Clips, Politics

What’s Socialism Got To Do With This?

Digital Journal, May 26, 2009.

“Socialism,” a word largely believed to have been consigned to the dustbin of 20th century American history, made a sudden comeback into the media parlance with President Obama’s taking office.

“We Are All Socialists Now,” declared the Newsweek cover of the February 2009 issue.

The cover of the April 2009 issue of “Newsweek.”

The same month, Republican politician Mike Huckabee exclaimed: “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but the Union of American Socialist Republics is being born.”

Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, blasted Obama as “the world’s best salesman of socialism.”

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, blared across the airwaves: “He wants to establish a very powerful socialist government; authoritarian. He wants control of the economy.”

A New York Times reporter pinned President Obama down with the question, “Are you a socialist, as some people have suggested?”

On Tax Day this year, April 15, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, was visited by an extraordinary delegation—of tea bags—each carrying a note from a member of the right-wing public to President Obama to let him know that his stimulus package wasn’t quite his or her cup of tea.

On the same day, knots of people gathered in cities across the country, some dressed in Mohawk garb, some in late 18th century colonial costumes, and some even as pigs. They sipped tea, bit into pulled pork, waved placards, and engaged in slogan-shouting.

The event—the “Tax Day Tea Party,” in a nod to the Boston Tea Party—marked the grand finale of a wave of conservative-led “Tea Parties” that had been taking place for some weeks prior to that.

But while in 1773, the American colonists were revolting against the Crown’s decision to exempt British tea from a recent tax it’d imposed, the “revolutionaries” of 2009 were protesting, in a nutshell, against what the right views as a government takeover of the free-market system and the dawn of a socialist era in the bastion of capitalism.

On May 20, the Republican National Committee even approved a resolution that exhorted Democrats to “stop pushing our country toward socialism.”

A Rasmussen survey, conducted in early April, found that 53 percent of Americans favored capitalism to socialism; 20 percent were inclined towards socialism; and 27 percent were unsure about which system was better.

But in another poll by ConservativeHQ, conducted this month, 91 percent of self-described conservatives considered Obama’s political ideology “socialist,” “Marxist,” or “communist,” with 10 percent calling it “fascist.”

True-blue socialists, however, don’t count President Obama as one of them. That’s why, when Billy Wharton, editor of The Socialist, a little-read magazine with a circulation of 3,000, started receiving a spate of phone calls from Manhattan media powerhouses, seeking an answer to whether President Obama was a secret socialist, he was more than surprised.

In a recent article, in the Washington Post, Wharton wrote:

The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat—one of a generation of neoliberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies.

Citing the viewpoint of the socialists, Moira Herbst writes in BusinessWeek:

They say if the Obama administration were establishing a true socialist state, we’d have, at least, a $15-an-hour minimum wage (instead of the current $6.55 federal minimum) and 30-hour workweeks. Every American would be guaranteed employment and health-care coverage. Oh, and homeless people would be occupying vacant office buildings in cities and vacant McMansions in the suburbs.

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