By Sarah Stubbs
On Tuesday night the AMU was packed with student organizations putting their best feet forward in hopes of boosting their numbers and increasing awareness on campus. Active at this event were the two political clubs: College Republicans and College Democrats.
The College Democrats’ table was entirely decked out with Hillary Clinton posters, pins, signs, and stickers. There was even a life-size cardboard cutout of Clinton herself, which attracted several selfies. The College Republicans had a life-size cutout of Ron Paul, but the overall theme of the Republicans’ goodies and giveaways, though, was “socialism sucks.” The mantra was plastered on stickers, buttons, and posters in a similar font to the one Bernie Sanders’ campaign used in its marketing.
I’ve seen a lot of young republicans posting on social media and posing with posters that say socialism sucks, but I’m curious to know if everyone sporting that slogan could properly define socialism or identify socialist programs that many of our fellow Americans depend on for their wellbeing.
According to Merriam Webster, socialism, at its core, is a political and economic theory that states that the means of production are owned by the state. Some economists and politicians describe socialism as a government that is a balance of capitalism and communism.
The word socialism is dirty in America. Bill Maher joked in an interview with Bernie Sanders last year that when people hear socialism, they think herpes. Socialism gets lumped in with communism and sometimes even fascism when it absolutely shouldn’t. Sometimes the general attitude feels like every type of government or economy that is not capitalistic is wrong and therefore, apparently, is “sucky.”
You know what doesn’t suck about socialism? The military, police, Medicare, social security, libraries, FAFSA, free K-12 education, postal services, and don’t forget your paved roads and clean water.
Those are just a few examples of the socialist programs we have at work in this democratic, republic, capitalist country of ours that I don’ think any of us – whether we wear “socialism sucks” buttons or not – would want to do away with any time soon. Many of us, in fact, would agree that we need these socialist services in our country to live our lives with a sense of safety and security. Many would argue that we already kind of live in a socialist country.
I suppose what makes the word “socialist” scary and dirty is the straightforward, bare-bones definition that states that a socialist country has an economy that is completely government-run. But if the government was actually run and representative of the people, the word wouldn’t seem so scary anymore. The economy wouldn’t be government-run. It would be American-run.
The idea of equal representation in government is exactly what the heart of Sanders’ campaign was all about. He is a self-proclaimed democratic socialist and believes in establishing a safety net of socialist programs that serve the people, but he also still believes in entrepreneurship and small business.
A helpful Mashable video simply defines democratic socialism as “the enactment of socialist principles through the means of the democratic process.”
One of Sanders’ biggest issues was and continues to be income inequality. Much of his rhetoric rests in the fact that the top one percent of the nation’s population owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. He claims the middle class is disappearing (which it is) as the rich get richer, and outlines plans to break up the corrupt financial institutions on Wall Street and address concentration of ownership. The idea is to create fair tax brackets that would help distribute wealth in ways that benefit everyone – by investing in social services like universal healthcare; affordable, public college education; strengthened social security; pension benefits; and childcare.
Sanders didn’t and doesn’t want the United States to be a completely socialist country and neither does our democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
The young republican fad of saying “socialism sucks” is especially confusing to me now that Sanders’ “political revolution” has been set aside and the race has been narrowed down to Trump and Clinton.
If the Republicans’ be-all-end-all is to keep Clinton out of office – which was the resonating theme of the Republican National Convention in July – I’m not sure why the current focus isn’t on the policies. Maybe it’s because of the alliteration and the catchiness of the phrase, maybe it’s supposed to be funny, but the incessant denouncing of socialism doesn’t strike me as a productive or informed movement at this point in the election.