Feehery: Defining what socialism is (and isn’t)

Feehery: Defining what socialism is (and isn’t)
© Stefani Reynolds

With Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTop Sanders adviser: Warren isn't competing for 'same pool of voters' Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Top aide Jeff Weaver lays out Sanders's path to victory MORE (I-Vt.) leading the polls in New Hampshire and with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE’s ratings stuck in the low 40s, it’s entirely plausible that a socialist could make a serious run for the White House in 2020.

Sanders calls himself a socialist, so I don’t mean that pejoratively.  


Socialism is increasingly popular among Democrats. A Gallup poll last year showed that 57 percent of polled Democrats have a positive view of socialism while only 45 percent have a positive view of capitalism.

Republicans need to be more precise when it comes to the definition of socialism. Over the years, they have called everything that the Democrats have proposed socialist, so much so that the charge has essentially lost all meaning.  

Social Security is not socialism. It’s a social insurance program modeled loosely on Otto Von Bismarck’s program enacted in Germany in 1889.

Medicare is not socialism, although plenty of Republicans, some of whom are still alive, tried to label it so. Medicare doesn’t have the state control the means of production. It too is a social insurance program aimed at helping old people get older.

The 40-hour work week is not socialism, nor is it the product of socialists. It was Ford Motor Company that first went to the 40-hour work week in 1914 and saw its profits soar. Nor are child labor laws, nor food safety regulations, nor environmental protections. 

All of these were necessary tweaks to a world that was rapidly changing from agrarian to industrial in the 19th and 20th century.

Of course, capitalism is not a flawless ideology. Indeed, it is not an ideology at all.  And that is its greatest strength.

Those who pray at the altar of the free-market are directing their prayers to the wrong place. It is unlikely that God is a capitalist. Nor is God a socialist.  

Most socialist movements in the past have been avowedly secular in their approach and overtly hostile to organized religions.

Socialists do tend to pray at the altar of socialist ideology.

According to the Oxford Dictionary definition, socialism is “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

Socialists seek to control the means of production to achieve their stated goal, an artificial leveling of society.

Socialists seek to remove profit as a motivation for production. When you hear someone speak bitterly of corporate profits, as if a corporation making a profit is a bad thing, you are hearing the voice of a socialist.

Because it seeks to have the government control energy production in the United States, the so-called Green New Deal is a socialist’s dream.

Taxing American citizens at a 70 percent rate is a socialist concept. 

It was the socialists in China who promoted the one-child policy that led to wide-spread abortion.  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey Joseph Kennedy mulling primary challenge to Markey in Massachusetts The latest victims of the far-left's environmental zealotry: Long Islanders MORE (D-N.Y.) recently endorsed a similar policy, saying that young people shouldn’t have kids because of climate change.   

In 1985, Sanders praised Fidel Castro. “Everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world,” he said then. “All the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society.”

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces White House eyes September action plan for gun proposals Trump phoned Democratic senator to talk gun control MORE (D-Conn.) penned an op-ed in The Washington Post about the situation in Venezuela, where he spent the vast majority of his time attacking President Trump.
This is how far the Democrats have strayed from the middle of the political road. 

Their leading lights push for avowedly socialist policies, ideas that will strangle our economy and hurt our people. Their leading presidential candidate has expressed warm feelings for Fidel Castro, a murderous and notorious enemy of the United States. One of their leading foreign policy experts would rather score political points attacking our president than working with him to ditch a socialist strongman in our Western hemisphere.

Socialism is not a warm and fuzzy concept. Republicans have to be smarter on how they define socialism. It actually matters in this coming election.

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis HastertJohn (Dennis) Dennis HastertFeehery: Borders and walls Feehery: Trump inspires temporary House Democratic unity Feehery: The left's patriotism problem MORE (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speech writer to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).