from the editor

Socialist Sweep

A not-so-bold prediction from 24 hours ago


Let’s talk turkey, folks. When it comes to breaking news, the alt-weekly format has distinct advantages over the monthly magazine but can’t quite compete with the tempo of the daily newspaper.

Take the big news of this week. This page and the words on it were printed, of logistical necessity, at the start of Election Day. By the time you see them, dear reader, the results will be well out of the bag. You’ll be drinking champagne or eating crow, depending on your political persuasion. (If you’re doing neither, if you didn’t fulfill your civic duty, if you’re indifferent to the outcome, then shame on you.) This editorial, then, fixed in yesterday’s ink, will be of precious little topical value.

Alas, it’s true: I don’t have a crystal ball. I dare not, at the cusp of such a crucial and uncertain moment, make any bold predictions.

I do, however, feel quite comfortable making some safe assumptions. The safest I can make here, at the start of a long day of casting and counting ballots, is that socialist candidates will sweep the field.

How do I know? Well, because they’re all socialists.

No, not capital-“S” socialists, but certainly small-“s” socialists.

Progressive readers, who have even a modicum of understanding of what “socialism” really means, may have an idea where this is going. Conservative readers, programmed to suffer heart palpitations at the very mention of the word, might need to take a breath before reading on.

The fact is, ours is a mixed economy, with elements of socialism and elements of capitalism. It has been for at least 100 years. The Progressive Era of the early 20th Century started us down the road to commonsense regulation of labor practices, pollution and competition. (Monopolies are bad, m’kay?) Then the New Deal came along to police the speculators who caused the Great Depression, and to stimulate the economy to tide us over. For better and for worse, government policy has been a factor, one of many factors in our economic equation ever since.

What’s more, as much as our Republican brothers and sisters espouse the virtues of “unfettered capitalism” in name, nobody (with the possible exception of a few fringe libertarians) has seriously proposed anything resembling it in deed.

No candidate would promise to take us back to the days of child labor, mystery meat (severed-finger sausage, anyone?) and monopolies. And if they did, their political careers would be brief.

No, it’s really a question of priorities. Present-day Republicans don’t want to eliminate entitlements; they want to redistribute them. They’ve blown up the deficit with unfunded corporate tax cuts and defense spending.

Now they want to hollow out Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to make up the difference. What they really want to do is to take away Peter’s entitlements to pay for Paul’s.

And guess what? That’s socialism, too. Corporate and military welfare is still welfare. Real laissez-faire and gloves-off Social Darwinism are not even on the Republican Party’s horizon.

Rather, we’re arguing what kind of policies can best unlock human potential: a policy that incentivizes business with the hope that the entrepreneurial spirit and its rewards will “trickle down,” or a policy that explicitly protects and elevates all citizens, from the working to the vulnerable.

It’s a fair argument to be had, but let’s be clear. Both are “activist” approaches. Both take our mixed economy as a given. So let’s all stop pretending that society is anything other than what we make it. We’re all socialists. A government for the people and by the people cannot escape its responsibility to help shape the future.


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