Social media has shown a surge of angrily anxious ads about how left wing Democrats are using COVID-19 to push their radical socialist agenda. What they mean is unclear but they clearly intend to evoke something Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once said, or were rumored to have said. Given current government restrictions on public life, the ads remind their target audience of the old bugaboo that anything that can be labeled socialist is a straight path to the federal government controlling every aspect of personal life. In the old days we were told anything remotely socialist would lead directly to Soviet Russia or Red China; now it’s Cuba or Venezuela. In my younger days I thought only the most gullible would swallow that bait, but having witnessed a couple of generations raised on the likes of Limbaugh, Ingraham, Beck & Co., I have seen how well their propaganda has sold. It’s frightening partly because, in the name of freedom, it points toward right wing authoritarian rule.
As an opening gambit, right wingers have accused Democrats of larding relief legislation with pork. Did they? It appears their primary contribution was to do what they could to assure accountability and direct funds to areas of most critical need. Clearly more needs to be done, considering how quickly the small business PPP program was raided by major banks giving preferential treatment to wealthy clients, and how hard Trump has tried to keep distributions secret. So much for being the president who sold himself as the candidate for the working class.
Social media ad producers are deeply concerned that COVID-19 has exposed the need for and practicality of universal health care unrelated to employment. At risk are enormous profits to be made at the expense of adequate health care for all. The oft repeated mantra that the U.S. has the best medical care in the world has been revealed as the fiction it’s been for over half a century. With nearly every other nation having some form of universal health care, it’s obvious that it doesn’t lead to Russian communism, and certainly not to Venezuelan chaos. Moreover, we now more clearly understand that good health care for those at the bottom of the economic ladder is to care for men and women essential to the working of the economy. Their health brings better health to us all. Trickle down economics has never worked, but bottom up health care does.
For right wingers, universal health care is not the camel’s nose under the tent, it’s the whole damn camel opening it up for all kinds of what they call socialism. To ward it off, elections have to be manipulated to keep more of certain people from voting, but legislative moves to assure every eligible voter is able to vote, without restriction, mostly by mail, has thrown a wrench into their plans. How to stop it? Claim it’s a move to destroy the integrity of the voting system, even allowing non-citizens the vote.
Close behind is their concern that after fifty years of suppressing unions, the desire of the working and lower middle classes to again have a shot at the American Dream might be staging a comeback. It was OK for Trump to use the Dream as a campaign gimmick, but to think they might actually organize to get it back is threatening. The right of bosses to dictate working conditions under the guise of right to work may be ending. Trump’s campaign promises to recreate the high paying jobs of old were more than fantasy, they were deliberate lies. The public is more aware than ever about who essential workers really are. The right wing is desperate to find some way to block resurgent unionism, or anything like it. If they can block it, they will, and scary ads about socialism are part of it.
Added to their worries are concerns that a new Congress and president will move to increase federal support for public education, reassert oversight of environmental conditions, and refuel the move to renewable energy. It’s likely they would invest heavily in repairing the old infrastructure while building the new, with an emphasis on broadband access throughout rural America. Financing it would require a return to fiscal responsibility requiring a new tax code raising taxes on the very wealthy and reducing corporate subsidies. The right wing will scream it’s a return to out of control tax and spend policies, but the public seems to have caught on to that old canard. For an entire century it’s been right wingers who’ve ballooned the federal debt with deficit spending favoring the very wealthy while claiming to be fiscally conservative.
Finally they will bring out the folly of centralized economic planning compared to the economic vitality of a booming free market. Building America’s economic future doesn’t mean centralized economic planning, as fear mongers claim. It does mean restoration of the traditional American role for government, but in a way that right wingers can’t control. It should go without saying, but it has to be said over and over again: there never has been such a thing as a totally free and unfettered market where competition creates the best offerings to consumers making rational choices. Never. Not ever. The community, whether local, regional or national, has always and everywhere established rules by which the market operates. American’s value markets that are as fair, honest, open and free as possible, and know that it’s government’s responsibility to set the rules by which that can be assured. Our rules right now are inadequate and corrupt, but more of us are aware of that than we were a few years ago. A new congress and president will reestablish appropriate ground rules on which to rebuild the American economy, as they have each time a so called conservative Congress and administration have messed it up.