Like it or not, Mr. President, many Americans embrace democratic socialism

Like it or not, Mr. President, many Americans embrace democratic socialism
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In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE previewed a crisis threatening our nation. Rampant inequality? Nope. Climate change? Nope. Our vulnerability to cyber weapons? Nope. The latest scourge striking terror in the hearts of his “Make America Great Again” supporters is socialism. “Here in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” Trump said. “... Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

Republicans, and many Democrats, cowed by the Red Scare-rhetoric, rose and clapped.

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That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, socialism is un-American. Sure, polls show 70 percent of Americans support Medicare-for-all, 74 percent support a wealth tax such as the one proposed by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren adds her pronouns to Twitter bio Biden leads, Warren and Sanders tied for second in new poll The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (D-Mass.), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezMichelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Trump steps up attacks on 'Squad' Trump says he doesn't care if attacks on 'Squad' hurt him politically MORE’s proposed 70 percent marginal tax rate finds comfortable majority support. But … socialism! Surely not.

Trump would have us believe that these are our only two choices: We can either have smash-and-grab capitalism, where so many hands in the cookie jar has resulted in so many government scandals, and where the top 1 percent have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, or we can have what’s happening in Venezuela, where the economy has collapsed and humanitarian and political crises have ensued.

Those are our only choices? The approaches employed by Denmark, Norway and other developed countries that somehow have figured out how not to have a dystopian nightmare health care system are not on the table? No, it’s either the Gilded Age 2.0 or plunging straight to Venezuela’s wretchedness.

In the 1950s, Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wisc.) scared many Americans with the thought that communists lived among us. Now Trump’s reference to socialism comes across as the latest scare tactic designed to force us to celebrate the repeal of the estate tax as wonderful compared to starving in Venezuela, where people cannot get $1 out of a bank. Our form of capitalism must not be questioned; it means we’ll have socialism. And socialism is evil, end of story.

It is amazing how many Americans have bought into this propaganda in the past. But the methods driving our country’s established, older politicians are running out of gas. Unabashed democratic socialists such as Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden leads, Warren and Sanders tied for second in new poll Analysis: Harris, Buttigieg and Trump lead among California donations The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (I-Vt.) are among the more popular politicians these days. Only 19 percent of Americans ages 18-29 identify themselves as capitalists. Young people, in particular, just are not going to be cowed by the scary “socialist” label. They witness the fundamental inequalities of our system and are happy to color outside the lines of what is supposed to be acceptable discourse.

Trump’s dig on socialism means he’s scared, Ocasio-Cortez said after his speech. What really scares the pro-plutocrats on both sides of the political aisle about her, Sanders and other democratic socialists is that they have become messengers for a compelling message with an actual vision — the simple idea that it’s up to government to intervene and equalize the playing field between the capital that owns the politicians, the system and the rewards, and the general public toiling to provide those rewards.  

Everybody deserves to live a life of dignity, with their bare-minimum needs met in what Sanders has described as “the richest society in history of the world.” It’s an idea whose time has come. It’s an idea that can actually counter racist, right-wing faux populism that promises white Americans they will be put back on top of the national hierarchy. And it’s an idea that many current power brokers in Washington find deeply threatening.

To the president, to the Republicans and those Democrats who stood and clapped when he fired his remarks against socialism, I would just echo the words spoken the last time this type of demagoguery was employed in the Capitol: “Have you no sense of decency?” Today, you can yell “socialism” all you want, but as a scare tactic it won’t resonate. Democratic socialism has arrived and the American people are here for it.

Krystal Ball is the liberal co-host of “Rising,” Hill.TV’s bipartisan morning news show. She is president of The People’s House Project, which recruits Democratic candidates in Republican-held congressional districts of the Midwest and Appalachia, and a former candidate for Congress in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @krystalball.