That’s the actual name of the piece the magazine published yesterday. Here’s the subhead: “Socialism is AOC’s calling card, Trump’s latest rhetorical bludgeon, and a new way to date in Brooklyn.” The point of the piece is that socialism is having a moment among a certain crowd in New York though it’s not clear the socialists agree among themselves what they want to achieve:
Until very recently, it wasn’t that socialism was toxic in a red-scare way. It was irrelevant, in a dustbin-of-history way. But then came Bernie Sanders’s 2016 candidacy, then the membership boom of DSA, then the proliferation of socialist cultural products like Chapo, and then, finally, the spectacular rise of Ocasio-Cortez.
The politics of the socialism that they helped revive isn’t always clear. Stripped of its Soviet context and cynically repurposed by conservative partisans, the word had lost its meaning by the time it got hot again. For some DSA grandees, like NYC chapter co-chair Bianca Cunningham, socialism means a planned economy that replaces market capitalism. “It means we own the means of production. It means we get to run our workplaces and our own government,” she says. But that is unusual. For Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, and most of their devotees, it’s closer to a robust version of New Deal liberalism — or, perhaps, Northern European social democracy.
This gets repeated a lot, the idea that AOC is just looking to make America more like Sweden. That’s not actually clear if you look at what she’s proposing or what she has said about the future (that we’ll evolve beyond capitalism). Still, it gets repeated on the left that AOC isn’t really that radical, probably because sites like New York magazine don’t want to acknowledge the right may have a point about her being more extreme than advertised.
And so, two years after we were supposed to usher in our second era of Clintonian triangulation, we’re staring down this country’s most serious flirtation with socialism since the 1930s (all while the right aligns itself with Russia and supports a coup in Venezuela).
Many socialists distance themselves from Chapo, which for many embodies Bernie-bro machismo. But its zero-sum politics and caustic nihilism — the exact inverse of the Establishment-liberal Pod Save America—have set the tone for socialist discourse, especially in contrast to the pieties of the identity-politics left, the righteousness of the #resistance, or the smug wonkishness of Vox.
Has the right aligned itself with Russia? I guess he’s talking about the collusion story. I’ve seen plenty of people on the right saying there’s no proof of collusion, including the president, but I’m not aware of people on the right aligning themselves with Russia. Also, it’s not just “the right” that has taken sides with Juan Guaido against Venezuela’s Maduro. Roughly 65 countries including most of Venezuela’s neighbors have sided with Guaido. Calling this a “coup” sort of overlooks the fact that Maduro is a dictator who is using his power to prevent fair elections (not to mention raiding homes and killing people).
The next vignette comes from a party for Julia Salazar featuring the Chapo podcast guys:
Salazar, a political neophyte running for a less significant office, had more luck. “There’s a movement behind us,” she declared. “I’m a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and I have this team of fellow dirtbag leftists.” She paused to marvel at the power of the word socialist. “It’s so cool that you’re clapping for that right now.”
What were they clapping for exactly? The amorphousness of the word has left it open to a number of critiques. Chapo devoted its set to helping the crowd debunk anti-socialism talking points. “This is the main one that anyone on television is going to be asked,” said Menaker. “ ‘How’s it going to get paid for?’ We’ve already seen Alexandria get asked over and over. It’s important to come up with a smart response. The smart response is: ‘All the numbers are correct. All this is true about the deficit. But, f**k the deficit because it’s not real and it doesn’t matter.’ ” The audience whooped. Another option, he said, is to “turn all the existing billionaires into millionaires. Or Soylent.”
That’s certainly the approach AOC seems to be taking these days, i.e. don’t ask me how to pay for it because that doesn’t matter. I guess it’s fun to pretend there will be no consequences to offering free everything to everyone on the grounds that the cost of doing so doesn’t matter. It must feel liberating and fun. But it’s not going to work. You can’t spend an additional $93 trillion dollars over ten years (the projected cost of the Green New Deal) and seriously expect that everything will turn out better than it is now. What you can do, apparently, is have a lot of fun talking about it at parties in New York.