To get a sense of how Trump could deploy a more expansive definition of the term “socialism” to do maximal electoral damage to the Democrats, I suggest close and regular reading of the blog of Rod Dreher at The American Conservative. Last week Dreher announced that he’s planning a new book, timed for the fall of 2020, about the threat that socialism poses to the United States in general and to conservative Christians and other traditionalist religious believers in particular. In Dreher’s view, the threat goes far beyond the worry that pious Americans who happen to be well off will face higher taxes. The danger that socialism supposedly poses to the kind of people who read Dreher’s blog has much more to do with what might be described as cultural totalitarianism.
Those who follow the world of conservative ideas will recognize the argument as one associated with the Polish writer and former anti-Communist dissident Ryszard Legutko. In a book published in this country in 2016, The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, Legutko claimed that the secular liberalism that has come to dominate Central and Eastern Europe in the years since the end of the Cold War is less different from the communist totalitarianism it replaced than is typically acknowledged. Both systems are holistic ideologies that despise genuine pluralism. Both seek to drive out competing visions of humanity and the world. And both are fundamentally intolerant of dissent.
Dreher is proposing to adapt and apply this argument to the United States, describing a country confronting what he calls the “Woke Menace” of a newly radicalized and emboldened left that aims to centralize power and stamp out all dissent.