Bad News For People Who Like To Use Socialism As A Scare Word
It's a tale as old as time. Or at least as old as the Cold War. Whenever Conservatives run out of material, whenever they find themselves going up against an idea only total assholes would oppose, they throw out the word SOCIALIST. That one word would cause whole lot of people who grew up during the Cold War and associated socialism exclusively with the USSR to reliably freak out, and turn to Republicans for comfort and the free market. It did not matter if the person or the idea was actually socialist, it did not matter that there were things conservatives liked (like police officers!) that were, in fact, socialist. And they weren't the only ones.
Republicans have long been able to exert a certain amount of control over the Democratic Party with the word, because it was always a looming threat. You're not going to see Republicans policing themselves and their own ranks because of what Democrats could call them or say about them (or for any other reason, really), but "But Republicans will call us socialists!" has always been a reliable excuse not to do certain things and to perhaps be more circumspect than they might otherwise be.
This has subsided somewhat, and even Pete Buttigieg pointed out during the last Democratic primary that IT'S A TRAP and Republicans are going to call any Democrat a "crazy socialist" no matter what they do or what policies they support.
Hopefully it will subside more, given that yet another poll has shown that free market capitalism is not looking so great to people these days, and socialism is looking better. The poll, conducted by Axios, shows that only 49 percent of Americans now have a positive view of capitalism, while 41 percent have a positive view of socialism. More notably, however, is the way socialism has become increasingly popular with Americans post-pandemic.
By the numbers: In 2019, 58% of Americans ages 18-34 reacted positively to the word capitalism. That's plunged to 49% today.
Back then, 39% of all U.S. adults viewed socialism positively. That has since ticked up to 41%.
Socialism has positive connotations for 60% of Black Americans, 45% of American women and 33% of non-white Republicans. Those numbers have grown over the past two years from 53%, 41% and 27%, respectively.
Only 48% of American women view capitalism in a positive light, down from 51% two years ago.
Today, 18-34 year-olds are almost evenly split between those who view capitalism positively and those who view it negatively (49% vs. 46%). Two years ago, that margin was a gaping 20 points (58% vs. 38%)
That should not be too surprising. The pandemic put the failures of free market capitalism on display, while socialism came to the rescue and saved a lot of lives. People found out that breadlines can happen with capitalism too (which they did during the depression as well, actually).
Americans are increasingly realizing that kind of capitalism we've been practicing here is unsustainable, which it is. It's for people who think nothing bad is ever going to happen to them, and now we have a whole country full of people that bad things have happened to. We have a whole country of people who are sick to death of worrying about shit, they're tired of feeling scared, they're tired of uncertainty and they need a goddamned break break. That's where "socialism" comes in. That's where childcare and health care and jobs that pay them enough to live and from which they cannot randomly be fired for no reason come in.
Because the thing of it is ... we don't actually have to live this way. Things could actually be nice! We could do stuff to make more things nice for more people!
Capitalism ain't looking so great to younger Republicans, either.
Just 66% of Republicans and GOP-leaners ages 18-34 have a positive view of capitalism, down from 81% in January 2019, when we first polled on these questions.
56% of younger Republicans say the government should pursue policies that reduce the wealth gap, up from just 40% two years ago.
Granted, those are probably not the very sexy white college-educated Republican suburban women that many Democrats have long thirsted after and believe are the holy grail of electoral demographics, but they're probably their kids. That's something, no?
The good news here is that we're all FREE. Including the pro-capitalist Democrats living in fear that those of us on the Left are gonna blow up their spot with the aforementioned sexy suburban Republican ladies and ruin everything by being totally embarrassing socialists. Everyone can stop playing defense, no one has to temper their beliefs and ideas because godforbid a Republican will call them a socialist, causing the whole world to fall apart — and in fact, we should push even harder for them than we ever have, because clearly, people would just like things to be nice now.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse