How The GOP Became The Party That Cried Socialism
According to the denizens of the far-right, liberals have overused the terms Nazi and racist to the point where they no longer matter. Since the label applies to so many people and so many behaviors, at this point, everyone is either a Nazi or a racist, they kvetch. And while we can quibble with the details of this view and what it means for political discourse in this country, we can very much say the same thing about their use of the term socialism and the implications of their abuse of this verbal bogeyman.
If you browse Trump-loving social media, you’ll see that the term has become a placeholder for anything the right doesn’t like, from actually regulating the financial institutions to broken elevators in luxury hotels in Austria. (No, that was not a joke, it actually happened.) No longer merely a shorthand for far-left ideology, it’s become a complete farce, invoked in much the same way as the chupacabra or a Wendigo, a generic placeholder for an unknown, eldritch evil lurking in the shadows.
While Real Red Blooded Americans™ are playing baseball with apple pie on grandma’s farm, or whatever it is the GOP thinks Americans should actually be doing with their lives, socialists plot to destroy everything the nation stands for by trying to provide people with healthcare, clean air, renewable energy, and education for jobs of the future. Should they succeed, America will have to give up its post-1980s “I-got-mine-screw-you” ethos and actually care about what happens to its population instead of merely exploiting their frustrations for cheap political points.
Wait a minute, why doesn’t that sound horrifying? Because it’s not. It’s a basic suite of services every civilized nation on the planet at least tries to provide for its citizens and legal residents. It functions under the simple principle that when people pay taxes, they should get something out of it, and that something should enable them to get the fundamental care and resources they need to become and continue to be productive, healthy, educated members of society who feel motivated about their future and are excited to help make their country a better place instead of constantly fearing it will collapse under its own dysfunction.
This is the spirit we’re currently completely missing thanks to runaway hysteria of the John Birch Society, which saw any effort to help the less fortunate as a baby step towards socialism and a runaway spiral to gulags, mass murder, and collective farming. In other words, if you help your neighbor Joe afford healthcare by electing politicians who make affordable healthcare a priority, dismantle predatory monopolies with shady pricing schemes, and introduce a robust public option to make sure everyone can see a doctor, the next thing you know, thugs in red armbands will be dragging you out of your house while they confiscate your stuff for being too nice.
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How Republicans Misread History
But the thing is that every major communist movement which led to bloodshed and people being dragged out of their homes as their personal property was pillaged didn’t start out as messages about sharing and caring from the government and laws that were focused on living wages and access to education and job opportunities. No, they began with violent pogroms and murder of the wealthiest members of a neo-feudal oligarchy or aristocracy which abused its serfs. Lenin and Pol Pot didn’t get themselves elected by promising workers a fairer share of the growing economic pie. They seized power and said, “eat the rich, torture the rich-adjacent, feel free to kill anyone who gets in your way or questions you.”
So, in a very perverse way, by demonizing taking care of those who need the most help while worshipping those flush with cash as society’s betters, destined to rule from on high, Bircherites are unwittingly trying to recreate the very same conditions that led to the Soviet Union, the rise of the Chinese Communist Party, Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and the Khmer Rouge. For people to embrace the idea of capitalism’s superiority, it has to produce the kind of results that make it obvious that it’s superior instead of merely having this notion screamed at them from every source of mass media.
Many won’t even try to make distinctions between capitalism and the predatory version of it that’s taken off in the US, UK, and France in the process, seeing all capitalistic ventures as inherently evil and corrupt because so far, that’s been their only real experience with it. They see the rich get richer while they fall further and further behind, and their complaints are addressed with trivial brushoffs like “do you know how long a peon like you had to save up to buy a flat-screen TV back in the days?” if not the outright hostility of “instead of demanding free stuff, you shouldn’t have bought that smartphone.”
But cheap electronic luxuries are no substitute for long term financial security and educational opportunity. If those don’t exist, and neither does the safety net to catch those who can’t find a way to at least temporarily hold their heads above water, you have a society in which the only thing that keeps people going is negative reinforcement. While this term is often used to mean punishment in operant conditioning, it’s actually better explained by the quip “the beatings will continue until morale improves.” You’re not trying to succeed for a reward, you’re trying to avoid punishment.
In an environment where there are very few winners and losers are demonized, your only goal becomes not to be a loser, and because the winners are so far ahead and are constantly trying to compete with each other, it always takes more and more to win. This, combined with sparser and sparser opportunities creates a spiral of both hopelessness and frustration credited with an epidemic of suicides in Red America and resulted in nearly 4 in 5 Americans living paycheck to paycheck. That’s not capitalism. That’s feudalism. Western capitalism has the means and the resources to do much better. It’s just not being allowed.
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But Republicans insist on telling the vast majority of the country that any serious attempt to put their lives on a more sustainable track by emulating social programs of other wealthy capitalist nations is too evil to even discuss, much less seriously consider. In a triumph of gaslighting and antipathy toward fellow citizens bred by the Southern Strategy, the GOP managed to convince tens of millions of voters that civil rights and the economy were zero-sum games even as the economy has rapidly grown before their eyes and the only place their rights have been eroded for the benefit of minorities is in their heads.
By pilfering Bircherite screeds, they generated an entire lexicon of scary buzzwords meant to instantly shut down any debate on what it means to be a good corporate citizen and the role of government and the people in determining a vision for the future that doesn’t just involve giving and saving the 1% more money through corporate welfare and tax cuts, and working away until they’re thrown away during a post-merger “right-sizing.” Surely, all that wasted human capital created by an obsessive focus on short term gains to the detriment of wise, long term investment could be put to much better use.
Slamming the Overton Window shut on anything other than worshipping capitalism as a religion instead of wielding it as a useful tool and rabid histrionics, also enabled the GOP to get voters to sign on to plans that have proven disastrous for their livelihoods and bank accounts because if they don’t, the only other alternative is Comrade Killary and Antifa foot soldiers dragging them off to a UN reeducation camp. In vilifying the very notion of helping our fellow citizens by doing anything other than cutting taxes and hoping jobs will appear, and demonizing any vehicle able to efficiently deliver this help, they made it virtually impossible to solve many of the country’s most pressing and chronic problems.
By believing the GOP’s hysterical nonsense, and laughing at moderates and liberals for their confusion at this continued self-immolation so much so that trying to trigger pity, outrage, and confusion has become the sole goal of many Republican voters, then voting to put the GOP in power again and again, Red America has developed a case of Stockholm syndrome so severe, they’re helping their captors torture them to death. This isn’t even much of an exaggeration. According to government data, life expectancy is notably lower in red states while opioid and drug abuse is higher, among a whole parade of economic horribles.
Of course, Red America is well aware of all this, but because they can’t become apostates of the Cult of Republicanism, they’ve decided to turn their suicide pact with the conservative project’s mutated, zombified remains into a murder-suicide as they unleash their fury and frustration on Blue America. And as the country drags itself down into further and further chaos, Republican politicians are viciously and eagerly competing to become captains of the Titanic as it’s about to break in two so they can poke holes in the lifeboats and cackle maniacally as they take all of us down with them, confident that drowning with the most valuables means they somehow won at life.
Trying to save the ship and the people on it? Why that’s socialism, you pinko commie globalist bastard, and they will not have such vile ideas discussed in public on their unsinkable ship, even as they have to swim away in disgust to puncture more lifeboats and vests, and hoard survival supplies in a safe while the metal around them groans and cracks. And if this keeps up, at some point, a lot of people will lose faith in the very idea of America and start heading for the exits in a replay of what happened during the implosion of the Soviet Union, when runaway corruption and lawlessness created multiple diasporas from the doomed nations that are now just brittle shells of their former selves.
But maybe then the GOP and their base will finally be happy, when millions of Americans respect their freedom to sabotage themselves so much, they’ll take them up on their cries to get out if they don’t like where the country is headed. Then, they can turn on themselves in peace, dividing the diminishing scraps from above without all those nasty socialists who wanted to undermine their efforts in achieving greatness by giving them the tools to vastly improve the quality of their lives.
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