Things you can learn at CPAC: Stalin dreamt of taking away your hamburgers
"What is America's biggest problem? Not socialism in Russia, but in America! They want to take your pickup truck. They want to take away your hamburger. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved."
- Sebastian Gorka
What do you get when you mix reactionary conservative politics with a general ignorance of what words mean, plus a disregard for basic reality in an environment of a batsh*t crazy cult? You get CPAC.
If you could describe CPAC in two words, it would be "Socialism Scary!"
And socialism is very, very scary when you have no idea what socialism is.
Anyone that attended CPAC can tell you the definition of "socialism". It means literally "bad/scary stuff."
I mean, they want to take away your hamburgers, for Gawd Sakes!
"We can't think that the American people understand what socialism is. We do have to go out and educate."
- Ronna McDaniel
So what do people actually believe is socialism?
Not surprisingly, it varies a great deal depending on your age and political perspective.
Thirty-five percent of voters in the 2018 elections were born in November 1973 or later. It shouldn't come as a shock that this group that may not remember the Cold War, but was directly effected by the 2008 crash, does not share the same political perspective as Baby Boomers at CPAC.
So what is this "socialism" that Republicans want to educate us about? Almost everything.
Specifically, in their vehement opposition to the Obama administration, conservatives narrowed “socialism” down to virtually any attempt to intervene in the economy on behalf of the broad public. The effort to save the American car industry? Socialist. Regulated markets to purchase health insurance? Socialist. Market-based measures for reducing carbon emissions? Also socialist.
This aggressive labeling coincided with a rise in favorable attitudes toward socialism among Democrats.
"So tell people, no more cars, no more cars ... It would end air travel. But you’ll get on a train, don’t worry about it. You just have to cross off about 95 percent of the world. And it would force the destruction or renovation of virtually every existing structure in the United States. New York City would have to rip down buildings and rebuild ’em again."
- President Trump
Between the GOP's overuse and abuse of the word, plus the fact that the Cold War ended decades ago, plus decades of austerity, plus the 2008 crash, people's opinions of socialism have changed and they aren't going back.
In September of 2018, Gallup asked Americans for their “understanding of the term ‘socialism.’” One-third—33 percent—answered that it meant a society with equal standing for everybody, in which benefits and services were free for all. When Gallup had asked Americans the same question in September of 1949, at the height of the Cold War, just 14 percent gave that answer, while 34 percent answered that it meant government ownership of all business and control of society. Half that total—17 percent—gave that answer in 2018. (Other answers drew far less support.)
That is, the public’s idea of socialism has shifted over the last 70 years from one verging on totalitarianism to one far closer to European social democracy. The disappearance of Soviet communism has clearly contributed to that shift, but so has the transition over that same 70 years to a more aggressive capitalism that has rewarded chiefly the rich.
In 2018, 10 percent of Americans associated socialism with benefits like free social services and universal access to medicine, as opposed to 2 percent who said the same in 1949. This is a direct byproduct of Republican rhetoric.
"So I am here with just one simple ask: join us to keep America great and just us to put socialism on trial and then convict it."
- Larry Kudlow
Putting something "on trial" when the conviction is already decided is called a "show trial". So it's ironic that Kudlow wants to mimic Stalin in that regard.
Despite Republicans controlling virtually every level of government during the last few years, Republicans are convinced they are losing the battle against "socialism". No evidence necessary.
It's similar to how Republicans are convinced that this 75% Christian nation is in danger of implementing sharia law.
For example, a January 2016 survey by Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP found that 54 percent of Republicans agreed that the U.S. is “evolving into a socialist state,” compared with 16 percent of Democrats.
“All forms of socialism are the same.”
- editorial in Investor’s Business Daily
All [socialist groups] are “precursor[s] to full-blown Marxist-Leninist communism.”
- columnist Jenna Ellis, Washington Examiner
Socialism “must always give rise to tyranny.”
Socialism means “seizure of private property, and the dictating of individual behavior.”
- Charlie Kirk
Returning to reality, socialism is a very broad term.
It ranges from Anarchism (which essentially means a decentralized government with direct democracy at every level, as I understand it) to Communism.
In fact, socialism was conceived to empower and liberate, in the broadest sense of the word, the greatest mass of people. Conservatives have most often wanted to restrict both the empowering and liberating of the masses.
Communists reject democracy, of course, but other socialists have strongly supported it. In many parts of the world, including Europe, they were the most consistent advocates of democratization. Eduard Bernstein, for example, one of the fathers of social democracy, described democracy as “both a means and an end. It is a weapon in the struggle for socialism and it is the form in which socialism will be realized.” Conservatives, on the other hand, thought of democracy as “despotism of the multitude,” in Edmund Burke’s phrase, and liberals like Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill were resistant to expanding the franchise as well, because giving workers too much power would threaten the economic elites necessary for social stability. Only organizing and pressure from parties of the left broke liberal and conservative resistance to democracy in Europe.
“The lash of the dictator will be felt, and 25 million free American citizens will for the first time submit themselves to a fingerprint test.”
- Rep. Daniel Reed (R-NY), regarding Social Security
“Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people,”
- Rep. John Taber (R-NY), regarding Social Security
“If Medicare passes into law, the consequences will be dire beyond imagining. One of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”
- Ronald Reagan
“Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink?”
- Barry Goldwater
“A deterioration in the quality of care is inescapable.”
- head of the American Medical Association, Dr. Donovan Ward in 1965