As a legislator, one of the things I value most is that there are many people from all walks of life who take the time and effort to share their thoughts and perspectives with me. However, one of the things that concerns me most is that among many young people there appears to be a misunderstanding as to what socialism is and what it represents.
A significant number of our young people think that socialism is a solution to the ills of society. Some even think of it as cool. I hope they are not learning this in school.
So, how is it possible that socialism can be so popular in America? There appears to be a disconnect. For example, following the 2018 midterm elections, a Rasmussen poll showed that 40 percent of millennials love socialism. However, upon further investigation, it was found that 60 percent of millennials who love socialism also believe government should be less involved in business. Perhaps it is because the word “socialism” and the way we hear it in the American vernacular has changed.
To demonstrate how much the perception of the word has changed, I wonder how many millennials know that Hitler was a socialist. The word Nazi was derived from the term National Socialist from the German. His ally was Mussolini who was a Fascist. The definition of fascism is the control of industry by the government. The definition of socialist is the ownership of industry by the government. Do you see much of a difference? When words get co-opted and abused all meaning is lost.
Karl Marx is considered the father of modern socialism. In his book “The Communist Manifesto,” he claimed that through socialism there would be an eventual “withering away” of government entirely. He called it the withering away of the state. In practice, however, socialism makes the government bigger and stronger, and it is the people that wither away.
As a Venezuelan immigrant, I have witnessed the withering of the citizens — I understand more than most what the false promises of socialism mean for the common people — especially those who lack resources; those most vulnerable who have a tendency to buy into those false promises. Once the most prosperous nation in Latin America, fourth wealthiest in the world, Venezuela voted in socialism. In the time frame between my coming to America as a child and becoming a citizen in 2004, I witnessed from afar how it went from bad to worse — reduced to bread lines and bank runs in the span of 22 years. As an American, I’m deeply concerned for our future as we are being tempted by the corrupt promises of free stuff. Americans need to focus on what made us prosperous and free. It’s not free stuff, it’s the Bill of Rights and our hard work and ingenuity.
Then there’s the term “Democratic Socialism.” To me that is an oxymoron. You can vote your way into socialism, but you must fight your way out. That’s because socialism requires big government, very big government. Once you transfer power to the government it is very hard to take it back. You then truly have the 1 percent lording it over the rest of us with the full might of an all-powerful government.
The current presidential debate stage is filled with “Democratic Socialists.” Among them are Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. All of them are multimillionaires and all are reaching out to millennials who might think that socialism is cool. Then we hear people on the left hoping that we have a cataclysmic economic collapse so that a Democratic Socialist can get elected in 2020. What kind of ideology depends on ensuring that people suffer economically? Socialism. Of course. Just ask the people in my native Venezuela. Or Cuba.
The simple truth is that socialism does not lift everyone up, it brings people down. The annals of history are filled with failed socialist states. The successful countries have the people that are most free. Change comes from committing to morality, civility, hard work, citizen involvement, local decision-making and innovation.
Following the Rasmussen poll, it was found that when millennials are presented with socialism, what they really hear is “care” and “mutual respect.” They also think they hear freedom. Like the people of Venezuela.
Democratic Socialism is not only an oxymoron, it is a trap. Our Founding Fathers bequeathed to us a Constitution with a Bill of Rights. A commitment to the rule of law and moral values provide the foundational tools to strengthen our states and make us the greatest nation in the world.
• Patricia Rucker, of Harpers Ferry, is a West Virginia state senator representing the 16th District.