In his article “None Dare Call It Socialism” from the American Spectator Larry Thornberry reiterates the delightful traditional stance that Conservatives love to embrace by accusing all liberal Democrats and, specifically, Obama of being, horror of horrors, Socialist. This seems to be just about the worst criticism Conservatives can throw at Liberals (which is now synonymous with Democrats). It implies that we will one day live in a police state where our government will control everything. Watch Mr. Thornberry call forth this bogey man that the Conservatives have used to such effect in the following excerpts from his article:
In 1959’s Rio Bravo, the Duke is the sheriff and Dean Martin plays his deputy, a guy who’s quick and slick with a gun when he’s sober. In one scene, Martin’s character asks the sheriff if he thought he, the Martin character, was as good and as fast as another gunman. The Duke takes a thoughtful beat, as he was so good at doing, and replies, “Well, I’d hate to have to make a living on the difference.”
Well now there you are. Thanks again, Duke. What Obama and his legions are doing may not exactly be socialism, which is usually defined as government ownership of the means of production. But when you try to contrast socialism with what Obama and his crowd have put through and what they’re whooping up, if you seek to isolate real differences between socialism and Obamaism, it would be awfully hard, as the Duke phrased it, to make a living on the difference.
Consider. The Obama administration and its congressional courtiers have put the federal government into the domestic car business in a big way. They’ve gotten “health care” legislation through both federal houses that goes a long way toward nationalizing the one-sixth of the economy, they put the national debt on steroids, and they’re going for the homerun in cap and trade legislation, which would take decisions on how much and what kind of energy can be used in the economy from the private sector where they belong and turn them over to politicians and bureaucrats…
Likely what’s happened is that modern socialists have gotten smarter, or at least cagier. Contemporary socialists, in contrast to those boring old Mustache Pete socialists of decades ago who wanted to run factories and mines and mills and stuff, have figured out that actually owning the means of production is a lot of trouble, and takes away valuable time that could be more (excuse the expression) profitably spent dominating the culture. Far easier to allow some poor sod to have his name on a title somewhere and think he owns the factory (or restaurant, or car dealership, or contracting business, or, or, or…) and just make all the important decisions for him. Call this soft-socialism, smart-socialism, or perhaps just lazy-socialism.
I don’t call this socialism at all. First of all we have to consider that there is a whole continuum of political positions. Wikipedia sums it up in these terms: Traditionally, the Left includes progressives, social liberals, social democrats, socialists, communists, and anarchists. The Right includes conservatives, reactionaries, capitalists, monarchists, nationalists, and fascists. Actually if you begin from the left it goes Anarchists, Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Social Liberals, Progressives, Centers, Conservatives, Reactionaries, Captialists, Monarchists, Nationalists, Fascists.
You will find this great graphic at this site where you should be able to read it without a magnifying glass: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/blog-html/leftvright_world.html
My problem with the practice of labeling Liberals as Socialists is that in a true Socialist situation the government and the people have to be separate entities. America is a very distinct political structure, a structure in which the government and the people are one. We the people are (or we are supposed to be) the American government, a government that is unique in all the world, a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” If we weren’t in dire danger of becoming a Plutocracy, and if the Congress truly represented the people, then it would be impossible to call the will of the people Socialism. If the people decide they want to spend the taxes they pay themselves on social programs, this is not Socialism. If the people like a social program and want to continue it, this is not Socialism. Name-calling is the least sophisticated of the propaganda techniques, but probably one of the most effective because it hits us in a visceral way. It engages our fight instinct and deflects us from the real issues. We could become a Socialist country, I suppose, but not by sticking to the principles of Democracy. Obama’s Affordable Health Care plan may have been passed in a rather high-handed fashion but it was being stonewalled by a political minority using questionable congressional tactics. Perhaps his stimulus was not favored by Republicans, but they did not necessarily represent the majority opinion. There is still a majority of American citizens who feel that Obama did the people’s business and he did it in the only way he could have given the total intractability of the opposition. Obama is not a Socialist and, in fact, no Liberal in America can be a Socialist until such time as the government and the people have truly parted ways. I hope that day never comes.