Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sound-bite socialism and other political follies

If American politics ever could get beyond sound bites, smears and gotchas, we might actually learn something.

The good news is that Prof. Barack Obama may, just may, be on the verge of clearing the air and opening the discussion.

John McCain and his campaign are another story.

McCain’s accusing Barack Obama of “spreading the wealth” is a case in point. Of course the "wealth" of the working and middle classes (it's called "labor") have been spread to the rich since the dawn of capitalism.

Look no farther than Cindy McCain, who inherited her millions from her father’s beer distribution company, which, in turn, was made profitable by its hundreds of truck drivers, mechanics, warehouse workers and accountants.

They worked; she profited and spread that profit to John.

John McCain clearly doesn’t have a problem with spreading the wealth. His problem is with spreading it equitably and fairly.

Which brings us to the McCain campaign’s charge that Obama is a socialist.

Here is part of the Wikipedia definition of socialism:

Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and creates an unequal society.

Sound familiar? The definition continues:

All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly, although there is considerable disagreement among socialists over how, and to what extent this could be achieved.

For most Europeans, this, and the guarantee of certain state-provided services such as health care, are givens. Frankly, recalling Christ's admonition to the rich man, I don't see how it is possible to be a true Christian without being a socialist. Which may be why Europe developed "Christian Socialist" parties. Shocking!

I am particularly fond of line from George Orwell that American conservatives strangely ignore even as they worship him. Wrote Orwell, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.” (from “Why I write”)

“As I understand it” leaves room for healthy debate. But in America, socialism in any form is considered unworthy of discussion.

Which brings us to George W. Bush, who is nationalizing large chunks of the financial industry. Could it be that our worst president will in the dying days of his administration turn out to be a socialist? He clearly is willing to use socialist tools as part of his effort to save the wreck wrought by American capitalism.

And yet we don’t hear the McCain campaign calling the Bush Administration’s policies socialistic.

Wonder why….

Maybe it’s because McCain voted to support the socialistic bail-out. Or maybe it’s because McCain values the other non-socialistic parts of the Bush program: the tax cuts for the rich, the cronyism on behalf of Enron and Halliburton and Big Oil, the exporting of American jobs, the union busting, the efforts to privatize Social Security, and the resistance to truly reform health care.

Why can’t we delve into such matters? Why is political discourse here so slap dash and innuendo laden? Why is it that a word like “socialism” is used pejoratively and so little understood? Why can’t we explore the ways that wealth has been spread in one direction, from the assembly line to the executive suite with its stock options, seven- and eight-digit salaries and golden parachutes?

Is the problem with the corporate-owned media as I’ve suggested? Is it in our educational system? Is it in political pandering and timidity? Or is it a part of American isolationism, exceptionalism and arrogance?

When can we begin to talk openly and honestly about ideas well worth exploring?

Next Wednesday?

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Blogger MightyToyCannon said...

Thank you for your thorough and fascinating discourse on the charges of "socialism" flying about in this time of election fever.

I actually stumbled upon your site while searching for a typewriter expert for a project involving Oregon Children's Theatre in January. I'm wondering if you can contact me via e-mail on that topic? Thanks.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

Kids love typewriters, so our project sounds intriguing.

Go to, which I edit. You can find an e-mail address for me there.

By the way, my typewriter site is

9:52 PM  

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