John Nichols discusses some shocking results from the latest Gallup Poll on economic and ideological terms. Almost one-quarter of all Republicans have a favorable opinion of the word “socialism.” It has been well know that for a while, the “S” word had lost its scare power. But in the last two years, the number of Republicans who say they like the word has gone up from 17% to 23%. All the other group categories have seen increases in positive reactions to the word, but it is most intense among Republicans and conservatives.
Nichols thinks that the reason for this is the glib way that conservative politicians and pundits throw around the word “socialism.” I’m sure that he’s right. And this effect must be biggest on Republicans because they hear this kind of garbage the most. How else should people react when popular laws and politicians are labeled “socialist”? Remember when Clinton was president? There was blanket coverage in the right wing media calling him a socialist. Now, even or perhaps especially to conservatives, he was a great president. How can that not take some chill off “socialism”?
Most of the article is about the early history of the Republican Party and how radical it was. He even discusses the direct connection of the Republican Party with none other than Karl Marx. This is all straight out of his excellent book The “S” Word, which I reviewed for May Day. I highly recommend reading it; it is filled with forgotten history—or at least history that a large part of those in power wish was forgotten.
I think there is another aspect to all this increasing love for socialism. People make a distinction between “communism” and “socialism.” Communism is that totalitarian system practiced in Russia that collapsed due to its own weight. Socialism is the system they have in Switzerland, Finland, and even the United Kingdom. These are systems that are just as free as ours, but they are “nicer.” People still get rich. Markets still function. Yet the poor aren’t tormented, the sick get treatment, and minorities are protected. At the end of the day, that sounds pretty good. Is there anything great that our nastier system provides that theirs does not? Increasingly, our answer is no.