Last week House Republicans introduced a resolution that “denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.” The bill passed on a bipartisan basis by a vote of 328-86-14. 109 Democrats voted in favor of the resolution.
The resolution identified socialism as some kind of clear and present danger to American democracy, asserting that “socialist ideology necessitates a concentration of power that has time and time again collapsed into Communist regimes, totalitarian rule, and brutal dictatorships.”
The resolution has the feel of a carnival barker or con man who distracts your attention while picking your pocket—or worse. Pay no attention to the dead man on the wall.
It needs to be noted that when Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) sought to clarify the resolution with an amendment including language that programs like Medicare and Social Security are not to be considered socialist, his amendment was denied by the Republican majority.
Indeed, regardless of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s insistence that cuts to Social Security and Medicare are not on the table when it comes to discussions regarding the debt ceiling, these programs are certainly on the chopping block for House Republicans.
What’s more, we have to ask ourselves, in light of recent history and our contemporary political reality, if “socialism” somehow really represents a threat to American democracy. Indeed, if Social Security and Medicare represent socialism, then it seems given the popularity of these programs with the majority of Americans, these “socialist” programs represent the democratic will of the people.
While Republicans want to make you afraid of the “S-word,” elevate it to the status of some kind of bogeyman, it would seem the “F-word” poses the not just real but absolutely imminent threat to American democracy and the realization of the people’s will, in both political and economic terms.
Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency in 2016 spurred America’s descent, for sure, into what has amounted into far more than a flirtation with authoritarian politics. The “F-word” came to abound in the American political vocabulary, anxiously for many and thrillingly for the extremist Republican Party and their right-wing supporters.
The “F-word,” is, of course, fascism.
And it began to circulate in the nation’s political conversation with good reason.
Trump’s presidency, fueled by Russian interference and support Trump’s campaign courted, according to a bipartisan Senate report, resulted in the appointment of three conservative, even extreme, Supreme Court justices, tipping the balance toward a conservative majority and empowering the already extreme Justices Alito and Thomas.
Quickly, the right-wing forces, organized for years and just waiting for its opportunity, went to work exploiting its Supreme Court accomplices in its agenda to erode Americans’ civil rights it had taken decades, even centuries, to secure in law if not always in reality. Chief Justice John Roberts had already led the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, leading the charge to undermine American democracy and racial justice, and this agenda continued with Justice Samuel Alito penning the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Justice Clarence Thomas penning a concurring opinion that provided a road map for removing legal protections for gay marriage, inter-racial marriage, and the right to purchase contraception.
Given that the majority of Americans do not support any of these measures, it should be clear that the overturning of democracy is no longer a threat but a reality, and the political force imposing this authoritarian rule is not socialism.
We have seen multiple criminals who stormed the Capitol on january 6, encouraged by former President Donald Trump and Republican Senators such as Josh Hawley, convicted of seditious conspiracy.
We have seen Congressional Republicans apologize for these criminals and decry the treatment they received, insisting they were mere tourists and even calling for investigations into their arrests.
We have watched Republican members of Congress and Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney General William Barr turn a blind eye to Russian attempts to interfere in our elections and discredit investigations into these efforts to undermine the will of the American people and disrupt democratic elections.
So, is “socialism” really the major threat to American democracy? Are programs designed to bring the American people some measure of dignity, livelihood, and access to healthcare in their retirement really the ushering in totalitarian rule to America?
Let’s step back and take a clearer look.
Not only do we see efforts from Republican politicians, the Supreme Court, and their right-wing supporters legislate and adjudicate to erode civil and democratic rights and suppress people’s right to vote, but we have to look at the extent to which our current economic arrangement has undermined democracy.
The resolution stated that “socialist ideology necessitates a concentration in power.”
But where do we see this concentration of power in an American society characterized by gross economic inequality?
It’s a secret right before our eyes that power is concentrated among corporations and the wealthiest. They have access to politicians. They have powerful lobbyists. In a world in which running for political office tends to take millions of dollars, those who can fund candidates tend to have amplified voices.
Obviously, concentrations of wealth in America translate to concentrations of political power, and the wealthiest 10% control 75% of the nation’s wealth.
This gross economic inequality indeed undermines democracy by enabling governments that are not by, of, and for the people but which serve the wealthiest and most influential. The Trump tax cuts are one example, transferring more of the collective wealth the nation’s people produces to the wealthiest, picking the pockets, pensions, 401Ks, and bank accounts of ordinary working Americans just trying to meet their needs.
Giving the richest Americans and corporations a tax break made it harder for the majority of Americans to afford housing, food, and basic necessities—and to access opportunity! And corporations still laid off workers despite the billions in tax windfalls.
But “socialism” is the threat?
When one starts to put two and two together, it starts to sound like this kind of “anti-socialist” ideology is the problem, trying to fool Americans into being afraid of real political and economic democracy.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.