Lies from both U.S. political parties are revealed with depressing regularity, but perhaps the most absurd is that Republicans would have you believe that there are only two options: Being an extreme right-wing Republican, or being a Marxist. It is a lot like saying there are only two colors, red or yellow.
This is, of course, a self-serving con. It says that everything a government does—from social security to healthcare to mail delivery—is socialism, unless it is just subsidizing private industry to do the same thing. Every thinking person ought to understand that this is not true, unless you want to call the U.S. military a Marxist institution (which, if you know any veterans at all, you probably realize is a very bad idea).
The fact is, there are some things governments do better, and some things private companies do better. This is a simple point, but it bears explaining. The error-ridden website for Obamacare is an example of something a lot of American business concerns could have done better. However, when America wanted to win World War II, or to put the first man on the moon, it needed the federal government. At its best, government is the means by which a nation comes together and achieves greatness, on a level no single individual or business could attain alone. A previous Republican Lies Revealed column developed this point further, but hopefully those of us who don’t have vested interest is in calling everyone a Marxist can agree on the basic idea that there are some things government is good for.
In fact, there was once also a time when the political argument in this country boiled down to figuring out which things would be done more effectively by the government, and which were better off being done privately. When things were in doubt, the political right often—but far from always—tended to be more pessimistic about whether government was the best way to get something done, and the left often—but also not always—tended to be more optimistic in that regard. It was a complicated ongoing discussion, but also a worthy and important one, with the back-and-forth between parties helping each side define its beliefs.
In the late 20th century, however, the interests of extremists on the political right began to change the debate, and change it for the worse. The Conservative principle went from, “There are some things government shouldn’t do” to “Government is inherently bad and should do as little as possible.”
This alteration grew through the Reagan years, but really became drastic when Karl Rove took the theory that now drives modern U.S. partisanship and distilled it into not only a science, but also a billion-dollar industry: In electoral politics, changing people’s minds is far less important that making sure the people who already agree with you show up. Mr. Rove was not the first to note this principle, but he was the mastermind who crafted it into an efficient machine. As a result of catering to voters who don’t need to think about their beliefs because they come by them instinctively, ideological purity has become the most important test for a candidate from either party, but especially for Republicans. Their primaries always include some dispute over who is the more lockstep, Rush Limbaugh-style conservative. With the advent of the Tea Party, the ideological litmus test has gotten even simpler. The more anti-government you are, the better.
As a result, the side which claims to favor individuality has actually embraced a homogenous orthodoxy, a polemic, Orwellian “groupthink” on what is good and what is bad.
The New Deal, Civil Rights, universal education, libraries, National Parks, the post office, interstate highways, the technology behind the Internet, civil rights, NASA—these were all abhorrent ideas, according to this belief system. They must all be the product of creeping Marxist Socialism, rather than the greatest country in the world coming together to accomplish important goals. What our forefathers saw as progress, as America became more ambitious and more compassionate in what it sought to accomplish, the modern GOP sees as a form of corruption. In all things—save perhaps military expansion and the enforcement of traditional values identified (often erroneously) with religion—the government must do less, even in areas where it is doing inarguable good.
One side of the current American political debate is now locked into the idea that government is inherently bad and must be, at least partially, dismantled. And if you believe otherwise, at all, if you even believe in government to the degree that most Republicans did before the turn of the millennium, you are the enemy. You are a Marxist, a Socialist.
What is a Marxist? Well, even the New American, a publication of the radical right-wing John Birch Society, offers a definition of Marxism that exposes how ridiculous the constant use of it is. It defines Marxism is a political ideology that favors abolishing “the private ownership of the means of production in favor of public (i.e., state) ownership,” which doesn’t sound like anything the main opponents of the GOP have proposed in the modern era.
To these politicians, there is no in-between. No other way. That’s why they shut the government down in October 2013. It was not to achieve a goal. The shutdown was the goal. Saving or improving government is not desirable; only diminishing it will do.
This leads to nonsense like Barack Obama—a middle-of-the-road Centrist technocrat who was disappointed far-left Progressives as much as he’s enraged far-right Conservatives—being called “the most Marxist president in American history.” This charge is dismissed as insulting by actual Marxists, such as Socialist Party Chairman Billy Wharton, who told CNN that Obama’s “main goal is to protect the wealth of the richest 5 percent of Americans,” then noted that calling Obama a Marxist or socialist “makes no rational sense. It clearly means that people don’t understand what socialism is.”
Even Conservative icon Ron Paul, the most anti-government candidate in the last few elections, said of Obama, “The question has been raised about whether or not our president is a socialist. I am sure there are some people here who believe it. But in the technical sense, in the economic definition of a what a socialist is, no, he’s not a socialist.”
Yet this kind of smear sticks, because of the Republican party’s relentless false messaging, and the artificial divide that makes everyone a Conservative or a Marxist comprises a partisan extremism in our country’s politics not equaled since the Civil War. And now, as then, the side in the wrong justifies its ideology with calls for “states’ rights” and by accusing the government they seek to blackmail of being “tyrannical.”
Under this delusion (calling it a philosophy is would be overly charitable), your only choices are:
A) You believe that the system of government our forefathers handed down to us is no longer viable and must be diminished until it can be “drowned in a bathtub,” as one influential Conservative put it; or
B) You’re a Socialist.
That is the lie the Republican Party wants to feed you. The question is, are you going to put up with it?
Republican Lies Revealed – Everyone is a Marxist is the second in a series of opinion articles seeking to examine and debunk dishonesty in the modern Republican Party.
By: Jeremy Forbing
Photo By: Gage Skidmore