Republicans will run their old strategy even if Democrats don’t nominate a democratic socialist.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Republicans, their conservative media allies, and more than a few Donkey Party apostates, have been calling Democrats “socialists” for a long, long time. The habit really began with FDR, who was generally thought to have introduced a social-democratic strain to American liberalism. His predecessor as Democratic presidential nominee and as governor of New York, Al Smith, said this to a room full of anti-Roosevelt conservatives in 1936:
Just get the platform of the Democratic Party and get the platform of the Socialist Party and lay them down on your dining-room table, side by side … After you have done that, make your mind up to pick up the platform that more nearly squares with the record, and you will have your hand on the Socialist platform.”
At least FDR was indeed advocating significant new public policy restraints on private enterprise, if not anything you could really characterize as “socialist” by historic standards. But the same label was applied to virtually every post–World War II Democratic president other than perhaps Jimmy Carter.
In 1945 the American Medical Association attacked Harry Truman for advocating “socialized medicine” (the same label they would attach to the original Medicare and Medicaid programs as advocated by LBJ). Shortly into the presidency of the resolutely centrist Barack Obama, the Republican National Committee very nearly adopted a resolution calling on all their partisans to begin referring to the opposition as the “Democrat Socialist Party.” And soon after another centrist Democrat, Hillary Clinton, beat back a challenge from that rarest of beasts, a self-identified socialist running a viable presidential nomination campaign, she encountered widespread conservative claims that Donald Trump was the only thing standing between a virtuous America and a “tsunami of leftism,” or perhaps socialist totalitarianism.
So today, when 2016’s self-identified socialist is the consensus front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination, and when another self-identified socialist, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has become the darling of party activists and a huge national celebrity, there’s no question the GOP’s “The Socialists Are Coming!” rallying cry will become even louder. That’s particularly true because Republicans desperately need to do to Democrats in 2020 what they did in 2016: Make doubts about about Trump’s opponent the center of attention, rather than Trump’s own character. No wonder Trump himself is leading the chorus of warnings about “socialism.”
But how effective will it be? That could depend on a number of variables.
The baseline reality is that Americans are less hostile to “socialism,” defined vaguely, than they’ve been in the past, though in a recent Gallup sounding there are very clear generational differences (as one might expect given the self-identification of the Cold War’s communist bad guys as “socialist”). A majority of Democrats, and of voters under the age of 35, say they have a more positive view of “socialism” than of “capitalism.” But overall only 37 percent of Americans have a positive view of “socialism.”
To be clear, Americans’ understanding of what “socialism” means isn’t very clear or consistent, as Frank Newport explains:
When asked to explain their understanding of the term “socialism,” 17% of Americans define it as government ownership of the means of production, half the number who defined it this way in 1949 when Gallup first asked about Americans’ views of the term. Americans today are most likely to define socialism as connoting equality for everyone, while others understand the term as meaning the provision of benefits and social services, a modified form of communism, or a conception of socialism as people being social and getting along with one another. About a quarter of Americans were not able to give an answer.
Views of “socialist” politicians are inconsistent, too. On the one hand polls show being “socialist” as the most undesirable quality for a presidential candidate. On the other hand, the one viable self-identified socialist to run for president, Bernie Sanders, is consistently the most popular United States senator, and his national favorability ratio (54/38 according to Gallup late last year) is positive if not sensational.
In terms of policy positions arguably identified with “socialism,” the record is murky as well. Despite GOP efforts to scare people about Medicare for All as a socialist abomination, it’s generally quite popular, even among rank-and-file Republicans. Heavy taxation of the very wealthy, another “socialist” proposal, is popular as well.
There are a number of scenarios for how this latest “socialism” debate will play out between now and November 3, 2020.
The rapidly approaching Democratic presidential nominating contest will soon begin to capture some of the enormous attention currently being paid to congressional socialists like AOC and Rashida Tlaib (and their close ally Ilhan Omar), and with it some of the “Democrats are moving to the hard left” talk that has dominated political coverage since the midterm elections. But if any self-identified “moderate” presidential candidates choose to make the 2020 primaries a “struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party” and issue their own warnings about incipient socialism (which Republican pols and conservative media would happily amplify), the same debate would continue with a slightly different cast of leading characters. And if this hypothetical loud-and-proud moderate does poorly in the polls and then in the primaries, the perception that the party has chosen to move left will be enhanced. That is particularly true if Bernie Sanders wins the nomination.
The salience of attacks on Democrats as the party of “socialism” becomes less clear if presidential candidates who aren’t clearly “moderate” but who disclaim any “socialist” allegiances do well. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Beto O’Rourke have all gone out of their way to proclaim themselves as aiming at the reformation of capitalism, not socialism. But then again, Harris and Warren, along with Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, all signed onto the Senate resolution encompassing the Green New Deal with its very big government implications.
Republicans are very likely to continue their attacks on Democrats as one big happy socialist family, forcing them either to fight over acceptance or rejection of the label or grin and bear it through a sustained red scare. In the end Donald Trump’s record and character may cast so large and ominous of a shadow over the country in 2020 that nobody much cares whether the candidate who challenges him is a firm capitalist-roader or something to the left of that. Indeed, while it’s very likely the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign will be significantly more out-front progressive than Hillary Clinton’s indistinct and largely negative 2016 effort — barring some shocking Hickenlooper boom in the primaries — it might be best for the party to postpone any struggle for its soul until Trump is gone. But without question, Trump’s MAGA legions will try to force the issue, loudly.
Will the GOP’s ‘Red Scare’ Message Be Effective in 2020?
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Dems are back to voting on the Ilhan Omar-tailored resolution after all
NEWS: House Democrats are planning to vote on anti-Semitism resolution today, according to sources inside closed-door whips meeting
Yeah, good luck with that
International conflicts are an afterthought on U.S. network news
The Trump administration needs Democrats’ help with the the president’s revised trade deal, so they have to play nice for once
The White House is engineering an unusually by-the-book approach for selling Congress on the replacement deal for NAFTA — with the hope of persuading Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote for the new trade agreement.
Administration officials have been organizing dozens of meetings with rank-and-file lawmakers to try to build bipartisan support for the deal, which restructures trade terms with Canada and Mexico. They’re hoping to recapture the success of criminal justice reform legislation, which marked a rare high-point for White House-Hill relations and passed Congress last year following a monthslong behind-the-scenes campaign led by Jared Kushner.
Their goal is to get a vote on the pact by late summer. But their efforts still may come to nothing: While Pelosi hasn’t yet staked out a definitive position on the agreement, factions of Democrats are already saying they’re not going to vote for it unless there are changes to key provisions, possibly requiring new negotiations with the two U.S. trading partners. Plus, Democrats and GOP lawmakers alike are telling the president they won’t consider the deal until he lifts lingering tariffs on steel and aluminum from Mexico and Canada.
It’s not hard to see why someone would think corruption allegations are no longer an impediment to higher office
Former Rep. Aaron Schock said Wednesday that he would not rule out a return to politics after striking a deal with federal prosecutors to have corruption charges dropped with no admission of wrongdoing if he pays restitution and back taxes.
“At 37 years old, I don’t think I’ll ever say never,” Schock told CBS News in response to a question about his potential future political ambitions. But the former lawmaker said he would more likely enter the private sector and that “I have enjoyed being out of politics the last four years.”
It’s almost like this administration doesn’t take environmental threats seriously
Congressional Democrats are launching an investigation into the fate of NASA’s offer to fly a pollution-analyzing jet over the Houston region in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
The investigation was spurred by a Los Angeles Times report Tuesday revealing that officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality declined the NASA offer, arguing data collected by the space agency could cause “confusion” and might “overlap” with their own analysis — which was showing only a few, isolated spots of concern.
On Wednesday, members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, sent letters to the EPA, NASA and Texas environmental officials asking for all documents relating to the agencies’ decision not to fly.
Of course Trump couldn’t resist wading into this TV drama
Republicans Are Going to Try the ‘Red Scare’ Strategy in 2020. Will It Work?
By Ed Kilgore
Americans are now less hostile to socialism, but Republicans will still try their old strategy, as they need a distraction from Trump’s shortcomings.
Trump Calls Apple CEO Tim Cook ‘Tim Apple’ to His Face
By Matt Stieb
Was it a gaffe, or does the president assume everyone names their businesses after themselves?
Michael Cohen handed over documents to the House Intelligence Committee today that reportedly show Trump’s attorneys editing Cohen’s 2017 statement to Congress
This is significant regardless of the actual substance of the edits. Editing and returning a document communicates some approval that the edited document be submitted. If Trump knew the content was false, and it appears he did, then that is suborning perjury.
A judge ruled to open the bulk of the documents in the case against Jeffrey Epstein
The Second Circuit appeared inclined on Wednesday to unseal an enormous tranche of documents that would shed light on the case of wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, whose case a federal court recently decided trampled on the rights of dozens of underage victims.
“There is a presumption of openness with virtually every document,” declared the Miami Herald’s attorney Sanford Bohrer, urging for the release of 167 files that neither he nor his client are allowed to see.
The case journeyed to the Second Circuit from a lawsuit filed by one of Epstein’s accusers Virginia Giuffre, now Virginia Roberts.
Describing herself as a former Epstein “sex slave,” Giuffre sued in 2015 before the case settled with a largely sealed record two years later. Giuffre later agreed to appear in a video interview for The Herald’s award-winning investigative series “Perversion of Justice,” which reported that President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta helped Epstein’s star-studded defense team land their client a non-prosecution agreement. The plea deal protected Epstein’s co-conspirators, kept him out of federal prison, and hid the details of the agreement from dozens of alleged victims.
Giuliani Preps His Defense Against the Mueller Report: ‘Nothing Ever Happened’
By Matt Stieb
Among the gems in Trump’s lawyers’ reported 80-page counter of the Mueller report: contacts with Russia aren’t serious as they “never went anywhere.”
According to documents seen by NBC San Diego, the U.S. government created a secret database of journalists, activists, and influencers who are covering immigration.
Documents leaked to NBC 7 Investigates show [journalists’] fears weren’t baseless. In fact, their own government had listed their names in a secret database of targets, where agents collected information on them. Some had alerts placed on their passports, keeping at least three photojournalists and an attorney from entering Mexico to work.
The source said the documents or screenshots show a SharePoint application that was used by agents from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and some agents from the San Diego sector of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
The individuals listed include ten journalists, seven of whom are U.S. citizens, a U.S. attorney, and 47 people from the U.S. and other countries, labeled as organizers, instigators or their roles “unknown.” The target list includes advocates from organizations like Border Angels and Pueblo Sin Fronteras.
For each person, the documents show their photo, often from their passport but in some cases from their social media accounts, along with their personal information. That information includes the person’s date of birth, their “country of commencement,” and their alleged role tied to the migrant caravan. The information also includes whether officials placed an alert on the person’s passport.
Another Mueller prognostication, this time from former CIA director John Brennan — who assumes the special counsel is familiar with Roman history
Former CIA Director John Brennan suggested in an interview Tuesday that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if special counsel Robert Mueller hands down additional indictments at the end of the week, though he acknowledged he does not have inside knowledge.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if, for example, this week on Friday, not knowing anything about it, but Friday is the day the grand jury indictments come down,” Brennan said.
The former CIA chief, who served during the Obama administration and has since emerged as a fervent critic of President Trump, added that Mueller may take into account that the following Friday, March 15, coincides with the Ides of March.
“I don’t think Robert Mueller will want to have that dramatic flair of the Ides of March when he is going to be delivering what I think are going to be are his indictments, the final indictments, as well the report he gives to the attorney general,” Brennan said.
Kirstjen Nielsen’s Testimony About the Border Was an Utter Embarrassment
By Opheli Garcia Lawler
She claimed ignorance on many of the most damning questions.
Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris respond to the Ilhan Omar controversy
“Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world. We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel. Rather, we must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace … What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong.” —Bernie Sanders
“We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry, especially as we see a spike in hate crimes in America. But like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk. We should be having a sound, respectful discussion about policy. You can both support Israel and be loyal to our country … I also believe there is a difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism. At the end of the day, we need a two-state solution and a commitment to peace, human rights, and democracy by all leaders in the region ― and a commitment by our country to help achieve that.” —Kamala Harris
—Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris
Of Course Democrats Shouldn’t Let Fox News Host a Primary Debate
By Eric Levitz
Fox News isn’t a news network. It’s a propaganda outfit that abets plutocracy by fomenting racial paranoia. The DNC is right to treat it as such.
Wilbur Ross gets another smackdown in court, but the Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether a citizenship question can appear on the census
A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked a Trump administration move to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, calling the proposal “arbitrary and capricious” and saying it would harm the state of California and be “contrary to the Constitution.”
In a ruling released Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had failed to justify his decision to include a citizenship question in the upcoming census.
The judge said such a question would ultimately hamper the department’s constitutional mandate to conduct an accurate count of the nation’s population by causing noncitizens to avoid enumeration. The count occurs every 10 years.
“A significant differential undercount, particularly impacting noncitizen and Latino communities, will result from the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” Seeborg wrote.
The Kids Aren’t Alt-Right
By Ed Kilgore
The long march of the conservative conquest of the Republican Party could finally be coming to an end.
Obama posts his thoughts on the Dem primary, with a shout-out to a certain website
As Democrats enter the presidential primary season, here’s an article that captures some of my thoughts on the process pretty well: http://nymag.com/…/will-2020-democrats-help-trump-by-destro…
It goes without saying that the stakes couldn’t be higher in 2020, and I’m excited by the slate of extraordinary candidates who have thrown (or appear to be getting ready to throw) their hats in the ring. I’m also convinced that a robust debate among these candidates — on their policy ideas and their broader vision for America’s future — will be good for the party, good for the country, and good for the eventual nominee.
Certainly that was true for my candidacy in 2008. Sparring with my fellow Democratic candidates forced me to sharpen my ideas, and learn how to defend them. The primary toughened me up, and gave voters a sense of how I stood up under pressure. The long primary process allowed me to make inroads in states like Indiana and North Carolina — states we eventually won in the general election. And it allowed me to spend more time in places like Kentucky and Rhode Island, which don’t usually get a lot of attention during elections but are crucial to a fuller understanding of America. The experience made me a better candidate, and ultimately, a better president.
Of course candidates vying for the nomination will work to define their differences. Campaigns for the nomination naturally highlight the contrasts that underscore their competitive advantages. That is a normal part of the process. Yet there also should be a recognition of shared values and goals.
As this contest heats up, I’m hopeful that all our candidates and their supporters will honor the difference between a healthy competition among allies and the deployment of misinformation and baseless attacks that we’ve seen too much of in our politics. Such slash-and-burn tactics will not just divide Democrats and make it potentially harder to win in November. They also are corrosive to our democracy and will add to a cynicism that prevents us from tackling big problems.
America is hungry for a better kind of politics right now. A primary process that not only tests bold new ideas, but also shows our fidelity to the truth and our ability to disagree in a fair, respectful way, is part of what’s needed to get us there.
Bloomberg(’s Money) 2020
Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that he would not run for president, but would devote some of his considerable economic firepower to helping elect Democrats next year. On first (or second) blush, who among the vast field of candidates does his decision benefit?
Whoever gets his money and endorsement, if anyone. It’s not like he had any actual voter support to share.
Yes, his poll numbers in early states were nothing to write home about, and he had higher disapproval numbers than almost any other Democrat
Biden is the main *potential* beneficiary, if only because he’s now the sole claimant to the “centrist savior” mantle that both he and Bloomberg have been wrestling over.
Along with Klobuchar, and possibly Beto.
I doubt Bloomberg will try to weigh in too heavily in the primary in any other direction, so I don’t think his money and resources are going to be too relevant to begin. I just can’t tell you how many donors/”moderate” activist types mention Biden and Bloomberg in the same breath.
So you’re saying there WAS a potential constituency there – though almost certainly not a path to the nomination.
A potential constituency among activists and donor types, sure. Unclear if that means much in terms of voters.
Bruce Reed was also advising Tom Steyer, so take from that what you will.
On the other hand, both Bernie and Warren loved the idea of running against Bloomberg, so they’re the ones who are most obviously hurt here, at least in terms of losing a foil.
Does Bloomberg’s exit say anything about the limits of huge money in presidential politics?
Don’t think so. He might still end up being one of the most influential people in the race, just from the outside. But his political limitations go beyond his status as a billionaire.
Three words come to mind: “Stop and Frisk.”
We haven’t really tested the proposition of a very charismatic, popular, politically potent self-funder in a presidential race. (Trump wasn’t really a self-funder.)
Indeed. but I wonder if simply being a billionaire is all but disqualifying in a Democratic primary these days.
Four Democratic moguls entered the post-2016 era thinking they might run for president in 2020. Bob Iger decided he had better things to do at Disney, with their Fox merger. Tom Steyer decided he’d be vastly more effective on the outside. Michael Bloomberg decided he’d be vastly more effective on the outside. There’s a fourth. He’s probably going to run for president as an independent.
So, maybe. But we’ll probably find out when some smart anchor asks the candidates on the debate stage: “Is every billionaire a policy failure?”
“I reject the premise of your question…”
Well Ben, sounds like you’re in debate prep for 22 of the 24 candidates.
Gabe, do you think Bloomberg’s warning about socialism in his non-candidacy op-ed means anything tangible? Could he use some money to bash Bernie or some other candidate he doesn’t like? (Plus he’d get massive publicity for doing so, whether or not he spent any money on it.)
It’s certainly possible, and remember that Bernie’s rise was a main reason Bloomberg even considered running as an independent in 2016. But I doubt he’ll want to spend his money in a Democratic primary. He seems much more willing to direct his (massive) resources toward simply defeating Trump. Now, maybe we should have this conversation in 14 months if we’re looking at, like, a Sanders v Biden v Harris delegate smackdown.
Yeah, that’s what I was thinking about.
I keep thinking back to the 2016 example. A lot of major GOP donors spent enormously trying to defeat Trump. When they failed, they basically just threw up their hands and directed a lot of money to anti-Hillary super PACs. Bloomberg is a bit more forward-facing than a lot of these people, of course.
The thing about the Bloomberg news is that, though few Democrats will say it out loud right now because of the taboo on talking positively re: money in politics, they’re pretty uniformly happy with the prospect of him pouring a ton of money into their 2020 efforts, without his own messy candidacy complicating things.
I’m also aware that you and I both think a contested convention is more feasible in 2020 than at any time in living memory (feasible, not likely). You can imagine what a scenario like that would tempt someone to do who’s got more money than God and some pretty clear policy biases.
Sure, which is why I think we should have this conversation in 14 months.
Maybe Beto will have announced by then.
Nah. Don’t want to peak too early.
One more Bloomberg-related question for you, Gabe. Already we’re hearing some campaign people and more pundits pronounce that the era of TV ads in politics is finally over, and that it’s all about grass-roots organization and social media. Does the presence of someone like Bloomberg, whom I guess is more old-school in his political strategies, with a gazillion dollars to spend on the general election affect the evolution of strategy?
Ed has fully taken over this chat, and as the kids say, “I’m here for it.”
Well, every campaign will realistically be focusing more on digital than ever before, but that’s a long-term trend. TV ads aren’t going anywhere. I think the more interesting test case will be what Biden does, how he spends his money. Bloomberg can afford to be more old-school because he has all the money in the world, so can do all of the above. I expect he will.
Yeah, when I’m at the Safeway I make a point of buying something from every aisle. So I can relate.
A sign that it’s lunchtime on the West Coast.
What’s the opposite of a “must-see”?
Former Sen. Jeff Flake and NYT columnist Bret Stephens debate Trump transition team member Kris Kobach and Fox News columnist Liz Peek in NYC on March 28 on the motion: “The Republican Party Should Not Re-Nominate Trump.”
Man who said there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville is deeply concerned about anti-Semitism
It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference. Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!
Arizona senator says she was sexually assaulted while serving in military
Sen. Martha McSally, during an emotional hearing, Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, said a superior Air Force officer raped her.
McSally, the first female fighter pilot to fly during combat told lawmakers that she was “preyed upon and raped by a superior officer.”
“I stayed silent for many years, but later in my career, as the military grappled with the scandals and their wholly inadequate responses, I felt the need to let some people know I too was a survivor. I was horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences was handled,” she said. “I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years of service over my despair. Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again.”
Trump is not getting any less popular
It’s not getting Medicare for All–type press, but Democrats’ child poverty bill could have a huge effect down the road
Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on Wednesday unveiled the latest version of their American Family Act — in my view, likely to be the single most important bill of 116th Congress for the country’s poorest residents.
The bill, whose House counterpart is sponsored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA), almost certainly won’t pass this session. It comes from the Democratic Senate minority and might not get any Republican support. But if enacted, the bill would slash child poverty in the United States by over a third in a single stroke. Passing it would enact a child allowance in the United States, bringing us in line with our peers in Canada, the United Kingdom, and most of the rich world in guaranteeing a basic payment for the care of children.
Most important, in its latest incarnation, the bill has the support of the majority of the Democratic House and Senate caucuses, including the No. 2 Democrats in the House and Senate (Steny Hoyer and Dick Durbin, respectively); just about every possible Democratic 2020 contender currently in Congress from Tim Ryan in the House to Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren in the Senate; and leaders of both the moderate (Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Chris Coons) and left (Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) wings of the party. Thirty-five Democratic senators (out of 48 Democrats total) and 168 Democratic House Reps (out of 235) are sponsors or co-sponsors.