I need to begin with a confession. For the longest time, I've been letting Donald Trump run my life.
Very much the addict who despises the drug, I took in as much as I could of his tinpot news conferences, his pathetic, endless victory-lap MAGA rallies, and, God help me, those tweets.
Nothing helped. Nothing, it seemed, could curb the jones. Not even those repulsive, racist tweets of his.
Tweets, which told me exactly who he is: a white supremacist, yes, but also a male supremacist, a Northern-European supremacist, a gender-binary supremacist, a geezer supremacist, a gringo supremacist, a gun-nut supremacist, and - in a thousand different versions – one being 115 tweets on global warming, most of which say it's cold outside - a Dumbass Supremacist.
Then it happened.
- Trump's State of the Union fact check: Mistakes, exaggerations and lies
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared the migrant caravan to Jews fleeing Nazi Europe. Is it a fair take?
- Netanyahu hates the opposition, socialist or not
It was the State of the Union address. It was the Mussolini-chin-lift-adore-me pose that accompanied this paragraph:
"Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by the new calls to adopt [pause for effect] so-cial-ism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. [Pause for Republican applause] Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country."
Something snapped in me. The spell was suddenly broken. I began to listen to new voices, young voices, voices which made profound sense. Voices unafraid of the word socialism.
Anderson Cooper, CBS 60 Minutes: "When people hear the word socialism, they think Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela. Is that what you have in mind?"
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "[laughing] Of course not. What we have in mind— and what my policies most closely resemble is what we see in the U.K., in Norway, in Finland, in Sweden."
Of late, Trump and the most rabid of his supporters get this salacious, borderline porn-consumer smirk on their face when they speak of socialism. They clearly believe they have found the magic assault rifle with which to massacre the Democratic Party at the polls.
"This week, the Democrats unveiled a Green New Deal," Fox News Anchor Jesse Watters said on Monday. "It's Marxism."
Watters echoed the words of Donald Trump Junior, who asked his Twitter followers "Why are you so afraid of a socialist economy?" The answer: "Because Americans want to walk their dogs, not eat them."
"Trump is going to feast on these people," Watters said of progressive Democrats. "It's Soviet Communism," he continued, adding that "The Trump White House must be licking its chops to run against these people in 2020."
But Junior and Senior may be in for the surprise of their lives.
Trump, and the American Carnage which so aptly characterizes his regime, are very inadvertently making socialism great again.
Democratic Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, at 37 running to become the youngest-ever U.S. president, said this week that Trump "is clinging to a rhetorical strategy that was very powerful when he was coming of age 50 years ago."
Trump is the oldest person ever to be elected to a first term as president.
America is committed to democracy and is essentially a market-based economy, Buttigieg said. "But you can no longer simply kill off a line of discussion about policy by saying it's socialist. When someone my age or younger is weighing a policy idea, and somebody comes along and says 'You can't do that, it's socialist,' I think our answer is going to be, 'Okay, is it a good idea or is it not?'"
The Green New Deal is consciously named for a radical period in American governance, when Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies were excoriated as socialist by Republicans. The GOP was aghast at the massive new programs of Social Security and other government safety nets which saw economy-stricken Americans through the Great Depression, and beyond.
Fox and GOP leaders, meantime, have spared no effort to publicly and thoroughly mischaracterize the proposals put forward by Democratic Socialist Ocasio-Cortez and others.
Republican lawmakers have harped on the false claim that she wants to tax all Americans at a 70 percent tax rate, while AOC has made clear that this marginal tax rate would only apply to the annual income beyond the first $10 million earned by the top 0.01 percent of Americans. And even for that tiny minority of the super-rich, the first $10 million of their annual income would be taxed at much, much lower rates, as would the total income of all other Americans.
In fact, during the Eisenhower years of the 1950s, there was a 91 percent tax rate on the top income of the super-rich, decreasing to AOC's cited 70 percent figure during the Kennedy and Johnson '60s.
The Reagan Administration later cut the top tax rate by nearly half, and it currently stands at 37 percent. Since then, inequality has only increased. "Right now a single person earning $550,000 a year pays the same marginal rate as a person earning 10 or 50 times as much," or nearly $30 million, wrote commentator Matthew Yglesias last month.
Would Americans support the Ocasio-Cortez proposal? Evidence that they would comes from an unlikely source. Two recent polls, one commissioned by Fox News and the other by the channel, showed that 70 percent of U.S. voters support tax increases on families making more than $10 million annually, and that 59 percent would back AOC's call for a marginal tax rate of up to 70 percent.
Saikat Chakrabarti - who chaired Ocasio-Cortez’s upset 2018 campaign in which she became, at 29, the youngest woman in history to be elected to Congress - told the New Yorker last year that "What people call socialism these days is Eisenhower Republicanism!”
"For me," Buttigieg said, "the question of what the world is going to look like in 2054, which is when I'm going to reach the current age of the current president – is not a theoretical question. It's a personal question.
"It's very clear that we can't go on like this," he said of present extremes of climate change, and dire predictions for the 2050s.
"This is a national emergency. The elegance, from a policy perspective, of a Green New Deal is that it matches a sense of urgency about that problem of climate change, with a sense of opportunity around what the solutions might represent."
He's right. So is AOC. I'm off the Trump dump for good. I'm moving on.
Socialism, American Style? I'm in.