Buttigieg And A Bumper Sticker

Monday morning I caught a snippet of an appearance a candidate did. That afternoon my wife saw a bumper sticker. Put them together and they prove a point while providing a lesson for 2020 Democratic candidates regardless of office. Let’s explore.

Somewhere over the weekend Pete Buttigieg did a campaign event where he was asked a question that boiled down to Democratic candidates being labeled socialists by the Republicans. Whether you support him or not; whether you like him or not; you have to admit he is smart. His reply was basically that no matter what position a Democrat takes on an issue the GOP will label them a socialist so you may as well do what you feel is correct.

While I consider myself a practical progressive – and I’m certain many others on the left feel I’m too quick to compromise – I appreciated the honesty and willingness to stand for what you believe. I’d love to see more of that from the Democrats and any hint of it from the Republicans.

Socialist is one of the most abused and misused words in American politics and, if you really study American history, has been for almost a century. Social Security was attacked as socialism as early as the 1930’s. Medicare was going to end the country and was attacked as socialist (including by Ronald Reagan). Somehow America survived the “socialist onslaught” and the middle/working class thrived bringing along the economy with their consumer demand (consistently 70% of demand in our economy).

What the right wing had going for them was the name of the Soviet Union (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Their base can’t distinguish between communism (which the USSR never practiced a pure form of) and socialism. To Bubba socialism is a dirty word that they do not know the economic definition of. Most economies are not a pure form of anything. America’s (the greatest in the history of the planet) is a hybrid of capitalism and socialism.

That brings me to the bumper sticker my wife saw. Many political operatives say that a campaign or candidate has to distill their message to something that can fit on a bumper sticker. This one certainly was succinct and powerful. It read: “If you hate socialism get off my public road”.

The fact is that many things are simply better done in a social or collective fashion. Along with roads you have police, fire, the military, trash removal, snow removal and a whole lot more. If you look at reality and not at right wing mythology it is obvious that a collective effort (socialism) can perform many tasks just as if not more effectively and much more economically. A prime example is health care delivery. The United States ranks somewhere in the twenties in global health outcomes at twice the cost as similar countries experience. Why?  The main reason is that we have a private, for-profit system while other similar countries have a government single payer system.

The moral of the story is that since the Republicans are going to call you what their base thinks of as a dirty word regardless of what you advocate; you may as well have the courage to support the best policies. Then the other part is to boil your argument down to something simple enough that even Bubba can understand. Something like a bumper sticker.

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