There is a video of Bernie Sanders and his wife on their 1988 honeymoon in the USSR, in which a shirtless Bernie is shown singing “This Land Is Your Land” with a bunch of drunk communists. It is a vignette apparently welcomed nowadays by the Senator from Vermont, who proudly represents true, “old school” socialism. Sanders’ doctrine is a far cry from the “bubblegum socialism” eagerly embraced by many 21st century Millennials, including the Congresswoman from New York’s 14th congressional district; but it must be taken just as seriously, if not more so. Today’s socialism is no laughing matter.
Socialism is socialism; and in whatever form is completely at odds with free political and economic enterprise that are at the core of our system of government. This holds true whether one considers the dry and pedantic old-school variety hawked by Sanders, or the bouncy, bubble-gum iteration gleefully spouted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And while it is easy to dismiss the latter, with its inane talk of “farting cows” or “garbage” capitalism, we do so at our peril; for the appeal of such nonsense is finding an easy mark in much of today’s American youth.
With socialist Venezuela visibly dying under the burden of a dictatorial socialist government, we might properly expect that “socialism” should be getting trounced in public opinion polls; yet the concept continues to draw voters to its siren song, especially younger ones.
At the most basic level, this phenomenon is actually not difficult to comprehend. For more than two generations, Americans have come of age being told that government is the solution to every one of society’s ills (real or perceived). The process of turning to government to solve every problem faced by the citizenry has created the fertile breeding ground in which today’s Millennials embrace precisely what this is -- socialism.
Dismissing the antics of Ocasio-Cortez with snarky rebuttals or superficial jokes misses this key point. She is not the problem. She is merely the face of the far deeper malady infecting American culture and western civilization generally. It is a cultural problem an inch deep but a thousand miles wide. Notions of socialism now reach far into our political system and the American business sector; its tentacles have entwined the entertainment industry, and it has sucked the lifeblood from our once-outstanding educational system.
Dealing effectively with socialist tropes like “capitalism is irredeemable” or that incremental change to the status quo is simply shifting around “garbage,” requires far more than the superficial sound bites many in the GOP throw back at socialism’s minions like Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Kamala Harris (who claims not to be a “democratic socialist” but refuses to define even what that means to her).
Rather than the easy road of responding to today’s American socialists on their level of superficiality, conservatives must define and focus on the moral superiority of capitalism. That debate begins with defining free enterprise as the very foundation of American economic and political freedom; and moves on then to asking of Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and their socialist compatriots why they prefer a system that crushes human freedom in pursuit of collective mediocrity.
We must aggressively and publicly support the efforts being led currently by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to make education great again. Copies of the Constitution of the United States must be distributed in schools to every student in every grade; accompanied in high school by a copy of the Federalist as required study. Policy debates among adults about the proper role of government -- whether in the context of Roe v. Wade or President Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” at our southern border – are largely wasted if not truly understood in the context of what our government is, was supposed to be, and has become.
In October 1964, then-private citizen Ronald Reagan birthed a political movement and stirred a nation to action, with his nationally-broadcast speech declaring a “rendezvous with destiny.” Reagan identified the existential dangers facing American civilization (including the burgeoning growth of government and the threat from socialism’s bigger brother, communism). Drawing then on the reservoir of goodwill, patriotism and education bequeathed to us by our predecessor generations, Reagan warned that without girding for and meeting head-on the battle already looming, we would doom our children and grandchildren to a “thousand years of darkness.”
Bernie Sanders was 23-years old when Reagan delivered that speech. In his heart, Sanders knows the power of words such as Reagan’s; he witnessed the Soviet Union he so warmly embraced crumble in the face of the strategy unleashed against it by the forces to which Reagan gave voice. Eloquence and reason such as uttered by Reagan, if backed by actions consistent therewith, can defeat socialism in whatever form it marches; but only if we fight it with substance and understanding – two commodities in far too short supply in this year 2019 A.D.