Whenever I see someone on the right refer to Joe Biden as a socialist, which is lamentably often, I laugh. A real laugh, out loud, because … I mean, really? Anyone making this claim outs themselves as ignorant to the definition of socialism, ignorant to Biden’s voting record and platform, and gullible and easily brainwashed by fear-mongering right-wing rhetoric. And though none of that is actually funny, I laugh anyway, because if I don’t, I will cry.
Biden won the nomination, and the presidency, because he’s a progressive without being a socialist.
Biden was a tourniquet — a method by which to stop the hemorrhaging, aka get Trump out of office. He was a safe candidate for the Democratic ticket, and a lot of voters chose him specifically for that fact. The fear among many Democratic voters was that someone too divisive, like, for instance, Bernie Sanders, who openly calls himself a democratic socialist, or any woman regardless of how qualified, would not pull the votes needed to get Trump out of the White House. Biden’s platform wasn’t so progressive that he’d scare off more moderate Democratic voters, but also, he seemed to actually give a shit about marginalized folks. He was the saltine cracker of presidential candidates: not everyone’s first choice, but a welcome alternative to chewing gravel.
But President Biden isn’t — and never has been — a socialist.
A perusal of Biden’s voting history, if any foaming-at-the-mouth Trump-humper were to dain to look at it, would quickly reveal he’s just a run-of-the-mill moderate Democrat. Yes, he believes everyone has a right to a quality public education, that the choices women make about their bodies should be between them and their doctors, and that people should not lose their homes because of a cancer diagnosis — that’s all true, and those are all progressive stances (is kindness progressive?). It would also be fair to say that since his nomination, Biden’s platform has leaned far enough to the left to be classified as a progressive democrat.
But Biden isn’t a socialist. He believes in private enterprise and a free market, where competition fuels innovation. He has never once suggested that the government take ownership of the means of production. It’s absurd to even imagine him doing so. But this is what the right wants us to believe.
What exactly is socialism, anyway?
Socialism, like most things, exists in a variety of iterations. If you get your information from far-right conservative “think tanks” like the Heritage Foundation, where thinking is binary and happens in a vacuum, you will believe that socialism is just one thing: a state-controlled economy where class does not exist and everyone has the same amount of everything, which equates to everyone having nothing, because without the ability to own things or accumulate wealth, there is no motivation to innovate. In their words, socialism is “a pseudo-religion grounded in pseudo-science and enforced by political tyranny.” Socialism is bread lines.
Those in favor of social democracies, like Bernie Sanders, advocate for a kind of government that ensures that people’s basic needs are met and that people have equitable opportunity. But social democracies also encourage entrepreneurship — for businesses to be privately owned, profitable, and able to grow, and for free (but regulated) markets to exist in order to spur competition and innovation. Social democrats envision a place where you’re able to trust you’ll never go bankrupt due to an illness and that you won’t have to drain your retirement account to fund your kid’s exorbitantly priced college.
Conservative pundits intentionally misrepresent the idea of social democracy. They need “socialism” to mean “communism,” otherwise their fear-mongering tactics lose all their teeth. They ask disingenuous questions like, “How can a group be 55 percent socialist and 78 per cent [sic] entrepreneurial?” The writer who posed that question knows perfectly well that it is possible to favor socialism and entrepreneurship at the same time. He is being deliberately obtuse because he trusts his readers are too stupid or uninformed to see the logical fallacy. He asks, “Would these same millennials choose socialism, if in exchange for ‘free’ education and ‘free’ health care, they would have to give up their personal property, such as their iPhone?” The disingenuousness is enough to make your skin crawl.
And yet people buy in that Biden is a socialist, aka a communist.
A Trump supporter came on my Facebook page to tell me she was pissed off that “socialists” were taking over because she was worried about what was going to happen with her — wait for it — social security. Bless it.
And that’s the thing that really chaps my ass about all the fear-mongering that happens concerning the idea of social democracies. So often, the people who are most petrified of it are the same ones who would not only benefit the most from a system like this, but who, if they understood what it was, would be actively in favor of it.
This woman who is so terrified of socialism is desperate to keep her social security — one of the most socialist things we do in the U.S. I’d be willing to bet she would be equally concerned if she thought her local public schools would be shut down and everyone in her community would be forced to pay for a private education. I bet if she knew she could trade in her hefty health insurance premiums, deductibles, and copays for paying only half the amount in taxes and still get the healthcare she needed, she’d happily make that trade. I bet if she were to calculate the huge downstream productivity benefits and economic boon that would likely result from a free college education system, she’d be in favor of that too.
But Biden isn’t a socialist. He just isn’t. That said, plenty of people in this country absolutely see the benefits of living in a social democracy. Plenty of people think it’s gross to have an income gap so great that 1% of the population earns 21% of the country’s income. Plenty of people believe healthcare is a human right and that a free college education, even if paid for by taxes, would ultimately contribute to our nation’s prosperity. Many people think this kind of socialism looks pretty great and would love to see a true social democrat in office. And all the better if that person isn’t a white man.
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