How Left is Too Left?

Democratic Socialists

My grandfather got sick a few weeks ago, so my family and I spent a lot of time in the hospital. While we were there, as so often happens, there was another family that we saw pretty regularly. We didn’t interact with them too much, but they were friendly. They seemed like a good, southern, Christian family.

I knew they were Christian because they kept reading Bible verses to one another. I knew they were southern because I live in Texas…pretty safe assumption.

There was one television in the ICU waiting room, but no one was really paying much attention to it. It mainly served as background noise. This was all taking place right before Christmas, so at one point when I had control of the remote, I found National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation airing on one of the channels. Perfect, I thought. In the time it took for me to go check on my grandfather and come back, someone had changed it to Fox News.

It wasn’t anyone in my family, I promise you that.

Thankfully for the sake of my sanity, the only thing any of the major news networks were airing was the funeral of the late President George H.W. Bush, so the fact that I had to listen to Fox News for a significant portion of my day wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

The people in the ICU waiting room got me thinking about how predictably you could assume that Christians would skew Republican. There’s no way they could agree with or condone half of the things Trump says as they’re in direct opposition to their general moral guidelines. Still, they generally vote Republican because of their conservative stances on issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights.

Of my very religious Christian friends who vote Republican, many of them vote solely on the issue of abortion. They don’t want it. Fine. But just to win that fight, they’re willing to tolerate a president who does and says all of the things Trump does and says.

Seems like a lot to shut your eyes, ears, and conscience to, but that’s my own personal opinion.

One thing the Republicans have going for them is their strong base. I have my own ideas as to why this is, but whatever the reason, their supporters are all in, even if they don’t actually agree with all of the party’s platforms.

It’s impressive.

I’ve written about this before, and I know I’ve spoken about it more times than I’m sure my friends have been willing to hear, but the Democratic party has a serious branding issue. It’s not enough to just be “not Trump.” There’s discord within the party as far as how to proceed, especially now that the party has regained control of the House. They have the power – now what are they going to do with it?

One of the first indications of misalignment occurred when there was debate over whether or not Dems should reinstate Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Some of them wanted someone fresh. Some of them wanted someone tried-and-tested.

Now, there’s debate and disagreement over whether or not this whole “When they go low, we go high” thing is working out. Should the Dems fight dirty, like the Trumpian Republicans, forsaking their morality and integrity in the name of not being a bunch of pushovers who don’t actually get a whole lot done? Or should they stick to their guns, playing the long game and hoping it all pays off in the end?

That said, it really wasn’t their fault that they couldn’t get a whole lot done for the first two years that Trump was president. They were up against an entirely Republican-controlled system. Even if they themselves were all on the same page, it really didn’t make much of a difference.

They fought their fight, anyway.

Ultimately, I’d say their approach paid off when they took back one of the houses of Congress in the midterm elections, but like I said, we’ll see what they’ll do with their newfound authority.

I have a decent amount of faith in Nancy Pelosi’s leadership. If I’m being completely honest, she was never anyone I cared much about before, one way or the other. She was fine. In retrospect, perhaps I took her for granted. Now, I look at her a bit differently. She knows Congress, inside and out. She knows how it works, she knows how to get things done, she knows the congressional members on personal levels, and I think her experience is invaluable in leading a wide-eyed and very diverse freshman class of congressional members.

Anyway, back to the discord.

The latest instance of it came when newly-sworn in Representative Rashida Tlaib said the Democrats were going to “impeach the mother*cker.” Before you knew it, #impeachtheMF was trending on Twitter and Instagram, and the Dems came out in swift opposition to Tlaib’s comment.

The Dems can’t seem to decide whether or not they want to impeach Trump or not. It’s clear that they don’t want him in office, especially considering that under most normal circumstances, he never would have been elected into office in the first place. Still, despite all of the (still mounting) evidence against Trump and his cohorts regarding their illegal business dealings, campaign finance violations, sexual harassment claims, etc., etc., the Democrats need to be careful not to appear too bloodthirsty. If the message is just to get the president out of office, that can firstly, set an unsavory precedent for future presidents and their relationship with Congress, and secondly, discredit their actual arguments as to why he shouldn’t be president on grounds of bias.

Also, if the goal is to simply remove a man from office for one of many reasons, impeachment is just the first step in that process. “Impeachment” doesn’t mean removal from office. The Republican-held Senate has a say in the matter, too. President Clinton was impeached (for far, far less), but he still got to finish his second term in office.

In contrast to all of this impeachment talk, Pelosi’s been speaking about the legality of indicting a sitting president.

The overall message from the Dems has not really been impeachment, though. Tlaib’s comment shook and riled up the American people, causing many to disregard her statement on account of vulgarity, which is hilarious and hypocritical considering the things the president himself has said, and many others to rally behind her with support and praise.

If you ask me, I don’t think the cursing was necessary, but I don’t really have a that strong of an opinion about it. I don’t care. I’ve said much worse myself, just not in front of my mother. The F-bomb wasn’t the most significant part of what she said. I don’t like the lack of decorum, but I also like the authenticity. Did it feel a bit attention-hungry? Yeah, but whatever. She made her headlines, and people know her beyond “one of the Muslims in Congress,” now.

I do kind of like that she’s breaking the mold of how people perceive Muslim-Americans, though. She’s a more accurate portrayal of my extensive real-life experience with them. They’re like every other religious group, in that they’re Americans with their personal beliefs influencing the way they function in the world and interact with others. Muslims have been demonized in America, at least among those who pay attention to certain news reports, but at the end of the day, they’re not that bad. If they were, considering the millions of Muslims living in this country, we’d have a lot more problems than we do.

But I digress.

Back to the discord, take 2.

The biggest threat to the cohesion of the Democratic party lately seems to be the unabashed and unapologetic rise of the Democratic Socialists.

These are the Bernies and the AOCs of the Democratic party. The far left. They’re the ones who say people like Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden aren’t progressive enough. Their supporters believe they could potentially be the answer to the Trumpian Republicans.

If you think of American politics as a spectrum with a pendulum swinging along it, the apt response to a far-right swing like we’ve been experiencing is not somewhere in the middle. We’ve got to swing just as hard in the opposite direction first before things can eventually settle somewhere in the middle.

Or so the theory goes.

“Socialism” is still a word that strikes fear in the hearts of many Americans, though. It cuts to the core of our capitalistic sensibilities. It reeks of communism and Marxism and everything we’ve been taught to repel and refute at all costs, lest we fall prey to the Russians.

Ha.

In fact, remember those people in the ICU waiting room? One of them, while discussing Facebook politics, said, “I have a nephew who’s so far left, he’s practically a Communist.”

That seems like a misunderstanding of a few concepts, but it was a bit of interesting insight for me into the way people perceive these things.

Bernie Sanders, specifically in his 2016 presidential bid, would frequently cite the success of nations like those in Scandinavia when pressing for his brand of Democratic Socialism. The biggest argument lobbed against him at the time was,

“We’re not [insert Scandinavian country].”

That seems like a petty and unproductive argument, but it really does cut to the core of what many people are afraid of.

The United States was built on the principles of capitalism. In many ways, it’s precisely what the American Dream represents. Yes, there’s inequality, but there’s upward movement, growth, and innovation. Yes, there’s poverty, but there are also multi-billion-dollar corporations and the billionaires who run them.

It’s the reason why we can pretend to be better than everyone.

What do the Democratic Socialists actually stand for?

In short, they don’t like the idea of a few people making decisions for millions of other people, decisions that may or may not be in the best interest of those millions. They also believe that the people should own and run businesses and economic institutions, rather than them being run by an elite select few.

They really like decentralization. Consumers and workers vote on decisions that affect them.

Some of their more “radical” ideas include universal healthcare and government-subsidized higher education. They believe these things to be the rights of Americans, not perks.

To present a common rebuttal to this point, Ben Shapiro, a popular right-wing activist, describes healthcare as a commodity, not a right. Shapiro’s argument depends on the fact that most things aren’t “rights,” like food and water. We pay for those things. Housing? Not a right, otherwise we wouldn’t have homeless people.

Of course, we still have social programs in place that do aid Americans with things like housing, food, and water.

For further information on the Democratic Socialists stances, you can read more here.

Recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated that she would like to impose a 70% tax on corporations and the wealthy to fund the Green New Deal, which would basically cut the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels while shifting the nation to the use of renewable energy sources.

If you want to boil down the debate between socialism and capitalism, this is arguably one way to do it. It comes down to taxes. It’s a tale as old as time – should we have a flat tax rate where all Americans are taxed equally regardless of their income, or a progressive one where people are taxed based on their income levels?

Taxes are touchy, to begin with. They’re a necessary evil (another arguable point). They fund our government, but they’re often mismanaged, at least in the eyes of many people. In essence, taxation is giving your money to someone else and trusting that they’ll spend it efficiently and responsibly. Unfortunately, when people hear about extravagant government spending in places they don’t want their hard-earned money spent, like funding wars overseas or paying astronomical government salaries for employees who do little to earn such a salary, they get upset.

While many Americans support green initiatives and a move to more eco-friendly and sustainable resources, people still don’t like being taxed.

When asked about her “radical” taxing proposition, AOC responded with this:

“It only has ever been radicals that have changed this country. Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. [FDR] made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security.”

It makes you wonder – how did things like the radical prohibition of alcohol ever get passed in the first place? How did something like that garner enough support to actually become a constitutional amendment? And how did so many people later get on board a second time to issue a second amendment to undo it?

How did The Backstreet Boys make the radical decision to release “I Want It That Way” knowing the lyrics made absolutely no sense, even ditching a version with more coherent lyrics to do so?

It’s a miracle anything gets done in this country.

And yet, things do get done. Progress is always made, often in spite of those who try to redirect or outright stifle it. Sometimes progress takes longer than it should, but it’s one of those things where you have to go through the motions to earn your desired result.

If things were too easy? Well, that in itself wouldn’t be sustainable.

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