You may not know it yet but you’re about to be indoctrinated into a communist state. The Socialists are coming for you! Unleash the paranoia!
Last week the Republicans held their first debate for people who have no chance of becoming the Republican presidential nominee. The debate was buried, of course, with the news of Osama bin Laden but the messaging began nonetheless. A primary message is that Republicans fear that the country is becoming a permanent welfare state. Potential candidate Rick Santorum went so far as to make a comparison to the reign of Benito Mussolini in Fascist Italy during World War II. At CPAC in February, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels made reference to our battle over the debt as one that is as serious as the “new Red Menace, this time consisting of ink”.
Representative Tim Scott (R-SC) put it this way,
“There’s no question that we are moving, step by step, closer to socialism. So that puts democracy at risk to some extent,”
It’s unclear what social programs Scott fears or how he imagines that they threaten democracy. It may be latent reaction to health care reform and the Republicans inability to convince a majority of Americans that reform isn’t necessary. It may be latent fear that the government will re-regulate a lot of what Wall Street is doing. It could be that they are reacting to the strain on the economy and cannot forecast a rosy outcome. It’s likely that they feel that a generation of Reaganomics is standing on a very thin foundation that is about to collapse which means less and less opportunity to get rich at the public’s expense. Public support for Republican policy is dwindling or, at the very least, public skepticism of said policies is gaining momentum.
I think that what Republicans are really saying when the crank up the fear monger machine is that the heady days of unfettered capitalism are coming to an end and that regulation and reforms will keep them from benefiting personally. Universal health care and Wall Street regulation will make it harder for people to get rich. So the message will be that John Q. Citizen must believe that the ability to be prosperous is being threatened by these evil ideas of collective benefit. That more and more of your hard earned tax dollars are going to support people who don’t work.
The thing is, the game is already rigged. Outside of the occasional Mark Zuckerberg there aren’t likely to be that many people moving into the ranks of the well-to-do but the middle and lower classes are being further marginalized and they’re not happy about it. The message that we will become like the former Soviet Union is just cold war scare tactics. But Republicans do know how to bang the drums of fear.
And the fear is based on dis-information. There are several nations with social programs that do just fine. Germany, for example, has a trade surplus, high wages, a social safety net, trade unions, a stable currency and they are a socialist country. Even so, capitalism in America is in little danger of being threatened. If you build a better mousetrap and market it properly, you should reap the benefits. Nor is democracy being threatened. It appears to be doing quite well. The only people who appear to be threatened are Republicans and it is that very democracy they seem to fear. Lately, they seem determined to stop at nothing, including playing chicken with the economic stability of the world, to make sure democracy goes their way. Last I checked, that was called something other than democracy.
Democrats should be vigilant to counter the fear mongering and they should start messaging sooner rather than later because once fear takes hold, it’s hard to shake that anxiety. Even if the fear is baseless. And a great President once reminded us that there really is only one thing we have to fear…
- Primary Election 2012: Conservative Fears Of Permanent Welfare State May Create Wild Ride (huffingtonpost.com)
- Mitchell Bard: It’s Been a Bad Week for GOP Lies About Obama (huffingtonpost.com)
- The GOP’s Wall Street Offensive Begins Today (businessinsider.com)