READ AND WEEP:
"The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism
," said Norman Thomas, a U.S. Socialist Party presidential candidate in the 1940s. "But under the name of 'liberalism,' they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day, America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened."
The underlying issue of the 2008 election makes this a watershed moment in American history, too important to shrink from full and frank debate or allow emotional appeal to cloak party platform DNA.
In April, when Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., was asked if presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama was a Marxist, he replied:
"I must say, that's a good question . . . I will tell you that during this campaign, I've learned some things about him, about the kind of environment from which he came ideologically. And I wouldn't . . . I'd hesitate to say he's a Marxist, but he's got some positions that are far to the left of me and I think mainstream America."
It was a good question, but there is a broader one: Will America hold to the principles of capitalism and free enterprise or will it embrace elements of socialism, Marxism and communism? Those are our choices.
We must have the intellectual honesty and moral courage to debate the choices plainly, by proper definition and without equivocation or censorship. Words matter. The left avoids any use of the terms "socialism" or "Marxism." Conservatives have been intimidated into using childish euphemisms such as "nanny state."
Webster's dictionary defines "socialized medicine" as "medical and hospital services for the members of a class or population administered by an organized group (as a state agency) and paid for from funds obtained by assessments, philanthropy or taxation." We should call it that, rather than "universal health care."
In May, two House Democrats called for nationalization of the U.S. oil industry. A June Rasmussen poll reported that 37% of Democrats liked the idea. Webster's defines "communism" in part as "a theory advocating elimination of private property" or "a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production with the professed aim of establishing a stateless society."
In 2004, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said: "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." She could have easily quoted Karl Marx, who said: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
The Fairness Doctrine, favored by many Democrats, sounds wonderful, but it ironically disguises the ultimate objective: silencing conservative speech. Why not just call it the Kill Conservative Talk Doctrine?
We've come far from promises of "a chicken in every pot" to Barack Obama's June 3 declaration that "the chance to get a college education is the birthright of every American." When did it become a birthright?
In his 1982 book,"The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism," Michael Novak noted that many who have lived under socialism would find it hard to believe "that other human beings would fall for the same bundle of lies, half-truths and distortions. Sadly, however, illusion is often sweeter to human taste than reality. The last Marxist in the world will probably be an American nun."
"The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism," said Norman Thomas, a U.S. Socialist Party presidential candidate in the 1940s. "But under the name of 'liberalism,' they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day, America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened."
If it is to be, let's do it with our eyes open, aware of every ponderous step.
Sater writes a monthly column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where this article first appeared.