Besides all the usual froth, hyperbole and mudslinging that we tend to feature in our election seasons, the one now approaching – We’re only 100 days out from the midterms! – could be a rather clarifying exercise for that now tiresome phrase, “who we are as Americans.”
Because, based on the results of some high-profile primary elections, it will feature a stark choice between America as what it has been since it was founded – a constitutional republic and federal representative democracy – or a move to what its backers call “democratic socialism.”
Indeed, its advocates are no longer on the fringe, nor are they muted.
The “shocking” upset election in New York’s 14th congressional district, in which 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez trounced veteran Congressman Joe Crowley (who had been seen as the most likely heir to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi), put the socialists pretty much at the center of the table.
Polls and studies conclude that socialism is trending big time. One from two years ago found a majority of millennials don’t support capitalism.
I’d say, given the magnitude of Cortez’s victory – 57 to 42 percent (although only 13 percent of registered Democrats in the district bothered to vote) — the majority opposed to capitalism has only increased.
All of which means the choice for voters this November won’t only be about whether they hate President Trump. It will be about what kind of a government and society they want for themselves and their descendants.
And on that level, I give Cortez credit. Since she won, she hasn’t done what most candidates are told to do by their handlers – run to the “base” for the primary and then “pivot to the center” for the general election.
She is clear and unapologetic about her platform. She wants to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In her view, it is cruel and inhumane, not to mention racist and bigoted, to enforce the immigration laws now on the books.
All those who support legal immigration are labeled “anti-immigrant” if they don’t also support illegal immigration.
What is less clear is what she and other Democrats mean when they talk about “humane border enforcement.”
She says what she wants is a “clear” path to citizenship for those here illegally. But, of course, there has always been a clear path to citizenship in the U.S. It just hasn’t – and technically still doesn’t – include rewarding those who enter the country illegally.
So, based on her objections to enforcement and deportation, the logical conclusion is that, if she and other democratic socialists get the power to govern, the country’s borders will essentially be meaningless. If you get here, you can stay here, because it would be cruel to make you obey the law.
Beyond that is a dazzling list of free stuff that is cloaked in a turn of phrase invoking the iconic words of Abraham Lincoln. It’s not just her slogan, of course, it’s the Democratic Party’s slogan: “for the People.” As in, “government of the people, by the people and for the people ….”
Sounds great. But as long as progressives are invoking the words of a dead white man, perhaps we should also add some words that didn’t come just from an inspiring speech but from the preamble to the Constitution – the founding document of the nation.
It calls for government to “provide for the common defense (and) promote the general welfare ….”
The for-the-people movement Cortez is riding wants to turn that entirely on its head. They want government to “provide” for the general welfare, not simply promote it.
Hence her call for Medicare for all – government, single-payer insurance that will cover medicine, doctors, hospitals, vision, dental, mental and more. It will make Obamacare look stingy and conservative.
Hence the call for tuition-free public colleges, universities and trade schools, and the canceling of all student debt.
Hence the guarantee of a job for everybody, complete with a minimum wage of $15 per hour (indexed to inflation) plus full healthcare (why would anybody need that when everybody’s got Medicare?), and a full menu of other benefits including guaranteed paid leave.
Hence the emasculation of local law enforcement through what she calls “demilitarizing police departments.”
All of which reminds me of the “workers’ paradise” that existed in Russia during those utopian years under Stalin.
It also willfully ignores human nature. Things have never been equal for everybody in all of human history, and they never will be. The best any system of government can do is provide equal opportunity. But that doesn’t guarantee equal results.
Yes, critics are correct that both racism and sexism in the U.S. have undermined truly equal opportunity. But America has come closer than virtually any other large and diverse society in doing so – and has made considerable and measurable progress on it just in the last couple of decades.
And, unfortunately, going socialist won’t perfect it. It could likely make it much worse. Instead of the inequality of plenty – being poor in America is like being rich in much of the rest of the world – we will have the equality of misery.
If the power is taken away from the “millionaires and billionaires” whom avowed socialists like Sen. Bernie Sanders and faux capitalists like Sen. Elizabeth Warren love to hate, it will simply move to the government. Those who work for the government will be the 1 percent – things are moving in that direction already. They will have the power and the money.
Of course democracy is flawed. But, as Winston Churchill and others have said, it is the worst form of government except for all the others. By the time the 99 percent realize that, it will likely be much too late.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org