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What do Emmer and the NRCC mean by ‘socialism’?

Rep. Tom Emmer, President Donald Trump
REUTERS/Leah Millis
Rep. Tom Emmer shown speaking to President Donald Trump during a 2018 visit to Minnesota.

Venezuela. Socialized education. Tom Emmer. National Republican Congressional Committee. Red-baiting/McCarthyism. Suburban swing voters. The fate of the earth. Hold those thoughts for a second while I try to make the connections.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota’s Sixth District has always struck me as a nice, smart, politically talented guy when we have crossed paths. Friendly, conservative but not crazy-right (especially compared to his immediate predecessor, Michele Bachmann). I usually see him at MinnRoast and he’s affable and is able to convince me he knows who I am, so much so that I thought he might give me an interview, but he apparently won’t.

Emmer is the current chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the political arm of the national party’s campaign for seats in the U.S. House. The job came to him after last year’s disastrous rout of House Republicans, a loss of 42 seats, which cost the Repubs their majority. The current makeup of the House is 235 Democrats to 197 Republicans, with a couple of vacancies pending special elections. Emmer was chosen to reverse that huge 2018 setback. It’s a big job.

Under Emmer (I can’t say if this was the case previously), the NRCC has adopted a strategy of red-baiting, bordering on McCarthyism, as a staple of its messaging, which I reasonably take to be a linchpin of its strategy to retake the House. For the youngsters, McCarthyism refers to the tactics practiced by Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin in the 1950s, which led to his censure by the Senate and to the term “McCarthyism” becoming a synonym for despicable red-baiting.

Press release after press release from the Emmer-led NRCC refers to the other party as the “Socialist Democrats.” Socialist, socialist, socialist. It’s blatant and shameless. I could give you 100 examples, and they keep coming like boilerplate. I’m not sure I’ve seen a recent case where they used the word “Democrat” not modified by “Socialist.” 

This included smearing 29 different Democrats hit with the S-word during a single 30-minute e-mail storm that I wrote about here when the NRCC was defending President Trump against the allegation that he was a tad racist. Very subtle effort to change the subject from racism to socialism. Very mature. And so substantive that the exact same charge was leveled at 29 Democrats. Click through that link above to see how it worked.

What constitutes the line between what Americans have long called “liberalism” and full-on “socialism” may be a complicated subject. You could call Social Security “socialism” if you wanted to (it even has “social” in its name). On the theory that taxing me to pay for something I may not want is socialism, are Republicans proposing to make participation in Social Security voluntary? That would be the “freedom” thing to do. (Pardon my snark.)

You could call Medicare “socialized medicine for the elderly,” and Medicaid “socialized medicine for the poor.” You could call minimum wage laws “socialism.” After all, if I am willing to do a job for which an employer wants to pay $1 an hour, why should the socialists say we can’t make that deal? You could say that about almost anything the government “makes” you do, but especially if it costs you tax dollars. It’s a “freedom” thing, especially where dollars are involved.

I’m not calling Emmer personally despicable. Before doing so, I would want to discuss the enormous increase in the NRCC’s use of the “S-word” in its communications under his leadership, to ask him if he agreed with it, how he defines socialism, etc. I asked for an interview, but couldn’t get one, nor any explanation of why not. 

But when I told the NRCC press people I was going to write a piece about it and say that I couldn’t even get Emmer to say what he meant by “socialism,” they sent me a recent video. In it, Emmer was asked by a national reporter, how, for purposes of NRCC communications attacking the “socialist Democrats,” he was defining the word “socialism.” He replied, leading with the V-word as a short summary:

Emmer: “Venezuela. I mean, it is a complete government takeover. Literally, it’s theft. Socialism is theft. You name your issue. It’s restriction of free speech.

“It’s restriction of your right to choose your own health care options. It’s restriction of your education options. Take your pick. Socialism is the government is going to make those decisions. Not you.

“You’re not satisfied with (that answer),” he said, apparently reading that the reporters were not satisfied), and he continued: “I’ll just say this: 

“They [presumably meaning Democrats] use the term. They’ve offered the Green New Deal. That’s socialism. That destroys the free market economy. They’ve proposed socialized medicine, which further messes up health care, which has already been totally destroyed by the Affordable Care Act.

“I can give you examples, but I take it that you’d rather have me give you a definition that you can feed back to me. [Huh?] But I think that people know what socialism is, and they don’t like it. Look at the polling. It’s almost 60 percent in the handful of districts that we’ve targeted, primarily suburban districts. They have an unfavorable view of ‘socialism.’”

To me, this justifies my use, above, of the phrase “red-baiting bordering on McCarthyism.” Let’s unpack it a bit.

The first word of Emmer’s definition was “Venezuela.” Venezuela is in terrible shape. It got relatively rich, for Latin America, because it has a lot of oil. The price of oil has come down, and so has the Venezuelan economy. The current dictator calls himself a “socialist.” It’s a mess. Is this a point for Emmer? Are there any nations of Latin America that Emmer thinks should be a model for America? Most of them are considered capitalist nations. Is there any chance he picks on Venezuela as the definition of socialism because it is in chaos? Just asking.

Sweden, Norway and Finland are often called “socialist” models. They use the term to refer to their own systems, which include plenty of free enterprise and prosperous companies. They are also solidly in the camp of democracy. Life there is very good, better, by many objective measures, than in the USA. Is that because they’re “socialist”? Or because Scandinavians are hard workers? Or some other reason? 

If you wanted to have an honest discussion, you would deal with all of those cases, and others. If you just wanted to scare Americans, you would say that Venezuela is hell because “socialism” is hell, while Sweden is heaven because Swedes are just good people, even if they don’t love “freedom” like we do. (By the way, a lot of Swedes are good people.)

“Socialism is theft. Literally it’s theft” is bizarre, unless he explains what he means. I’m guessing it’s about taxes. Taxes are mandatory. They are used to pay for government programs. If you would rather not pay them because you don’t like how the government is using your tax dollars, you don’t get to keep your money unless you find a good offshore tax haven. Other than that, I would like to ask Emmer how “socialism is theft,” unless he means taxation should be strictly voluntary or follow the old ditty: “Don’t tax me, don’t tax thee, tax that guy behind the tree.”

The fact, which Emmer cites, that a large portion of Americans will say they don’t like “socialism” explains why Emmer and the NRCC want to attach the term to everything that Democrats favor, very little of which the Democrats call “socialism.” 

What if Democrats start referring to the Republicans as “fascists?” That’s a very, very nasty word.  It doesn’t mean anything very specific to most of us, but has the Hitler/Mussolini stink on it, and some of that same stink comes from Donald Trump occasionally, according to who’s doing the sniffing. How would our political culture fare if our discourse offered us a choice between fascism and socialism, even in those suburban districts?

Governments collect taxes and provide services. How to strike the right balance between those two has long been the essence of the liberal/conservative divide (except on military spending. where they switch sides).

To me, that’s not evidence of which side has the better priorities. To me, that’s evidence that, rather than discussing the costs and benefits of various suggested laws that would increase taxes to pay for things like greater access to health care for those who lack it, Emmer prefers to assign to those policies a word that he knows polls poorly in the suburban districts that he is “targeting.”

Like President Trump, when ginning up the anger of the base, Emmer likes to emphasize the four young female Democrats sometimes called “The Squad:” Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. He talked about them at the videoed press conference, and he was asked whether he was trying to “portray them as the face of the Democratic Party.” He replied, earnestly:

“We’re not trying to portray them as anything. They’re the ones who say what they are, and what they’re doing. They’re the ones that came in and said ‘we are socialists.’ Now, there’s a group that wants to say, ‘that’s just a few voices in our conference, and they’re oversized” (I assume he meant “overemphasized”). 

He said, speaking perhaps of the Squad, or perhaps of a larger group, perhaps of anyone who wants more Americans to have health insurance, perhaps of all 240 Democrats who voted for Pelosi as speaker, you decide:

“It’s a Red Army. It’s not a ‘squad.’ They’re an army of socialists. You have well over a hundred members who are signed onto socialized health care. You have well over 70 members that are signed onto the Green New Deal, and the list goes on and on. You can try to play the typical political game of, ‘Well, they stand for that, but I don’t agree with it.’ Look, you said you weren’t going to vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker. You did. You said you weren’t going to do all these things that now you’re doing. You refuse to stand up and speak out against anti-Semitism. You refuse to stand up against the government takeover of private enterprise. You own it.”

If you read that over carefully, you’ll get a little dizzy and you won’t be able to tell, when Emmer calls people “socialists,” who, exactly, he was including: those who call themselves socialists, the  four “squad” members, all those who voted for Pelosi for speaker, or what. Seems to me he suspects them all of “Red Army” membership.

Since I wasn’t able to get an interview with Emmer, I got into an email exchange with Chris Pack, the spokesman for the NRCC who sent me the video. I asked him who is included in the list of “socialists.”

He sent me two bills; one was a “Medicare for All” bill, and the other was a version of the “Green New Deal.” (One  has 118 co-sponsors, the other has 95, but there’s a lot of overlap). I pointed out that very, very few of those members (two, as far as I can tell) called themselves “socialists.” He basically said that didn’t matter, that anyone who supports either of those bills is a socialist. Emmer didn’t say it, but I would say it is consistent with the message Emmer’s comments sent, that many Democrats can and should be considered “socialists.”

For the record, as far as I could ascertain, only two House members, AOC and Tlaib, belong to the Democratic Socialists of America. Pack believes there are well over 100 who can be labeled as “socialists” for supporting a bill that doesn’t mention socialism but could be said to introduce “socialized” medicine in the guise of “Medicare for all.” 

Comments (50)

  1. Submitted by David Lundeen on 07/25/2019 - 11:02 am.

    That’s appalling Emmer and his acolytes in the Republican establishment can even claim socialism destroys the free market economy. Everything from high tech military research to the oil and gas industry is subsidized by US taxpayer dollars, and the only return we get it are military adventures which blow up the deficit.

    • Submitted by Curt Carlson on 07/26/2019 - 01:49 pm.

      It’s too bad that nobody bothered to check on what the standard dictionary or textbook definition of ‘socialism‘ is. Here’s Mercian-Webster: “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Republicans are simply using rhetoric to create a new nebulous meaning of the term, which they obviously can’t clearly elucidate, and liberals are letting them get away with it, as when they accept and promulgate the notion that the Scandinavian countries are socialist. Those countries are social democracies, but only in the case of Norway’s control of their oil resources do the governments own the means of production. In fact, the Nordic countries have been privatizing such commonly government-owned enterprises as post offices, telephone and railroads for decades.

      Perhaps liberals and progressives who would counter the red-baiting proto-fascist Republicans (there, I said it, and it’s historically accurate) should do their homework, political and historical, if they want to be in a better position to win the hearts and minds of American voters.

    • Submitted by Curt Carlson on 07/26/2019 - 01:51 pm.

      It’s too bad that nobody bothered to check on what the standard dictionary or textbook definition of ‘socialism‘ is. Here’s Merriam-Webster: “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Republicans are simply using rhetoric to create a new nebulous meaning of the term, which they obviously can’t clearly elucidate, and liberals are letting them get away with it, as when they accept and promulgate the notion that the Scandinavian countries are socialist. Those countries are social democracies, but only in the case of Norway’s control of their oil resources do the governments own the means of production. In fact, the Nordic countries have been privatizing such commonly government-owned enterprises as post offices, telephone and railroads for decades.

      Perhaps liberals and progressives who would counter the red-baiting proto-fascist Republicans (there, I said it, and it’s historically accurate) should do their homework, political and historical, if they want to be in a better position to win the hearts and minds of American voters.

  2. Submitted by Richard Owens on 07/25/2019 - 11:03 am.

    Republican messaging is basic “fight or flight” provocation, all with the intent to strike fear in the listener.

    It allows a shortcut to conclusions, which can be fed in whole cloth by the Republican outlets- FOX News, AM radio, Twitter and Facebook.

    They might not be able to grasp the concept of a MIXED ECONOMY, and we already know they are attracted to public office in order to drown the institution in a bathtub, to save them from taxes.

    You’re a brave soul Eric to try to get some coherence directly from what is now clearly a propagandist.

  3. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/25/2019 - 11:11 am.

    When you get right down to it is the word “United” in the United States of America that the Republicans want to get rid of. They seem to think a divided America is best and yet we are at our best when we work together to solve problems. It isn’t the word united causing our problems it is the word “Corruption” doing all the damage.

  4. Submitted by Jim Poole on 07/25/2019 - 11:17 am.

    Thank you, Mr. Black. You frequently make me analyze my positions and re-examine how I perceive issues and political phenomena.

    While pure partisans often engage in simple name calling, in reaction to your essay, I found it helpful to consult a definition. The Oxford English Dictionary provides this as the first definition of “socialism”: “A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” That’s coherent with my beliefs and I think that’s what most people mean when they use the term. While few of my friends on the Left have called for nationalization, I think they generally would agree that the “whole community” (that is, the State) should at least to some extent regulate the means of production, distribution, and exchange. In the case of health care and education, most of my friends on the Left would argue that the State should “own” them to the elimination of private ownership over them.

    While Mr. Emmer undoubtedly intends to use the term as a pejorative epithet, he is probably using it as short-hand for these positions of actual or desired increased State control over industries, which many Democrats would favor and some others would not. I would argue that when his audiences hear the term they know it means something like the OED’s definition. So, I don’t think it’s pure fear-mongering but actually has some useful, unemotional, rational meaning that is fairly accurate, that is, as a term standing for positions that would advocate the increase of State control over “the means of production, distribution, and exchange”.

    I don’t that either Emmer or his audiences believe that international Communism is a threat to America today, so “red-baiting” is also a pejorative epithet.

    Regardless, yours is a great piece of writing that calls attention to how we are communicating about things that concern us today. You make me think and that is a great virtue in today’s journalism.

    Thank you.

    • Submitted by Gene Nelson on 07/25/2019 - 12:26 pm.

      I believe your post is misinformation. Us Dems are not interested in state control of the capitalist system, but regulating it so it benefits all of us instead of just the wealthy.
      You mention healthcare, which could damage some private insurance companies, but you offer no solutions…actually zilch…towards helping us with affordable healthcare or even life…but that is republicanism. And…while we’re talking about the healthcare industry, why are we so concerned with protecting this industry that has undermined everything affordable regarding healthcare.

    • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 07/25/2019 - 03:18 pm.

      You make an interesting point, but take liberties with how you interpret regulation in our current method of government (by Democrats and traditional Republicans). And I challenge you to support your statement about State control of industry is something the “many Democrats would favor and some others would not”. I could argue it’s the inverse: some Democrats would favor and many would not.

      Of course, you might be arguing that any regulation is a form of control. Perhaps that’s true in a literal sense, though I would consider that an absurd extrapolation. None the less, I would point to the Merriam-Webster definition of fascism: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition”.

      Clearly, using your logic, Emmer, Trump and their cohorts are Fascists.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/26/2019 - 09:30 am.

      “While Mr. Emmer undoubtedly intends to use the term as a pejorative epithet . . .”

      Yes, undoubtedly.

      “. . . he is probably using it as short-hand for these positions of actual or desired increased State control over industries . . .”

      I disagree. He is using the word as the epithet of the moment, with little regard for what it means.

      ” . . . which many Democrats would favor and some others would not.”

      Okay. The bigger question, is why is this “increased State control” desired? It isn’t just control for its own sake.

      “I would argue that when his audiences hear the term they know it means something like the OED’s definition.”

      I would argue that you are wrong. The intended audience is low-information voters who are easily swayed by simplistic statements, who have been told for years that Socialism is bad, because it is. They have no real understanding of the term (“It’s just like Venezuela or Cuba!”) or any nuances of the usage of the term. To use one oft-cited example: ask any of the crowd nodding in agreement with Rep. Emmer what they would think about giving up their Medicare.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/25/2019 - 11:34 am.

    Emmer has clearly sold his soul to Trump, and is willing to resort to baseless name calling whenever he feels that it is to his advantage.
    As I’ve pointed out (too many times) no one calling themselves a social democrat either here or in Europe has advocated the elimination of private property and the complete public ownership of all goods.
    —–
    And it’s interesting that Trump wants more immigrants from Scandinavia (the home of ‘socialism’ ). Would he select only those few Scandinavians who reject their own form of government?

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/25/2019 - 11:54 am.

    “Red-baiting” is a fairly neutral term for what I’m reading from Mr. Emmer, not to mention the man in the Oval Office whose boots he’s licking. Neither one of them has any idea what genuine socialism involves, nor do most – not all, but most – of the voters who support them. Indeed, “McCarthyism” is a fair description.

    I find myself wondering how Mr. Emmer feels about “oligarchy,” or the term Eric (and many, many others) used: “fascism.” While the Current Occupant displays his abundant ignorance daily as he drags the rest of us toward the latter, my own take is not that that’s unlikely – it’s as likely here as it was in 1930s Europe, in my view – but that even more likely is the recognition that we’re even closer to the former. “Oligarchy,” in my dictionary, involves simply a small group of people controlling a country. Compare your influence, and that of your neighbors, on public policy with the influence of the 1% for starters. Wealth begets wealth, and the wealthy are – and have been, for many centuries – very good at protecting their own interests at the expense of others who are less wealthy.

    That Mr. Emmer sees fit to support the and enhance the power of the wealthy at the expense of his own constituents and fellow Minnesotans by fear-mongering and red-baiting is something voters ought to keep in mind as we approach November of 2020. And, while they’re at it, they should consider how the promises of the Current Occupant and his political party during the 2016 campaign have, in large measure, not only NOT been met, but have been actively undermined by the Current Occupant’s inner circle of swamp-dwellers / advisors / sycophants at federal, state and local levels. Dying because you can’t afford health care strikes me as a very strange form of “freedom.” So does dying in a foreign country to support the misplaced machismo of an old man who used “bone spurs” as an excuse to avoid military service himself, though “bone spurs” don’t seem to inhibit his desire to play golf.

  7. Submitted by Mike Chrun on 07/25/2019 - 12:36 pm.

    I wonder if Chris Pack has a list he can wave around of the more than 100 House members who are dreaded socialists. Echoes of Joe McCarthy claiming there were over 200 communists in the state department. Trying hard not to ask, “Have you no sense of decency?” of Pack or Emmer because it’s pretty obvious they don’t following the cues from their great leader.

  8. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/25/2019 - 12:52 pm.

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”

    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master-that’s all.”

    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper some of them- particularly verbs: they’re the proudest- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs- however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/25/2019 - 01:48 pm.

      The very passage that sprang to my mind.

      An easy way to understand what Emmer seems to be saying: Socialism is bad, because I define it as being limited to bad things. Your definition, or what you might include within that definition, doesn’t count.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/25/2019 - 12:52 pm.

    It’s a well documented fact that sociopaths are frequently charming. When we see characteristics like this emerge, they can easily be a representation of heretofore masked or suppressed attitudes and personality.

    Trump has certainly emboldened the darker Angels lurking in many souls. I can’t speak to Emmer’s soul or the nature of his Angels, but his behavior and leadership is despicable, and I’ll say it if Eric doesn’t want to.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/25/2019 - 01:17 pm.

    I wish I could give this article a more enthusiastic endorsement, but alas, it slips out of the basket in the end.

    The question of what Republicans “mean” when they use the term “Socialism” invites us into a rabbit hole of absurdity. Asking and answering the question actually legitimizes Republican rhetoric, it doesn’t really challenge it.

    I’m sorry but if it’s just dawning on you now that Republican rhetoric is incoherent and disconnected from reality, you have to have been living in a bubble of some kind for the last 40+ years. From: “freedom”, to “values”, to “patriotism” or “entitlements” and even government itself, Republican rhetoric has been fundamentally incoherent for decades. Why would anyone expect them to have a coherent reality based concept of: “socialism”.

    You don’t respond to “Red Baiting” by asking what the color Red is. The “socialism” Republicans are using here is a libertarian stereotype, and libertarians are fundamentally incoherent.

    I suppose there can be some value to asking Republicans what they “mean” when they say stuff, but you can’t engage people with no integrity in Socratic dialogues, they’re not interested in discovering, or clarifying anything or promoting reason, they’re just tying to capture as much power as they can. Which brings to their relationship with Fascism.

    You can that it’s nasty to call someone a Fascist, but can’t refuse to call a Fascist a Fascist simply because you think it’s nasty. These are Fascists. They don’t look Hitler or Mussolini’s Fascists because they’re American Fascists, but their disregard for inconvenient laws, their belief in political power over process, they’re racism, Nationalism, propaganda, and general disdain for democratic processes firmly plants them in Fascist camp. The primary feature of the Fascist mentality is that they ARE the State, and everything submits to the State. No one in America exemplifies that ethos more than Donald Trump.

    • Submitted by John Evans on 07/25/2019 - 06:38 pm.

      “The question of what Republicans ‘mean’ when they use the term ‘Socialism’ invites us into a rabbit hole of absurdity.” You nailed it.

      Emmer defines it as “theft,” or something that voters in the targeted districts think sounds bad. It would not serve Emmer’s purpose to be more specific, so he refuses to define his terms, which I think is Eric’s point.

      As long as terms are not defined, you can use any bad-sounding word as an effective smear, because without definition, it’s hard to refute.

      Socialism, for Emmer’s purposes, is a vague term with negative associations. In Emmer’s statement, you could just as well substitute the word, ‘indecency.’

      “I think that people know what [indecency] is, and they don’t like it. Look at the polling. It’s almost 60 percent in the handful of districts that we’ve targeted, primarily suburban districts. They have an unfavorable view of [indecency].”

  11. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/25/2019 - 01:17 pm.

    “They’ve proposed socialized medicine, which further messes up health care, which has already been totally destroyed by the Affordable Care Act.”

    Hmm, Obamacare, born out of the Heritage Foundation and Romney care, is a socialist nightmare? Medicare, a truly socialist program: just get to 65 and you have free healthcare for the rest of your life is an entitlement that almost all the Rs say they support and only want to make better.

    Every time an R throws out the socialism threat they simply need to be asked when they will be introducing the bill to repeal Medicare: the single most socialistic thing in our government.

    • Submitted by David Lundeen on 07/25/2019 - 02:08 pm.

      Democrats should call their bluff. Southern red states take in more federal tax dollars than the send. Let’s cut funding there, and see how loyal a hungry for really is.

  12. Submitted by ian wade on 07/25/2019 - 01:51 pm.

    Republicans have always excelled at simplistic messaging. The average rube out there couldn’t define socialism if their life depended on it, and worse, lacks the intellectual curiosity to educate themselves. All the Trump voter will hear is that “they want to take my paycheck and give it to someone else.”
    Mission Accomplished.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/26/2019 - 10:37 am.

      Could agree more. Plus, the Dems just can’t bring themselves to play the same game. Not sure why every Republican isn’t a “Fascist Republican”. It’s just as accurate.

  13. Submitted by Cameron Parkhurst on 07/25/2019 - 01:55 pm.

    I submit that what a Republican means by Socialism is anything where someone who is perceived as undeserving (poor, not white) receives something for free. Free meaning taken from someone perceived as deserving (wealthy, job creating). Note that to a Republican Socialism does not include anything given to a business or any tax cut that benefits the deserving.

    • Submitted by David Lundeen on 07/25/2019 - 02:10 pm.

      For Republicans the ideal recipient of socialism, and benefits from the state, is someone working in a bank manipulating currency exchange rates to drive down growth in the third world. But ask them about the work it takes as a poor single mother to raise children, and suddenly that’s not work.

  14. Submitted by James Hamilton on 07/25/2019 - 02:56 pm.

    I am fairly confident that Emmer will never claim that Federal farm subsidies are a form of socialism.

    Subsidy Recipients 1 to 20 of 6,726

    Recipients of Subtotal, Farming Subsidies from farms in 6th District of Minnesota (Rep. Tom Emmer) totaled $402,057,000 in from 1995-2017.

    https://farm.ewg.org/top_recips.php?fips=MN06&progcode=totalfarm&regionname=6thDistrictofMinnesota(Rep.TomEmmer)

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/25/2019 - 06:23 pm.

      Excellent, Mr. Hamilton!! Farming is a risky business by its nature, but much of that risk has been nullified by immense subsidies in some sectors of the agricultural portion of the economy. A good argument can be made that farming is among the most socialist (in the dictionary sense) sectors of the American economy. I’ve not done research to count the votes, but I’d be very surprised if Republican legislators were any less likely to vote for “farm-aid” (i.e., socialist) legislation than their Democratic counterparts.

  15. Submitted by William Duncan on 07/25/2019 - 03:09 pm.

    “Literally, it’s theft. Socialism is theft. You name your issue. It’s restriction of free speech.”

    Well, compensation for the bottom 50% of Americans has been flat at best, for a generation at least, but income for the top %1 has been increasing radically in that time, which might not be “theft” exactly but…

    As for theft generally, that is more or less what we are all doing, if the measure is leaving this earth a better and healthier place than we found it, for future generations.

    As for restrictions of free speech, it is quite clear at this point, nothing is reported or discussed in major media that isn’t of, by and for corporations, banks, billionaires and the eternal war machine.

    • Submitted by John Evans on 07/25/2019 - 07:03 pm.

      It’s not theft! It’s the spoils of class warfare.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/26/2019 - 08:39 am.

      “nothing is reported or discussed in major media”

      Seems a little bit of hyperbole to me.

      Could you expand on that comment by listing the top ten organizations that you would describe as “major media”?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/26/2019 - 09:46 am.

      I can’t disagree with anything Mr. Hunter says here, but frankly we can make a more succinct observation by simply recognizing the fact that these Republican’s have no more coherent concept of “theft” than they do anything else.

      Republican have been fundamentally anti-intellectual for a few decades now, but this creates problems for them when they try make “arguments”. They end up debate gaming instead of “arguing” or discussing facts and evidence. This frequently leads to facile attempts at being “clever”, but since the cleverness is based on ignorance it tends to obtuse. You see this for instance when purveyors of “alternative” facts try to borrow the phrase: “You may entitled to your opinion but your not entitled to your own facts”… they think they’re being clever.

      I suspect this Socialism as “theft” meme is an attempt at cleverness, it mirrors the old Communist/Leftist claim that private property is theft. I’ve seen reactionary/conservative/Republicans play this game many times, they think they’re engaging in clever rhetorical parlay but they’re really just being obtuse.

      The problem here of course is that Socialism doesn’t abolish private property, nor is Socialism’s concept of public resources and property even unique to Socialism. We don’t have public fire or police departments for instance because a wave of Socialism swept the Country at some point in the past. Eisenhower wasn’t a Socialist when he built the Freeways, and Nixon wasn’t being a Socialist when he helped create the EPA. This is all obvious to anyone with any intellectual integrity.

      The problem, and I know some people are getting tired of me saying this- is that for decades “centrists” have been accommodating this nonsense. When Republicans and conservatives make these ridiculous claims and statements instead of simply observing the fact that these are ridiculous claims and statement; the response is: “Well maybe you have a point?” This willingness to entertain the idea that stupid might be smart is pure accommodation pretending to be comity and tolerance.

      We can respect people, but we “respect” stupidity and ignorance at our peril. If the ship is sinking and someone is telling you to lock yourself in a closet instead climbing into a life boat, you don’t split difference and chain yourself to a deck chair.

      I see this in Eric’s article here. It looks to me like Eric is trying somewhat desperately to find a way to pretend that Emmer and the NRCC might be trying say something legitimate about Socialism… they are clearly not. In the end Eric ends up kind of admitting that fact, but it’s actually a rather obvious fact to recognize.

  16. Submitted by Paul Yochim on 07/25/2019 - 06:35 pm.

    “Venezuela is in crisis because socialism has been faithfully implemented.” Donald Trump

  17. Submitted by Mike Davidson on 07/25/2019 - 07:51 pm.

    Emmer probably can’t even accurately define socialism. The word has just become a conservative media talking point.

  18. Submitted by Roy Everson on 07/26/2019 - 04:07 am.

    Great discussion and article, in many respects. Perhaps a pertinent point can be made about the concept of representative democracy. This is what elite Republicans basically hate and fear — unless they can sharply control who votes and how they are informed. The S word means many things to many people, even those GOP elitists like Emmer. They know that popular socialist programs are often the natural result of a democracy where people are well educated, read newspapers, and vote in high numbers. Scandinavia is only 3 out of numerous examples. This is socialism tempered by moderating influences of a multi-party system. But for the voters targeted by demogogs like Emmer the S word is tied to the famously undemocratic, 3rd world or authoritarian examples of Lenin, Mao, Castro and Venezuala. Booga booga.

    In typical, century old fashion, Republicans are banking on ignorance and fear.

  19. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 07/26/2019 - 05:01 am.

    Anyone with a Medicare card in his or her pocket is a card carrying Socialist.

    • Submitted by Paul Yochim on 07/26/2019 - 10:01 am.

      Medicare (and Social Security) is something I have paid into since I entered the work force. I am now paying monthly premiums on a means tested basis. Maybe it is socialism for those who have it and never paid a cent into it but it’s not for me.

      • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/26/2019 - 10:43 am.

        Your money has long been spent Paul. Whether you admit it or not, other people are paying your bills.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/26/2019 - 02:15 pm.

          Right.
          Medicare and Social Security are back by the faith and credit of the United States government in the form of taxes. Social Security is not a savings plan; your payments will continue even when the SS Trust Fund goes negative.

          • Submitted by Paul Yochim on 07/26/2019 - 06:18 pm.

            Obvooisly a poor understanding of the insurance industry.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/27/2019 - 09:51 am.

              Obviously Mr. Yochim you seem to have a poor understanding for the insurance industry, and collective resources in general. If you think you actually pay your own medical bills, or insurance claims of any kind, you should google the subject.

              Human beings have been pooling resources for thousands of years, you can call that socialism is you want, most of us I just call in intelligent. None of us could afford to park our own fire truck filled with firefighters at the ready indefinitely on the off chance our house catches on fire, so we pool our resources and put out fires. It’s just rational economics.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/26/2019 - 09:59 am.

    Just a suggestion for Eric Black and MinnPost in general… Since Emmer isn’t talking to you anyways and the Republican concept of Socialism is incoherent in any event… why not talk to Omar, or other “Squad”-like politicians about what THEY mean when they talk about Socialism?

    Wouldn’t it more productive and interesting to discuss and report on the policies and proposals at hand than to focus on Republican ignorance?

    By my count this is at least the 5th article Black as written about Republicans and the “S” word. Would it kill anyone at MinnPost to talk to the “Socialist” for a change and find out what THEY mean by the “S” word? Wouldn’t it more productive and interesting to discuss this with people who can talk about it intelligently and knowledgeably?

    Now that we know Emmer’s a bust, why not ask Omar or even Ellison about the “S” word? Talk to the people who are proposing so-called Socialist policies instead of those claiming to oppose them?

    Just a thought.

  21. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/26/2019 - 11:36 am.

    According to a recent Des Moine Register poll, “More than half of likely Democratic caucusgoers polled would be satisfied with a nominee who thinks the U.S. should be more socialist.”

    That’s roughly comparable to a 2016 Iowa Poll in which 43 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers said they identify as “socialist.” That was more than the 38 percent who identified as “capitalist.”

    https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2019/03/10/election-2020-socialism-socialist-democrat-caucus-iowa-sanders-aoc-green-new-deal-medicare-for-all/3113809002/

    • Submitted by Richard Owens on 07/27/2019 - 10:13 am.

      It’s healthcare-for-profit that makes capitalism so cruel and devastating.

      When it strikes your family nothing else is important.

      I know and many others can attest- when you are fighting a disease that threatens your very life, you suddenly face both bankrupting yourself and the prospect of having nothing to leave to your survivors. When that time comes, even the most rabid partisan finds their party pronouncements just aren’t important anymore.

      Americans will mostly find this out sometime in their lives, and when they do, immigrants, tax cuts, guns and electoral college numbers are no motivation at all. Humans will react with compassion when they know their lives are at the mercy of a for-profit industry.

      The most radical anti-government Republicans are the same as normal people when their lives depend on a for-profit industry that will not lift a finger for the poor, the uninsured, the stranger lying on the street.

      That’s when we need a patriotic public intervention- AKA government subsidized healthcare for all.

      And yes, we can afford it if we treat Americans as one big risk pool.

      That is socialism, and Iowans are just like the rest of us.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 07/29/2019 - 02:30 pm.

      DT, socialism is ingrained in the constitution, try the preamble, notice they talk about perfect union, not perfect division, notice they also set out promote the general welfare, etc. These are the “GOALS” of the United states of America.

      “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

  22. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 07/26/2019 - 12:12 pm.

    The foremost impression of how Emmer is defining socialism is its crass and inexcusable ignorance. His rhetoric is what you might expect from a high schooler or college freshman with their first taste of political combat. He evinces a disturbing lack of analytical clarity, and nuance of any kind is manifestly lacking. He seems to think in the crudest categories and generalizations.

    This kind of mentality is deplorable in any politician whatever party. We don’t have a surfeit of intelligence or knowledge among political leaders to begin with. It’s painful to think that someone like Emmer has any influence on a country whose complexities apparently far exceed what tools he’s able to bring to it challenges.

    He seems unable to help himself from making outright false, easily refuted and patently ridiculous statements like:

    “You refuse to stand up against the government takeover of private enterprise.”

    This is a nonexistent threat. Nothing of the sort is happening in the way he seems to mean. He’s invented this out of the whole cloth of his untutored and unseen confirmation bias.

    Or, how about: “You refuse to stand up and speak out against anti-Semitism.”

    Again, false. Omar spoke indelicately at worst, and then the GOP pounced (along with reactive Democrats), desperate to shut down progressive voices. (Trump’s racist statements were unambiguously racist, whereas Omar’s statements were arguably not anti-Semitic at all, just tone deaf. And where is Emmer on Trump’s blatant racism? Silent.)

    Beyond this, what most regrettable about Emmer’s public discourse IQ-lowering rhetoric is the apparent hope that merely labeling something will absolve the Republicans of having to present facts and reasons against proposals like Medicare for All. We should be having a serious discussion about America’s broken health care system and what we can do to fix it. We don’t need intellectually shallow and dishonest demagogy.

    What does the GOP offer as an alternative that actually fixes our pressing health care problems? (Among them, super high cost, health insurance company inefficiencies, and thousands of preventable annual deaths resulting from lack of access to affordable care.) They have nothing. Nothing, except free market bromides that want for any evidence in their favor.

    Red baiting Medicare for All almost seems then a tacit admission of the GOP’s lack of viable ideas. The implicit thinking seems to be, “If we label Medicare for All as socialist, we don’t have to face inevitable questions as to why we haven’t done anything to fix America’s broken health care system, and why we really CAN’T do anything, since we’ve committed ourselves to the dogma of limited government.”

    There may be however an upside to this mindless Republican fear mongering. It’s that if socialism is a label that the GOP wants to apply to policies that enjoy wide public support, like a minimum wage or environmental protections, then a certain portion of the public will realize that socialism is not the reflexive scare word the GOP wants it to be. If having cleaner air is “socialist,” then sign me up.

  23. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/27/2019 - 06:28 am.

    They get to call us Socialists because Godwin’s Law prohibits us from calling them Nazi’s. The most we are allowed to do is call them to fascists.

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/27/2019 - 10:15 am.

    I think the best antidote to this Republican nonsense is to stop asking Republican what they mean, it’s like asking a dog to balance your checking account.

    I know this is difficult for “bipartisan centrists” who feel like they’re not being inclusive if they don’t reach across the “Isle”, but we have a responsibility here to be adults and pursue the best policies. Decades of failed bipartisan policy have put Fascists in the White House and there’s no guarantee our Democracy can survive these failures.

    Republicans stopped answering questions in any serious way when Newt brought us their “revolution” so we need to move on.

    Instead of tying so hard to understand incoherent Republican attacks, let’s be talking to those who are under attack and find out what THEY’RE talking about.

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