This morning I was scanning the headlines in the Associated Press feed and was struck by one item in particular. It dealt with the question of Republicans running on the “stop socialism” message and whether or not that would really resonate with voters outside their base. The original title of this article was actually quite a bit more cynical, suggesting that independent voters weren’t buying it. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to writing about it the AP had republished it with the more cautious title, “Dems pushing US to socialism? GOP warnings tap voter unease.”
No way to know who made the change or why, but the majority of the piece written by AP reporter Alan Fram remains the same. It begins with a vignette from Cory Gardner’s campaign where he’s telling supporters that the Democrats are trying to drive the country in a hard, socialist direction. This supposedly works with the GOP base but isn’t selling so well with independents who may be more immune to Republicans “raising the specter of the old, repressive Soviet Union and today’s chaotic Venezuela.”
For Gardner and other Republicans making the same pitch, including President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the key question is whether it will attract moderate voters, not just their conservative stalwarts. Based on interviews with over three dozen Coloradans last week from Denver’s suburbs south to this town in the flat San Luis Valley, the argument has yet to take root, though the GOP has 18 months to sell it before Election Day 2020.
Few volunteered a drift toward socialism as a major worry, with health care and living costs cited far more frequently. Several said capitalism was too embedded in the U.S. to be truly threatened and Republicans were using socialism to stir unease with Democrats by raising the specter of the old, repressive Soviet Union and today’s chaotic Venezuela.
The tone of the article from there on makes it sound as if this is some sort of growing trend. The reality is that the AP isn’t even referencing a poll here. They’re centering the piece on in-person interviews conducted with “more than three dozen Coloradans,” mostly unaffiliated independents. That’s really not much of a sample to base such an assertion on.
Beyond that, even some of the specific responses from the people interviewed weren’t exactly flat denials. As noted above, many of the people didn’t list a drift toward socialism as “a major worry,” placing it behind other issues like health care and the cost of living. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worry of theirs… just not at the top of the list. And it in no way means that they’re embracing socialism and hoping the Democrats just bring it on. Others are quoted as saying it’s not a worry because “capitalism was too embedded in the U.S” to be threatened. Again, they’re not embracing socialism. They just don’t think the new socialists can bring down capitalism.
All in all, it sounds as if the ongoing series of polls on the topic is still correct and Americans largely reject socialism. And they have plenty of reasons to be concerned. We’ve long had some “socialism-lite” policies built into our government, but it’s always been a balancing act that had to be carefully tailored and kept in check to ensure the continued protection of both individual freedom and capitalism. But if you push that equation only a small way out of balance, “a little socialism” quickly becomes akin to being “a little pregnant.” Bad things follow.
There are still plenty of people out there like Morgan Carroll, chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party, who is quoted in this article. She claims that discussions of socialism are “irrelevant Cold War stuff” that won’t influence anyone outside the GOP base. Tell that to the tens of millions who have died after experiments in socialism crashed and burned in their countries. The thing about socialism, as John Hayward wrote earlier this year, is that you can vote your way into it, but eventually you always have to shoot your way out of it. Something to keep in mind moving forward.