An H.G. Wells character said it more than a century ago: “We’re all Socialists nowadays.”
And he was right. Even back then, the vast majority of people in the civilized world believed in Socialism to some degree. And they still do.
Yes, even Americans who recoil in horror at the label.
To support my claim, I offer the results of last night’s special election in upstate New York. You will hear a lot of reasons for the shocking defeat of the Republican candidate in a district that always elects Republicans. But the truth is that even in the reddest of red states, most people want some of that Socialism. They just don’t know it.
One thing the voters of upstate New York obviously want is Medicare.
And Republican candidate Jane Corwin (photo above, left) said she would have voted to replace Medicare, as proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan and adopted by Republicans as their official policy. Ryan – and the rest of the Republican Party – would abolish the present system and instead give vouchers to old people, who would then have to bargain with insurance companies for health care.
Polls show that 80 percent of Americans think that’s a really bad idea.
And the election of Democrat Kathy Hochul (photo above, right) in a traditionally conservative district backs up the polls.
It’s not just Medicare that the vast majority of Americans would fight to save. They might not know it, but they like the Socialism they have (most of it, anyway). How many Americans would abolish public schools? The FBI? Interstate highways? Airports and train stations?
Not to mention Social Security!
I think the Republicans miscalculated the public mood because of their success in the 2010 elections.
Here’s how Salon’s Steve Kornacki explains what happened:
When they retook the House in their midterm landslide, Republicans ceased to be the default protest vehicle for voters. This was the role they played for all of 2009 and 2010, and it was easy. With Democrats running the White House and Congress and with economic anxiety soaring, all Republicans had to do was shake their heads and ask voters, “Is this the kind of change you can believe in?” They didn’t need a platform, they didn’t need strong candidates, and they didn’t need much money. In the climate of 2010, any generic Republican could win just about any competitive race.
I believe the Republicans misinterpreted the election results as a mandate for “free-market economics,” in other words the law of the jungle. But they were wrong. Nobody wants to eat meat that has not been inspected. Nobody wants to do away with stop signs and air traffic control. Nobody wants to be left to die if they get sick when they get old. Or to eat cat food to survive if they haven’t been able to save for their old age.
And – here’s the heart of the matter: Very few of us would want that for our family, friends and neighbors. Or even fellow0citizens we do not know. Who would send anybody’s children to bed hungry in order to give big corporations tax subsidies?
Republicans, with their vast financial resources and slick propaganda machine, have succeeded in making the word “Socialism” anathema to a lot of people, but they have not succeeded in vanquishing the natural human instinct for mutual cooperation, self preservation and – yes – compassion.
The word may be in disrepute but the principles of Socialism live on.
Even in America.