Trump Wants To Make the 2020 Election All About Socialism. Yes, Let’s.

The Right is trying to redbait—but it will backfire.

Joel Bleifuss March 25, 2019

President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address on February 5. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in his State of the Union address pre­viewed the mes­sag­ing the GOP plans to trot out dur­ing the 2020 campaign.

We bet that a bold program that empowers working people, repudiates racism and protects what’s left of our fragile planet will win at the polls in 2020.

As expect­ed from a man whose only known bed­time read­ing is a book of Hitler’s speech­es, Trump will con­script the white nation­al­ists and the Chris­t­ian Right in his vil­i­fi­ca­tion of immi­grants who are invad­ing the home­land.”

Orga­nized car­a­vans are on the march to the Unit­ed States,” Trump told the nation, explain­ing that he had ordered anoth­er 3,750 troops to our south­ern bor­der to pre­pare for this tremen­dous onslaught” against work­ing-class … inno­cent Americans.”

Trump, like author­i­tar­i­ans and neo­fas­cists in Brazil, Israel, Hun­gary, Rus­sia and the Philip­pines, hopes that by stok­ing nation­al­ist anx­i­eties and delu­sions, he can pro­pel his polit­i­cal base into a state of per­ma­nent hys­te­ria. Trump and Trump­ist ide­o­logues like Tuck­er Carl­son on Fox News pro­fess to speak for the work­ing class and denounce elites,” even as their poli­cies serve the inter­ests of the super-rich. Theirs is an old and evil tra­di­tion of xeno­pho­bia and nation­al­ism, retooled for the age of social media.

In addi­tion to foment­ing hate of ille­gal immi­grants,” Trump used the State of the Union to pro­claim, We are alarmed by new calls to adopt social­ism in our coun­try. … We renew our resolve that Amer­i­ca will nev­er be a social­ist coun­try.” Repub­li­can law­mak­ers jumped to their feet and shout­ed U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

More than a few Democ­rats also stood and clapped. Yet, most con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats refused to stand. Accord­ing to Fox News, refus­ing to stand” is now a crime akin to tak­ing a knee.”

The next day, Trump advis­er Kellyanne Con­way told Fox News Radio: “[Demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ism is] creep­ing through­out the entire par­ty. It will be a theme in 2020.” To wit, on Feb­ru­ary 21 a Fox News head­line blared: Crit­ics Say Green New Deal Is Cov­er for Social­ist Agenda.”

We’ve heard that before. The his­to­ry of Amer­i­can red-bait­ing is as long as the his­to­ry of Amer­i­can reds. In 1856, the New York Times inveighed against the many social­ist Paineites,” who, with their affil­i­a­tion to every species of rad­i­cal­ism in the land, bod­ed evil to the future of our republic.”

We at In These Times are proud to count our­selves among the heirs of Tom Paine, a lead­ing fig­ure of the Rad­i­cal Enlight­en­ment and the author of Com­mon Sense,” a 1776 pam­phlet that inspired the (as of yet unfin­ished) Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. In Paine’s tra­di­tion, we chal­lenge the sta­tus quo by ampli­fy­ing the voic­es demand­ing struc­tur­al change. We believe we have the pow­er, as Paine put it, to begin the world over again.” This con­fi­dence in our abil­i­ty to build a just soci­ety ani­mates the Move­ment for Black Lives, the Sun­rise Move­ment, and an uncom­pro­mis­ing gen­er­a­tion of young con­gres­sion­al lead­ers and mil­len­ni­als who won’t take slow” for an answer when it comes to tran­si­tion­ing to a green economy.

We’ll need that con­vic­tion to enact the urgent eco­nom­ic and envi­ron­men­tal demands of the Green New Deal, spear­head­ed by demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez (D‑N.Y.).

The GOP is wager­ing that the Green New Deal and the rebirth of demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ism can be craft­ed into a cam­paign mes­sage that will mit­i­gate the electorate’s grow­ing revul­sion toward the GOP brand. We bet that a bold pro­gram that empow­ers work­ing peo­ple, repu­di­ates racism and pro­tects what’s left of our frag­ile plan­et will win at the polls in 2020.

Here at In These Times we stand with the Paineites. We thank our read­ers for stand­ing with us. Here’s to you, to demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ism, and to the Green New Deal.

Joel Blei­fuss, a for­mer direc­tor of the Peace Stud­ies Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri-Colum­bia, is the edi­tor & pub­lish­er of In These Times, where he has worked since Octo­ber 1986.

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