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Vote Socialist 2012!

danps's picture

A little stream of consciousness blogging. I normally try to include lots of research and documentation in my posts, but this time I'm just going with what's on my mind at the moment.

So here's my impression of the general direction in politics in the next couple years. The Republicans look like they'll take control of at least one branch of Congress, maybe both. And they promise to, um, shut down the government and cut taxes on the rich. In other words, instead of stagnating things will get quite a bit worse. The GOP will take November's results as an endorsement and run with it.

Meaning, when 2012 rolls around voters will be angry at them for screwing up and not particularly thrilled with the Democrats either. That could mean it'll be another big year for primary challenges by the base, this time on the left instead of the right.

But I also think it will create unusually fertile ground for a third party challenge, so please indulge me while I dream a bit.

The word "socialism" has been thrown around so freely the last couple of years that I think it's been de-mystified. Conservatives called Obama a socialist over and over and over again on the campaign trail and yet he won comfortably. Shouldn't that have been seen as an endorsement of it?

Same thing with health care reform. The constant refrain was socialism even though it was a modest tweak of the existing system and is such a big fat nothingburger that no one who voted for it is even hinting at it on the campaign trail.

In short, folks will be pissed off at both legacy parties and will be somewhat acclimated to Big Scary Socialism. Why not run on it? Not in a revolutionary way but a targeted one. Just a few big goals. For instance:

1. Medicare For All.
2. End The Wars.
3. Soak The Rich.

There you go. Nine words, three initiatives. Promise to rubber stamp absolutely everything else in DC. Keep the status quo everywhere else, but hammer those three things over and over. They would be big changes, but easily understandable, very popular, and not so ambitious as to scare off voters.

Medicare for all is easy enough. End the wars means not only bring all the soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan, but cut off the mercenaries and profiteers as well. Close down bases. Negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea (still just a cease fire!) and draw down our presence there. You get the idea.

For #3, propose a 70% marginal tax rate on income over $5 million per year. (Like the overuse of "socialism," if any modest tax increase at the top is called class warfare, why not embrace it with gusto?)

I'd be willing to bet the cost of #1 would be more than covered by 2 and 3. The deficit scolds wouldn't have any traction. It would be popular as well as a real alternative to what's currently on offer. The overheated rhetoric of the right is already deployed; it can't be ramped up any more than it already is. Why not run with it?

What do you think, Corrente?

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Submitted by lambert on

That's why I'm trying, in my own small way, to make the Ds go the way of the Whigs.

To open up space for efforts like this. We literally can't know what will happen with them, but we almost certainly know what will happen with the legacy parties; it's just a question of how fast and using what cultural markers. So, yay!

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

I think if it was literally just a few really big initiatives it could go over very well. Folks seem to get nervous if you've got a five point plan for everything under the sun, and in any event if you select the handful of goals well enough it could still be very ambitious.

Submitted by Lex on

It is interesting that America has returned to a situation similar to how it looked early in the 20th Century, back when the world's tired and poor masses were huddled into sweatshops with the doors locked from the outside...or stuffed into disease infested tenements in between working long, dangerous factory hours for very little pay.

The big difference between then and now though is not technology or that industrial jobs have been replaced by cashiering at Walmart. The big difference is that back then the working class organized, and generally did so around the ideas of Socialism. So when FDR went to save capitalism from itself, he did so with great pressure from the Left. The revolution in Russia was greeted in America by a large, strong labor movement ready to debate the pros and cons of Soviet revolution. It reached a point where common workers could shut down some of the world's biggest, most powerful corporations.

FDR didn't give us a social safety net. That was won and it cost blood. (not disparaging FDR here, just suggesting that it wasn't some beneficent, paternal gesture on his part)

I'm already a socialist* so the word doesn't scare me. And as things get worse my guess is that it will scare a lot fewer people. I only worry that there isn't enough time. I'd also add that adopting FDR's "economic bill of rights" as a platform makes a lot of sense to me.

*no capitalization because i do not subscribe to the idea that the State should own all the means of production...too bitter and cynical about the responsiveness and wisdom of bureaucratic government to see State Socialism as a good idea. For me socialist simply means that the individual cannot exist outside society, and that if the rights of individuals are of paramount importance, then they can only be achieved within a healthy, productive society. I'm a socialist-libertarian.

“Don’t believe them, don’t fear them, don’t ask anything of them” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

wuming's picture
Submitted by wuming on

It occurs to me that in Roosevelt's time, general strikes were still legal, and this helped the left really pressure the power elite. After Congress passed Taft-Hartley in 1947, no more general strikes. The law banned secondary strikes/solidarity strikes etc. General strikes actually mobilized significant numbers of people. In Oakland, California, 100,000 workers went on strike in 1946, in solidarity with department store workers. You can bet this scared the heck out of the right wing.

Yesterday there were general strikes in Europe, for example, in Spain. The unions there claim that ten million people went on strike. There were more protests in Belgium, Greece, France and Latvia as well. Americans may call ourselves the land of the free, but we would not be legally permitted to do what many Europeans did yesterday.

Submitted by lambert on

"socialist" is probably better than "liberal."

Incidentally, Xavier Onassis's idea of socializing inheritance is a good one, and fits in here. It's an implementation detail of "Soak the rich."

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

but "social democrat" may go down easier for some of us.

I'm not schooled on the history of the term but take it to mean the kind of leftism practiced in European democracies. I stand to be corrected by someone more in the know.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Hi Dan, I'm not hesitant about a third Party; but rather about a "socialist" party. My problem is that we've see socialist parties in other countries embrace neo-liberal economics and abandon "socialism." So, for me the word doesn't have the same dynamism it had many years ago, and the economic theory behind seems not very coherent.

I still like the idea of a "Justice Party." What we lack now is justice in our legal system, justice in our economy, and justice in our society.

Regarding your three main themes:

-- End the Wars

-- Medicare for All

-- Soak the Rich

I don't see how that gets us further on jobs. So I think we should add

-- Jobs Now!

as a theme.

Also, I wonder if we shouldn't also be running on:

-- Restore the Constitution

I don't think that will help us much in growing the Party; but I'd sure want to vote for a Party that will do that and curb the power of the Executive in the National Security sphere.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Whatever baggage the word "socialism" has taken on elsewhere, it's got a pretty unabashedly left-identified meaning here. Running on it would be an unmistakable message.

Medicare for all (MFA) would be very stimulative, so that would help, but overall you're right there's nothing jobs-specific in there. MFA would be a structural change, though, not a one shot deal like stimulus. For as much good as the original package did, it's verboten to go back to the well now as far as DC is concerned. I think something permanent would be a better way to "go long."

The big thing, I think, is to keep it short. Just based on observation it seems to me that people get wary the longer an agenda list gets. Maybe getting the first three through would send a sufficiently clear message about the importance of the middle class and would make Congress willing to take up jobs measures.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

If I had to choose three as a platform I'd say:

-- Jobs as in Federal Jobs Guarantee

-- End the Wars and

-- Medicare for All

I'd think these would be the three most popular of the five I mentioned. "Soak the rich!! is not a slogan that plays well here in America, though I all for the rich paying their share in taxes, and my notion of "fair" involves a number of new brackets with the top bracket of over $5 mill up to 70%. I'm also for going back to inheritance taxes in a big way.

On "socialism" I can only repeat what I've said. These days to call yourself a "socialist" means nothing. So what's to be gained from using that very vexed term. We'll never win with it.

But with "The Justice Party" we might.

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

A more socialist solution is an American NHS ("VA for all"). It works just fine for the Brits, and I don't see why we shouldn't push for it.