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Is Paul Ryan Making Americans More Favorably Inclined Toward Socialism?

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: americans, congress, candidates, lies, media, propaganda, republicans, politics, ethics, GoodNews, dishonesty, usa, u.s., news )

- 2028 days ago -
Indeed, it is fair to say that nothing has done more to promote the cause of socialism than the ranting and raving of Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

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JL A (281)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 11:16 am
Is Paul Ryan Making Americans More Favorably Inclined Toward Socialism?
John Nichols on December 1, 2012 - 7:58 PM ET

Frank Zeidler would be delighted.

The last Socialist Party leader of a major American city, Zeider died in 2006 at the age of 93. But, to the end, the man who served three terms as the “red mayor” of Milwaukee always believed that it was only a matter of time before America began to renew its interest in socialism.

It seems that Zeidler was right.

A new Gallup Poll finds that socialism is now viewed positively by 39 percent of Americans, up from 36 percent in 2010. Among self-described liberals, socialism enjoyed a 62 percent positive rating, while 53 percent of Democrats and independent voters who lean Democratic gave socialism a thumb’s up.

Needless to say, this provoked the predictable fine whine of right-wing media. The conservative Washington Times newspaper declared: “Yes, Democrats, liberals favor socialism.” The Business Insider website announced: “Everything Republicans Fear About Democrats Is True.” William F. Buckley’s old magazine, National Review, allowed as how there is “much that is peculiar, and much that is worrying” about the new polling data.

That reactionary Republicans get a little hysterical at the mention of the word “socialism” is not news. But the reaction to there reaction is. No two groups of Americans talk so much about socialism in so many public settings these days as Republican candidates and conservative commentators. And this appears to be influencing the discourse.

Indeed, it is fair to say that nothing has done more to promote the cause of socialism than the ranting and raving of Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. It’s not just that the right has spread the word about socialism, raising the ideology’s profile to levels rarely experienced in recent decades—if ever—and associating the ideology with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, President Obama and a lot of other programs and people that Americans actually like. The fact that so many agitated, angry and—at least in some cases—politically toxic characters go apoplectic at the mere mention of the ideology has undoubtedly caused millions of Americans who don’t know much about socialism to say to themselves, “Anything that Paul Ryan does not like must have some merit.”

But I have to agree with the National Review assessment that the Gallup survey information “is worrying”—at least for conservatives. The most significant increases in sympathy for socialism over the past two years—since the last time Gallup polled on economic and ideological terms such as “socialism” and “capitalism”—have been among self-identified “conservatives” and “Republicans.”

In 2010, only 20 percent of conservatives viewed socialism favorably. Today, the number is 25 percent. That’s right: one-quarter of American conservatives view socialism favorably.

Among Republicans, the increase has been slightly more notable. In 2010, only 17 percent of self-identified Republicans had a positive view of socialism. Now, that number had increased to 23 percent. So if you meet four Republicans, one of them is harboring socialist sentiments.


Not really.

Socialism has deep America roots—going back to when Tom Paine used his final pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, to outline a social-democratic model for establishing a just and equitable society. Socialist communes and political movements flourished in the United States during the first decades of the republic’s history, and the advocates for those movements found a home in the radical experiment that came to be known as the “Republican” Party.

Founded at Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854 by utopian socialists and militant abolitionists, the early Republican Party included many German-American immigrants who arrived in the United States after the European revolutions that stirred in 1848 were repressed. The man who issued the call for that meeting in Ripon, and who is to this day frequently identified as a founding figure for the Republican Party, was Alvan Earle Bovay, a veteran radical who had led militant movements for land reform that urged the poor to organize politically and “Vote Yourself a Farm.”

Among the first Republicans were many allies and associates of socialist causes, and even of Karl Marx. Among their number was Joseph Weydemeyer, a former Prussian Army officer who would continue to correspond with Marx as he rose through the ranks as a military officer during the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln, like most of the leading Republicans of his day had read Marx and Engels in the pages of the Horace Greeley’s New York Herald Tribune (for which the two men wrote for many years as European correspondents). The sixteenth president spoke often about the superiority of labor to capital and was highly critical of concentrated wealth. Toward the end of the Civil War, the White House accepted the congratulations of Marx and his fellow London Communists after Lincoln’s 1864 re-election.

Lincoln was no Marxist. But, like a good many of the initial leaders of the Republican Party, he had been exposed to the ideas of Marx and Engels in the Tribune. In fact, Lincoln chose as one of his closest White House aides (and eventually as his assistant secretary of war) Charles Dana, Marx’s long-time editor. Famously, Dana once declared, “Everyone now is more or less a Socialist.”

In fairness, that’s not the case today.

There are still substantial numbers of Americans who do not view socialism positively, just as there are substantial numbers who do not view capitalism positively. But Americans are less inclined to be troubled by mentions of socialism, or by socialist and social democratic ideas today than in the past—just as Americans are less inclined (according to a recent CNN poll) to be unsettled by the mention of libertarianism, or by libertarian and libertarian-lite ideas. This is healthy. A republic is best served by differing ideas and ideals with regard to economic and social arrangements.

There will always be reactionaries like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan who try to make ideas scary. But when one in four Republicans have a positive reaction to the word “socialism,” it is pretty clear that the reactionaries are not doing any better in framing the economic and intellectual debate than they did on Election Day.

And, yes, that would have made Frank Zeidler, who was at once a great believer in socialism and a believer in the American experiment, a very happy man.

John Nichols is the author of The “S” Word:A Short History of an American Tradition… Socialism (Verso).

Tamara Mendelson (1)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 11:33 am

. (0)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 1:24 pm
Democrats indeed favor socialism; they re-elected a Socialist President. In another year, the outcry will begin when Obama pushes for government control of 401Ks and private corporate pension plans.

JL A (281)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 1:37 pm
Your comment shows you do not know what socialism is:
Definition of socialism (n) · Bing Dictionary
[ sṓshə lìzəm ]

political system of communal ownership: a political theory or system in which the means of production and distribution are controlled by the people and operated according to equity and fairness rather than market principles
movement based on socialism: a political movement based on principles of socialism, typically advocating an end to private property and to the exploitation of workers
stage between capitalism and communism: in Marxist theory, the stage after the proletarian revolution when a society is changing from capitalism to communism, marked by pay distributed according to work done rather than need

jo M. (3)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 2:05 pm
Interesting article, extremely weak link to anything regarding Paul Ryan or anyone else who speaks out on the evils of socialism. I suspect this favorable view of socialism by some Americans is merely a reflection of their ignorance of the definition of socialism. I hope that is the case and not that they truly wish to give up their freedoms, their initiative, their drive and ambition, or that they really wish to give up the fruits of their labors to the lazy and unproductive members of society.

JL A (281)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 2:11 pm
Jo, so many speaking of socialism, like Ryan and the others mentioned, do so when what they are referring to by no stretch of the imagination IS socialism (see definition above). They speak of the evils of things they call socialism which are not socialism is the point--leading many to learn what is actually is and find they like it compared to what Ryan others say they want.

. (0)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 3:42 pm
I am not a Liberal. I am a true capitalist. I believe in profit that is made by having a good product; a competitve market and fair trade pracitices. I believe in fair wages and benefits. I believe in one tax system where all sources of income are considered as one income and taxes accordingly after benefits and charitable or political donations are made. I believe social programs need to exist as a safety net for when people fall on hard times due to the economic malfeasance of our politicians and large Corporatists [read as Oligarch or Robber Baron]. I believe you can create something today such as Roosevelt did with the WPA such as helping individual states to employ people in cleaning up the environment and keeping it and the cities clean. I don't believe in the big unions that no longer benefit the proletariat but serve only the will and profit belonging to the appartchiki. I believe in a small, well equipped military that is trained and equipped with the most modern weapons and training for the defense of the country and not for hegemony that benefits only the large Corporations. I am not a socialist. These are the things that the founding fathers would have believed in at least to my way of thinking. I believe in making an honest buck but I also believe in giving back to the community and the country in which I happen to presently reside.

. (0)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 3:44 pm
BTW there are just as many forms of socialisma as there are capitalism.

JL A (281)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 4:40 pm
Thanks for painting the broader picture and providing options that could improve some things Michael.

Jae A (316)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 6:20 pm
They have driven home in the minds of many who wouldn't have given it much thought before their doing so as to the alternative that those mention offer...Oligarchy...or a less gentler term..fascism...All of which had to start people thinking that perhaps socialism is the better choice even though soicism is not what we have..well other than trillions in corporate welfare programs in reality. :-)

JL A (281)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 6:22 pm
They have indeed Jae. I wonder whether their staunch defenders here are providing a similar service?
You cannot currently send a star to Jae because you have done so within the last week.

Past Member (0)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 10:40 pm
I honestly believe that almost no Americans understand what Socialism is. The word has become so distorted and abused. The much-touted claim put about during the recent election that Obama is a Socialist is stupendously mistaken.

Perhaps a new word would help. You could try " co-operation" or "support." For this is the essence of the idea.

TomCat S (128)
Monday December 3, 2012, 5:37 am
Anything Ryan opposes is probably worthy of support.

JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 7:08 am
You cannot currently send a star to TomCat because you have done so within the last week.

David C (129)
Monday December 3, 2012, 9:44 am
one can only hope he is pushing us towards a true country of equality and helping each other.......

JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 9:46 am
You cannot currently send a star to Dave because you have done so within the last week.

Past Member (0)
Monday December 3, 2012, 10:03 am
Excellent article. Paul Ryan is one of the most useless political parasites in our government. However, if he can, by whatever means, awaken American workers to see the extent to which they are both losing their rights and being increasingly exploited, such that Americans overcome the decades of red-hysteria propaganda...and come to see socialism as an alternative to the toxic economic system that is corrupting our government and poisoning our planet...then I guess even lowly Paul Ryan has a purpose in this world.

JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 10:07 am
You cannot currently send a star to Brian because you have done so within the last week.

Dorothy N (63)
Monday December 3, 2012, 12:53 pm
Any real democracy will be socially responsible, with an emphasis on equal rights, opportunity and treatment, on public ownership of essential services including police, emergency services, infrastructure, water, health-care, etc., and on a living wage and safe, decent working conditions for workers, with provision made for those aged, ill, disabled, unemployed, those fallen on what would otherwise be hard times.

Cut the corporate welfare and wasteful military and other spending in excess of that required, and there's plenty of money to go around, under a fair tax base that applies to those best able to pay.

Also nobody has a right to arrange corporate-benefiting trade laws that forbid people to protect their own interests to any reasonable extent...

JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 12:55 pm
Excellent summary of what is possible based on the actual numbers and math from nonpartisan, unbiased sources Dorothy! You cannot currently send a star to Dorothy because you have done so within the last week.

Joanne Dixon (38)
Monday December 3, 2012, 1:25 pm
Jo - you say "I hope that is the case and not that they truly wish to give up their freedoms, their initiative, their drive and ambition, or that they really wish to give up the fruits of their labors to the lazy and unproductive members of society."

In fact, we have lost our freedoms to the rich in the current system, call it what you will, and are daily and hourly losing the fruits of our labors to the lazy and unproductive members of society, by which I mean the very rich and the corporate CEOs who seem to think they are worthy of big bucks for defrauding the government, and with it all of us. It doesn't promote initiative, drive, and ambition when hard work only leads to a kick in the face.

In short, what you are deploring is not socialism, but the status quo which socialists seek to change.

JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 1:46 pm
Excellent extension of the issues at hand Joanne. I would add that those whose total income is 'unearned' which means dividends, etc. only and not 'earned' income from honest labor is a group that is fighting to remain lazy and unproductive and undertaxed. You cannot currently send a star to Joanne because you have done so within the last week.

Thomas B (1)
Monday December 3, 2012, 2:39 pm
What do you call socialism with a free press?

NOT the USSR or Russia, NOT China, NOT Communsm.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Monday December 3, 2012, 3:16 pm
Thanks J.L. A. Interesting Post.

Roseann d (178)
Monday December 3, 2012, 4:31 pm
Allan, Obama is far from being a socialist president. Well, the GOP has become so extreme...borrowing the quote of Louise. V. anyone to the Left of Mussolini is a Liberal, so I guess by that barometer...Obama is a socialist.

Shirley B (5)
Monday December 3, 2012, 4:32 pm
I don't know if Ryan and his ilk would make me embrace socialism but they sure as heck make me pray a whole heck of a lot harder!

Free G. (4)
Monday December 3, 2012, 4:37 pm
"Democrats indeed favor socialism; they re-elected a Socialist President. In another year, the outcry will begin when Obama pushes for government control of 401Ks and private corporate pension plans."

Please give examples to demonstrate that you even know what the world socialist means? Or are you like every other bagger who likes to put it in a pot with a bunch of other words they don't quite understand, such as communism, maoism, nazism, fascism and call it good. Please provide examples with sources to support your claims.

JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 4:49 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Thomas because you have done so within the last week.
You are welcome Mary.
You cannot currently send a star to Roseann because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Shirley because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Free because you have done so within the last week.
Excellent points Roseanne and excellent questions Free!

Shelly Peterson (213)
Monday December 3, 2012, 10:26 pm
J.L, your response to jo M., so exactly right!!!..the more people actually learn,..usually the better their maybe all the ($#@#$@!) teabaggers are good for something..because of their "brand of insanity"..the general public is having to become engaged!.... and that is the real "cliff" looming in the horizon..Boehner and his ilke...He and the rest of the Ryan fear mongers, they are like "Coyote" in the looney tune cartoons...always planning something stupid & quite frankly dangerous...and I like being a "Roadrunner"!!...especially when he laughs at him...which we must do , to keep an even keel as we seriously stand up for our rights and be active and engaged citizens........and keep speaking up and signing all logical petitions

jo M. (3)
Monday December 3, 2012, 10:51 pm
Given the above definition, JL, I'd have to say they were either crazy,lazy, or just idiots to prefer socialism. I prefer to believe they are just ignorant rather than believe they would squander their rights and freedoms for such a deadend system. Still think it is extremely far-fetched to believe it has anything to do with Ryan or any others who warn against socialism whether an accurate portrayal or not.

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 7:21 am
Thanks for your thoughtful response Jo--such dialogue is welcome. While most would agree that there could be other contributing factors, besides those that elevated the term to a very frequently in the media for people to think about it instead of never considering it, one message might be rebound effects are possible--especially when misrepresenting something or misuse, or inappropriate, use of such terms.

Diane O (194)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 2:46 pm
This is a liberal thread filled with speculation. There's no documentation at any time to support that Paul Ryan is promoting socialism in America.

This is a thread that is more than lame.
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