I wrote here last week about the reaction to President Trump’s condemnation of socialism in his State of the Union. He said something indisputably factual and indubitably obvious to most Americans: “Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
As I said, it was a revealing, signature moment for both President Trump and for the Democratic Party.
I noted that, to their credit, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer applauded, as did a decent number of Democrats in that chamber. That was in contrast to the Democratic Party’s two socialist stars, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Poor Sanders looked so agitated that he seemed ready to leap from his seat and denounce the president as an enemy of the Proletariat. Ocasio-Cortez did a better job concealing her displeasure, as she sat stone-faced.
But I’ve since learned something even more interesting among Democrat reactions. No less than Elizabeth Warren, about as left-wing as a Democrat senator can get, joined Schumer and Pelosi in applauding Trump’s condemnation of socialism. Yes, Elizabeth Warren. Better, whereas Pelosi offered mild applause from a seated position, Warren stood and clapped emphatically, as a sea of silent white-wearing congresswomen sat behind her unmoved.
I learned of Warren’s surprising reaction from the communist press, namely from People’s World, successor to the Daily Worker, in a headline that mocked, “A specter is haunting Donald Trump—the specter of socialism.” So disappointed were the comrades at People’s World that they scorned Warren as an “erstwhile progressive leader.”
Beyond that Democratic Party split in that chamber, however, are the further fissures that have subsequently opened among the wider left’s pontificators. E. J. Dionne fired off a piece for the Washington Post (reprinted as the lead at RealClearPolitics) with the defiant title, “Trump’s War on Socialism Will Fail.” “He wants to tar all Democrats as ‘socialists,’” insisted Dionne, “and then define socialism as antithetical to American values.”
That’s a curious protest from Dionne. In truth, not only had Trump said nothing in the speech suggesting let alone tarring all Democrats as socialists, but to claim he launched a “war on socialism” seems a little overheated for a mere two lines in a 5,500-word speech — two lines that should have been viewed as utterly uncontroversial. Even if Trump had said part of what Dionne said, who can argue that socialism isn’t antithetical to American values? Of course, it is.
But perhaps the most revealing reaction among the citadels of liberalism, at once telling and hysterical, was a New York Times article titled, “Painting Socialists as Villains, Trump Refreshes a Blueprint.” It began with a slap not at socialists in liberal ranks (never) but (naturally) at the Republican villain in the White House:
President Trump has proved himself adroit at creating villains to serve as his political foils. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, he introduced a new one: socialists….
[It] could provide Mr. Trump with a potentially effective weapon in confronting an increasingly aggressive and more liberal Democratic Party, defining it through attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who describe themselves as democratic socialists, and other members of the party pushing progressive policies like a 70 percent tax rate and “Medicare for all.”
The president’s economic advisers began sounding the socialist alarm in the fall in a 72-page report criticizing what it described as the socialist ideas of leading Democrats…. The word “socialism” appeared 144 times — on average, twice a page…. Yet there is no evidence of any growing public angst about socialism sweeping the United States.
Really, New York Times? Actually, there’s angst in your Democratic Party about it. And where there isn’t angst, there’s acceptance. The Times piece, ironically, proceeded to show just that, even quoting a conservative analyst, Greg Mueller, rightly noting of Bernie, Ocasio-Cortez, and fellow socialists: “They want to take the country toward socialism and their party is divided on that and there is a major fight in their party over whether to be a socialist party.” The Times then begrudgingly gave statistics illustrating the support for socialism among Democrats:
[A] Gallup poll in August showed that Democrats had a more positive view of socialism than they do of capitalism, 57 percent to 47 percent. Their view has been relatively stable since 2010, but attitudes toward capitalism have become more negative….
Among Americans ages 18 to 29, the Gallup poll found, 51 percent were positive about socialism while 45 percent viewed capitalism favorably. Gallup noted there was a marked, 12-point decline in younger adults views on capitalism is just two years.
“Every single policy proposal that we have adopted and presented to the American people has been overwhelmingly popular,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told MSNBC late Tuesday.