The Socialist Revolution Started 30 Years Ago, Apparently

From John Quiggin over at Crooked Timber comes this article about how at least 33% of Americans under 30 think Socialism is just dandy. Which is interesting for a number of reasons, very few of them having to do with Socialism as an ideology or political model.

Republicans and other Conservatives have spent the last 30 years decrying everything left of Genghis Khan to be “Socialism,” so there’s a hefty percent of the population who have grown up with this meme buzzing in the background. This was intended to associate Democrats and all non-conservatives as being in league with the evil Socialist Hegemony of the Soviet Block. But then, 20 years ago, they disappeared. But the rhetoric of Democratic reform = Socialism didn’t. With no concrete examples to rely on, this idea simmered in the back of our minds, free association style. Conservatives thought this was a great idea and ran with it, attaching the Socialist label to everything they didn’t like, which, after 20 years of rightward drift in their little subculture, now includes an awful lot of things that most Americans are pretty fond of, like sex, drugs and rock and roll. Also, affordable healthcare, a 40 hour work week and kittens.*

So, now here we are in 2009, with a large percentage of the under 30 population having been convinced that 1) the Capitalist GOP has screwed things up pretty badly and 2) the Socialist Dems are trying to fix things. The GOP tactic of associating Democrats with Socialism has backfired. Instead of making Democrats scary bogeymen, it’s made “Socialism” seem like a viable alternative.

Nevermind that this word you keep using doesn’t mean what you think it means. In the minds of most Americans, Socialism now encompasses Healthcare that, if not outright Universal, is at least affordable, a sensible foreign policy, more transparency in government and a transcontinental high speed rail network. Socialism in the US now means the opposite of the GOP’s brand of Capitalism, which led to a pointless war, the city of New Orleans being abandoned after a hurricane and a nearly bankrupt world economy. If your only alternative is an apocalyptic hellscape of Malthusian depredation, torture and the world slowly sinking into the sea while the rich and stupid sail away on their yachts, then yeah, Socialism starts to look pretty good.

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* Other things Conservatives think are Socialist: video games, beer, porn, Hollywood movies, TV shows that don’t star Keifer Sutherland, Hollywood the city, most of the rest of California, Jews, Muslims, academics, interracial couples, homosexuals who want to get married, New York City, salsa, spicy food, women who can read and think for themselves, doctors, scientists, telescopes (because they show a universe that is wide, beautiful and full of wonder without God), atheists, agnostics, people who wear blue jeans, rich people who aren’t assholes, an infrastructure built on the revenue collected from moderate taxation, poor people, minorities and convential grammar and spelling (serioulsy, check out some of the signs these nitwits were carrying during the recent Tea Parties. I’ve seen monkeys who could make more coherent signs, and they lack language!).

Who Knew Sharks Loved Chum So Much?

There’s a certain perverse pleasure to be had in watching the McCain campaign implode so dramatically right before the election.[1] Who would have thought, chumming for votes from the crazies would have gone so horribly wrong?

We all know by now how bogus McCain’s claim to being a maverick is, but there was, once upon a time, an area where he did buck the GOP system and go against the party. There was a day when McCain kept the Religious Right at arm’s length and told the fundies like Pat Robertson where they could take their special interests.[2] Obviously, you can’t win an election as a Republican by doing this. Your policies simply aren’t popular enough to carry a majority win without the wingnuts on your side. Normally, this isn’t a problem for the GOP, who have successfully used the Southern Strategy for the last 30 years to ensure they had the crazy vote locked up before the primaries even began. But that’s where McCain’s maverickiness got him in trouble. He didn’t count on the crazification factor biting him in the ass.

Previous dunderheaded Republicans bumbled their way into office by sweet talking the fundies, racists, homobigots, Birchers, anti-UNers and gun nuts early on. They throw a few bones to the social conservative fringe while they’re still governing Texas (as an example) and then spend the primaries trying to appeal to the moderates, swing voters and conservative Democrats who are tired of loosing. If you get the 27%ers early on like this, all you need is to win over another quarter of the voting populace.[3] But McCain’s a Maverick. He didn’t appeal to the rabid base before the primaries and so has spent his time trying to do two mutually incompatible things at once: win over the lunatic fringe and the moderates. And we’ve seen how well that’s worked.

It’s become obvious that his biggest gamble was nominating Sarah Palin as his running mate. He bet the whole race on a divide and conquer tactic – She’d throw red meat to the rabid base while he glad handed the moderates and swing voters. That’s why, right after the convention, they were rarely seen together. They were traveling in different circles. But those circles collided once it became obvious that Sarah Palin was too good at her job. Once your supporters start chanting “Traitor!” and “Kill him!” at rallies, you’ve got a mess on your hands that the little lady from Wasilla (wink) can’t handle on her own. So, daddy McCain has to step in and get his hands dirty, telling the base to shut the fuck up or they’ll ruin everything. Which just reminds them that this man, whose name is at the top of the ticket, is not one of them. Never has been.

Which is the real problem. Wingnuts most assuredly are a pack of morons, but they know that Sarah Palin is no Darth Cheney and however much they may want her to be the puppet master of a McCain administration, it simply won’t happen. Which has them even more pissed off than usual.[4]

It must suck to realize that your running mate is more popular than you are but that’s the situation John McCain is in right now, a week before the election. Tough luck, Johnny boy.

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1. Standard democratic voters caveat applies: just because McCain is 8 points behind and flailing like a special needs student who’s lost his helmet, it doesn’t mean we should get relaxed. If the GOP know how to do one thing, it’s throw an election. Vote Obama, as early as you can.

2. Mostly this was because Jon McCain had his hands full with Wall Street lobbyists who wanted him to lead the deregulation brigade, so they could change the rules and make buckets of money trading shitty loans that they had repackaged, artificially inflating the housing investment market. Because hey, what could go wrong there?

3. Which is where the swing states come in. There’s a reason Florida and Ohio have always been hotly contested and it is only partly to do with these states being the home of so many stupid, stupid people undecided voters. They’ve been rigged to be swing states through a combination of fucked up primaries, redistricting and electoral shenanigans. Voting in these states is such an arduous process that only the most dedicated citizens will bother.The GOP, counting on the poor and disenfranchised not to spend time arguing about IDs, polling addresses and hanging chads, concentrate all their effort in contesting the results in these states so that they maintain a safety zone well inside the margin of error.

4. The wingnuts are already hyperventilating at the idea of a moderate black man with a foreign sounding name becoming president. It should be interesting to see what lunacy they develop during the forthcoming Obama administration. And by interesting I mean repulsive, frightening and sad.