The patriot's guide to socialism

The patriot's guide to socialism
© Stefani Reynolds

It’s back! Socialism.

Republicans and conservatives assert that the Democratic Party is increasingly embracing socialism.

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Some Democrats reject the accusation, claiming they merely want a stronger safety-net system — and for the rich to pay their “fair share.”

Their denials might be more convincing except that the Democratic Party’s two leading political lights, Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Sanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Democrats asked to create ideal candidate to beat Trump pick white man: poll MORE and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezChuck Todd: Ocasio-Cortez's concentration camp remarks do border detainees 'tremendous disservice' Chuck Todd: Ocasio-Cortez's concentration camp remarks do border detainees 'tremendous disservice' GOP hopes dim on reclaiming House MORE are self-proclaimed democratic socialists.

They and their growing base are the ones setting the Democratic agenda these days, much to the dismay of the shrinking number of more traditional liberals concerned about the far-left tilt. 

As left-wing political cartoonist Ted Rall recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Progressive voters are no longer a wing of the Democratic Party. They are its heart and soul.” 

Rall’s correct. As the country’s most visible and vocal socialist, Sanders — who almost won the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — is now in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. He raised nearly $6 million from some 225,000 donors within 24 hours of his recent presidential announcement.

And it’s not just some Democrats. The Gallup polling company, which has been tracking Americans’ views on socialism for decades, points out that 57 percent of Democrats have a positive view of socialism.

But if you need more evidence, look at the policies proposed by the Democratic Socialists of America. They are virtually identical with several leading Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Oh, and Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the organization.

As Forrest Gump might say, “Socialism is as socialism does.”

But what exactly is socialism? The idea, and its implementation, has evolved over the decades as it passed from Karl Marx to Vladimir Lenin to Joseph Stalin to Chairman Mao to Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.

Initially, socialism primarily focused on government — or sometimes “community” or “worker” — ownership or control of the means of production. That is, the government, or some government-appointed committee, controls major sectors of the economy.

Is that what we see coming from Democratic presidential candidates? 

The leading Medicare for All proposals would eliminate private insurance and the government would pay all medical expenses. The government, not individuals, would decide what was covered and how much health care providers, drug and medical device companies would receive for their products and services.

Or consider Massachusetts Sen, Elizabeth Warren’s proposed legislation dictating who sits on large corporate boards and their policies.

In both cases, the government would exercise significant control over — but not necessarily own — the means of production.

Today, socialists increasingly include the idea of equality — not just before the law, but economic and social equality — along with wealth redistribution.

Just about every Democratic presidential hopeful wants to vastly expand the welfare state and pay for it by forcing high-income households to pay their fair share. What exactly they mean by “fair share” remains undefined. 

What if the top 50 percent of income earners paid, say, 97 percent of all individual income taxes, and the top 1 percent paid nearly 40 percent? Would that be fair?

Well, that’s what happens now, according to the Tax Foundation.

But it’s not fair enough for the socialists. Ocasio-Cortez proposes a 70 percent tax rate for the rich. Sanders also wants a big corporate tax increase. And Warren wants to tax assets.

Ah, but isn’t democratic socialism a “kinder, gentler” version of pure socialism? 

While democratic socialists claim to be firmly committed to democratic principles, once entrenched in power, socialists usually morph into authoritarians who smash freedom of speech and political opposition and strangle the economy. 

Remember, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez was elected as a socialist on promises of a fairer economy.  The inevitable transformation soon began, culminating in authoritarian socialist Nicolas Maduro.

So, can a socialist be a patriotic American?

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Patriotism is a devotion to and vigorous support for one's country. 

But most socialists have little good to say about America’s past — or present. They aren’t devoted to the country we have. They are embarrassed by it and want to dramatically change America into something it has never been. (If you want to see Sanders and his wife praise a country, watch his 1988 commentary upon visiting Russia.)

Patriots see the founders’ constitutionally limited government — reinforced by the inclusion of the 10th Amendment — as a guidepost to be followed. Socialists see it as a roadblock to be bypassed, primarily by reinterpreting the Constitution.

Patriots recognize that a few cracks in America’s foundation have been revealed over the centuries and want to repair them — socialists want a complete renovation. The socialist vision is not for a better America but a different America — a vision that we have never tried and that has failed everywhere it has been attempted.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.