- - Thursday, April 28, 2016

Socialism is no longer a dirty word in American politics.

According to a recent YouGov poll, 42% of Democrats have a favorable view of socialism. And among millennials, socialism enjoys a favorability rate of 43%, compared to just 26% who have an unfavorable view. The ideology that was previously - and correctly - identified with suffering, shortages, and implementation by government coercion is now associated with feel-good ideas as sophisticated as “sharing,” and “generosity.”

Bernie Sanders is not the sole cause of Americans’ new acceptance of the ideology, but he is certainly a beneficiary of the upward tick in socialism’s favorability. In recent memory, it would have been unthinkable that a self-identified socialist could actually win Democratic presidential contests. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that there was an entire wing of the Democratic Party dedicated to the fight against socialism abroad.

Sanders’ bid for the White House, which is coming to its end, has exposed a new reality in American presidential politics: The appellation “socialist” is no longer a political epithet.

That more millennials have a positive view of socialism than of capitalism is a devastating indictment of our higher education system, the vast majority of whose principals (college presidents and professors, that is) wouldn’t be able to live the lives they lead if it weren’t for the beneficence of some previous capitalist who generously contributed to their endowments.

College students today can be forgiven, of course, for not understanding the history or economic realities of socialism. As universities expand their “victimology” course offerings, and as students retreat to their “safe spaces,” there is little time to study actual victims of dangerous ideologies such as socialism and communism.

Lacking any real-world understanding of socialism, it’s easy to understand why millennials could become captivated by socialist ideas. After all, socialism’s seductive power comes from its presentation of utopic vision for society, where everything is free and in abundance and no one toils for anything. All of which is great, of course, on paper.

Thomas Sowell argues that the lure of socialism is understandable because it offers “a world of the imagination far better than any place anywhere in the real world, at any time over the thousands of years of recorded history.” Who wouldn’t want that?

Despite socialism’s well-documented and painfully experienced failures, it is en vogue to distinguish between socialism as it does exist and socialism as it ought to exist. Proponents of socialism posit that the disastrous effects of socialism (think: breadlines, mass shortages, starvation, etc.) are aberrations indicating a failure to implement the ideology, rather than a failure of the ideology itself. It’s a convenient technique liberals often employ to shield themselves from criticisms when their ideas fail on a grand scale; the Left will always blame failures on botched execution rather than acknowledge the wrong-headedness of the underlying idea.

May Day - officially, “International Workers’ Day,” named by the socialists and communists of the Second International, in remembrance of the Haymarket Affair in Chicago in 1886 - is this weekend, and thousands of Americans will join protests and celebrations in honor of the fanciful socialist ideology. There will be calls for Sanders’ proposal for “Medicare for all” and for free college, and numerous other freebies.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the socialist experience - the true embrace of Bernie Sanders’ ideology - continues to remind us that socialism simply does not work in practice. Venezuela is only the latest country to experiment with a drastically controlled economy. The pictures of families in long lines waiting to get rationed food, and the pictures of grocery stores with completely bare shelves should be enough to temper the Left’s flirtation with socialism.

At Tea Party Patriots, we have launched a new agenda we call “The Yellow Card.” It’s a simple platform that consists of seven ideas that advance personal and economic freedom and hold the federal government in check. Several of our agenda items - notably tax reform and reducing government spending - are in direct opposition to the socialist agenda.

And here’s the key takeaway: We’ve done extensive polling, and our ideas are not just popular with tea party conservatives; these agenda items enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans.

The Left may be winning the battle of the lexicon, as the word “socialism” becomes more widely tolerated, but the simple truth is that conservatives are winning the war of ideas. Our Yellow Card agenda is definitive proof that Americans intuitively reject the principles of socialism - even if a growing number of millennials are adopting the term.

In the real world, socialism is doomed to fail because it is divorced from any understanding of incentives to work, human nature, and the basics of supply and demand. May Day is an opportunity for us to remind people that failure, suffering, and government coercion are the essence - not the unintended consequences - of socialism.

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