Why is socialism suddenly in fashion? The Economist recently did a cover story on Millennial Socialism. And Generation Z might even be more liberal. What explains the rise of Bernie and AOC popularity, especially among the young? Most of my fellow Republicans would likely blame this on youthful ignorance or indoctrination by the media and education system. However, if we Republicans claim to be the party of self-responsibility, why don’t we look at ourselves? Is it possible that instead of any nefarious forces “pulling” youth towards socialism, perhaps Republican actions have been steadily “pushing” them in that direction?
This may be a new folk tale: “The Party That Cried ‘Venezuela’”, because much like when the wolf finally showed up and nobody believed the boy who had been falsely crying “wolf” for so long, now that socialism is on the horizon, a new generation is ignoring the warnings because of the Republican party’s actions for the past few decades.
My personal prediction is that unless the Republican party changes course soon, the USA will be a socialist country by 2050. Make no mistake, I am a free-market loving Republican, and I am in no way advocating socialist principles. However, I recognize that the Republican alarmist rhetoric about socialism while ignoring real problems the nation is facing has led a new generation, that came of age after the Cold War, to think socialism may not be such a bad thing after all.
To be fair, I am not a political scientist, sociologist, an economist, so take my opinion for what its worth. Most of this is based on my experience following politics and being a high school government teacher during the final years of the Millennial generation’s education. I believe that Republican responses and efforts in four major areas have pushed Millennials towards the Democrats and Socialism: the Great Recession, Income Inequality, Health Care, and Climate Change.
First of all, it is important to remember that Millennials entered the job market during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. They then saw the financial system that caused the mess get bailed out while the new workforce entrants suffered. Basically, they saw a major failure of the Capitalist system. Then, this reflects poorly on Republicans due to who has been in power. George W. Bush was president at the time of the collapse, and Republicans had been president for 20 of the previous 28 years. And as much as Republicans love to blame Clinton for a variety of things, and often called him a Socialist (a common theme), in reality, if you compared Clinton to every other previous Democratic president since FDR, he was the least Socialist of them all, especially after the 1994 midterm elections. Obviously, this way oversimplifies the reality and nuance of the political and economic situation, but it is important to recognize the perception.
As the economy slowly recovered from the Great Recession, it became obvious that there were two different recoveries. While the rich were soon back to pre-recession levels, the rest of society was not faring so well. Most likely, Republicans will quickly blame Obama for such a poor recovery. While Obama’s effectiveness in the recovery can be debated, Republicans cannot fairly blame him for income equality if every time he tried to address it, Republicans would cry “Socialism” or “Class Warfare” and refuse to work with him. We can’t have it both ways.
This discussion of Obama obviously leads to health care. There is no denying that health care is an extremely complicated issue. But unfortunately, it seems to be one that Republicans offer few comprehensive solutions for and have basically ceded the high ground to the Democrats. Back in 2009-2010 when the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was being debated, the Republicans made it clear that they were going to completely oppose Obama’s efforts to reform the health care system, rather than work with him to find a compromise. They did not want to give the ACA a “bipartisan” label. Unsurprisingly, the common refrain was “Socialism.” Here is where the problem really shows itself. The Obamacare system is still the least “socialist” healthcare system in the developed world. Instead of ensuring the program works, the Republicans have tried to undermine it, with varying levels of success. The problem is that since the system is not working as well as hoped, it needs to be fixed. Yet there isn’t a strong movement to go back to the way it was before Obamacare, now the big movement is towards “Medicare for All”. Thanks to Republicans crying “socialism” and not working to find an effective compromise market-based health care solution 10 years ago, now a very real “Socialist” style health care system has a majority support here in the US.
These three examples have all followed the same storyline. There is an issue facing the United States, the Democrats make proposals that are more government centered, possibly patterned on European programs, and then instead of trying to find compromise or discussing why such a program that works in Denmark may not work in the US and then offer specific market-based solutions, the Republicans take the easy path, cry “Socialism” and “Venezuela”. The Millennial generation looks at social programs in Europe and say “We want that” and Republicans say “You want Venezuela”. This has worked politically for the Republicans in the short term, but in the long-term, I believe it will prove to have been counter-productive in protecting a market-based society.
The other big issue is the Republican response to climate change. Instead of promoting market-based solutions to climate change, Republicans have decided to deny it even in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus. Every year that has some of the hottest global temperatures on record, and every winter that Republicans use snow to deny it, we lose more and more credibility. The Green New Deal is over-the-top and naïve; that should not even be debatable. But the problem is that compared to Trump’s winter global warming tweets in direct contradiction to climate science, the Green New Deal actually turns out to be the less ignorant choice between the two. The Millennials and following generations are the ones that will deal with the results of environmental issues. Why would we be surprised if they decide to support drastic Democratic government overreach to solve a problem when the Republican approach is to pretend the problem doesn’t even exist?
Admittedly, I have over simplified much of this for brevity. There is a lot of nuance that would be difficult to cover in only a few paragraphs. However, the general idea is that if Republicans truly want to prevent this country from becoming Socialist, we need to recognize the problems we are facing and offer strong market-based solutions to fix them, and then work with moderate Democrats to gain consensus. We can no longer be the party that constantly cries “Socialism” for every Democratic proposal. Because now that the actual wolf of Socialism is coming close, when it actually attacks, the American villagers may no longer believe us when we try to warn them.