I gave you links about an incident last week in an innocent Hindu was hacked to death by Muslims in India because he opposed their “dawa” (religious conversion of non-Muslims). Not one TV channel or newspaper in India has covered this horrific incident – like the leftist dhimmis in the West, they roar like lions about human rights when a Muslim is hurt or killed but defecate in their underwear and stay silent when Muslims kill non-Muslims.

In a world filled with Muslim head-choppers, rapists and slavers, far-right ultra-nationalist Jews, Western thug countries that invade and kill millions of people using lies to justify their violations of international law, and ruthless Chinese dictators imprisoning their own people in vast concentration camps, Hindus need the BJP. It’s OK if you don’t like the BJP but I just wanted to point out that support for the BJP did not arise in a vacuum.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 11, 2019 @ 9:16 pm

In a world filled with Muslim head-choppers, rapists and slavers, far-right ultra-nationalist Jews, Western thug countries that invade and kill millions of people using lies to justify their violations of international law, and ruthless Chinese dictators imprisoning their own people in vast concentration camps, Hindus need the BJP.

These are all valid critiques… but why not just add the BJP to the list? And, why is a BJP government not publicizing that an innocent Hindu was hacked to death by Muslims? Doesn’t the government have ANY influence with the media?

#18 Comment By ProletroleumCole On February 15, 2019 @ 11:31 am

The issue is not socialism per se.
The issue is not being able to get rations or script because you smirked at a POC for 5 seconds when you were 16: the Zeitgeist ethics app determined you must starve to death.

#19 Comment By Josep On February 18, 2019 @ 3:57 am

Republican establishment politicians who refuse to have an honest debate about all sorts of issues (universal medical care is a good example), but who instead will label whatever changes they oppose as “socialist.”

Is it my imagination, or do the anti-UHC folks also tend to believe in American exceptionalism as well?
Our national debt is US$22T (Tera = 10^12), mostly spent on bombing countries who have never threatened our sovereignty or giving Israel billions of dollars in aid. I suspect that our politicians’ support for war could explain the lack of incentive to make changes to benefit the lives of 300M citizens. In other words, I agree that it’s a distraction from the failings of the Trump administration.
I can’t wait to visit Russia soon. They have universal healthcare, paid maternity leave, and a lower debt-to-GDP ratio. Last time I heard, they also use metric, play soccer, and employ mass transit as well. All while not being under the WASP jackboot that is NATO.

Side note: I’ve seen some of the same neocons also denounce the metric system, soccer, and mass transit as “socialist” even when their beloved Israel has them too. Is it me, or do they tend to smear anything they dislike as “anti-American”, “socialist” or “communist”?