Thursday, February 07, 2019

Trump stumps for socialism

Trump has started calling proposals made by the rising progressives within the Democratic party "socialists" to discredit them. I don't think the President and other Republicans pushing this line have thought this through. There is a real chance that it will backfire.

The President is unpopular while the policies he is labeling as "socialist", like higher taxes for the wealthy and medicare for all are really popular. This year is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which means that anyone under the age of 40 has little to no first hand memory of the Cold War, and anyone under 50 only remembers the very end, when red baiting was already out of fashion. A shrinking proportion of the electorate is going to be spooked by the S-word. If an unpopular president repeatedly labels really popular policies as "socialist" it is likely that more people will call themselves socialist.

(Yes, I made a similar argument ten years ago, when Obama was first elected and there was a brief attempt to label Obama as "socialist" early in his presidency. Only now, with another decade under our belts, the proportion of the electorate that will not be receptive to cold war style red baiting is even greater.)