Socialism’s base

SOCIALISM’S BASE…. Last week’s Rasmussen poll on capitalism vs. socialism raised quite a few eyebrows. The result showed 53% of the public supported capitalism as the superior system; one in five backed socialism, and a surprisingly high 27% weren’t sure. Perhaps more important were the results for adults under 30: 37% backed capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided.

Harold Meyerson considers these results and concludes that socialism, despite no meaningful support in the American political mainstream, is no longer linked to anti-Americanism. That’s especially true for those who were barely born when the Berlin Wall fell.

Twenty-somethings are more open to socialism — or social capitalism — than 30-somethings not only because they never lived through the Soviet threat but because the economy, during the years in which deregulatory policy and Wall Street financialization were at their height, hasn’t worked very well for them. Americans under 29 scored well to the left of the general public in a recent survey by the Center for American Progress, and voters under 30 backed Barack Obama by a 34-point margin in November, 66 percent to 32 percent.

The young may now disdain Wall Street — but what do they know of socialism, past and present? Who even speaks of socialism in America today? The answer, of course, is the demagogic right. According to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and their ilk, Obama is taking America down the Socialist Road. As Benjamin Sarlin has noted on the Web site the Daily Beast, the talkmeisters of the right have linked a doctrine that never commanded much support in America to a president whose approval rating hovers around 60 percent and much higher than that among the young.

Rush and his boys are doing what Gene Debs and his comrades never really could. In tandem with Wall Street, they are building socialism in America.

The irony is rich.

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