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The Myth of the Radical Socialist Democrat

Marlon Weems

The ‘Democrats are Socialists’ trope has been a GOP talking point for decades. But after the White House attacks, we know better

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Photo: Roberto Schmidt / AFP via Getty Images

During an appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos before the election, Jason Miller, Trump campaign advisor, deadbeat dad, and all-around sleazy guy, made this comment:

“President Trump will be ahead on election night, probably getting 280 electoral somewhere in that range, and then they’re going to try to steal it back after the election.”

Why a veteran journalist like Stephanopoulos failed to push back on the ‘Democrats will try to steal back the election’ talking point is a mystery. But for months Trump tried to invalidate as many legitimate votes — in the right localities — as possible. But Jason Miller when used the ABC platform to spread misinformation, he revealed Team Trump’s game.

After the election, Trump challenged mailed ballots arriving after Election Day as a pretext to challenging all mailed ballots. The Trump campaign tried to halt the entire mail-in count by claiming ballot commingling with pre-election Day mailed ballots. At the same time, their lawyers planned legal arguments up the judicial chain, hoping for a SCOTUS decision in their favor.

“And is that a socialist or progressive perspective?”

That’s what Norah O’Donnell asked vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris during a recent interview on the CBS News program 60 Minutes. The question underscores a pattern among the media that drives me nuts. We rely on numerous policies — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, even the Civil Rights Act — that initially were derided as socialist policies.

The ‘Democrats are Socialists’ trope has been part of the Republican Party tactics since the 30s — from the New Deal to the Great Society. Even Harry Truman addressed the ‘creeping socialism’ trope:

“Creeping socialization” — or “creeping socialism” — those are the words that give the game away. Socialism — sometimes “creeping” and sometimes “galloping” — is the slogan and patented trademark of the special interest lobbies. Socialism is the epithet they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Now listen to this: Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for anything that helps all the people. Now, my friends, when the Republican candidate inscribes the slogan “Down with Socialism” on the banner of his great crusade, that is really not what he means at all. What he really means is “Down with Progress,” down with the New Deal and down with the fair Deal.” That’s what the objective of the great crusade is now. Don’t you fool yourselves.
~Harry S. Truman, October 2, 1952

Through little more than constant repetition, the GOP has the mainstream media regurgitating their talking points. But given the President’s affinity for authoritarian dictators, when was the last time a journalist asked a Republican politician if caging of children, self-dealing, or ignoring basic government norms was ‘a fascist or authoritarian perspective?’

Despite the rise in white supremacist-related terrorism, the far-right infiltration of police departments, culminating in an attack on the White House, the media has been slow to scrutinize Rep policies as potentially too extreme.

A 2019 study from the Manifesto Project, an organization that reviews and categorizes party manifestos, platforms, and policy ideas, the Republican Party is more extreme than far-right populist parties like Britain’s Independence Party and France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front). Indeed, even though the 2020 Democratic Party is to the left of its days as ‘Republican Lite,’ it is still closer to mainstream liberal parties.

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"TRUE STORY: In 1933, a group of right-wing, pro-fascist conspirators partnered with Wall Street bankers in an attempt to overthrow the new Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. According to Major General Smedley Butler, a retired military hero, representatives of the group offered him $500,000 to raise a militia. The alleged perpetrators weren’t a fringe group — they were among the country’s titans of the times. The Business Plot, also known as the Wall Street Putsch (Swiss-German for coup d’ état), emerged from a backlash to the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an economy and financial system on the edge of collapse as a result of the Great Depression. The purpose of the conspiracy? To replace the FDR administration with a fascist government. Then as now, many Americans felt capitalism was broken. The country was in the middle of the Great Depression and a financial crisis. Conservatives feared Roosevelt’s proposed abandonment of the gold standard and his progressive policies. Although the press dismissed the plot as a hoax, the House Un-American Activities Committee held hearings to get to the bottom of the plot. The hearings went nowhere, and The Business Plot faded into America’s untold history."

Over the last four years, the GOP has embraced fascism, segregationists, and white nationalism. What happened on January 6, should not have surprised anyone.

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Marlon Weems is a writer and storyteller focused on the intersection of politics, the economy, and racial inequality. He spent more than a decade on Wall Street, where he managed several automated trading businesses. He began his writing career as a capital markets subject-matter expert, providing insights on capital markets to global investment banking clients. Most days you can find him writing from his home on a small North Carolina island with his wife, two of his four children, and two cats.

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