If one experience unites the American left across generational and factional divides, it’s losing. I wish that were not the case, but facts are facts and I must admit them. I am a socialist, and I am a loser. Do we have a socialist nominee for president? We do not. Did we even get a social democrat? Also no. Did we get Medicare for All in the Democratic Party platform? We did not. Delegates, including several union leaders, shot it down. A smattering of comrades in Congress and various state legislatures provides a reason for hope, but it is also not the same thing as a mass movement for socialism.
I still think it’s socialism or barbarism. And barbarism is ascendant, at least right now.
But the barbarians themselves don’t seem to agree. The first night of the Republican National Convention contained predictable levels of ethnonationalism, plus one uncategorizable performance from Kimberly Guilfoyle. Interspersed between the usual dog whistles and the paeans to President Trump were repeated warnings about the dangers of socialism. “Make no mistake: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want a cultural revolution, a fundamentally different America. If we let them, they will turn our country into a socialist utopia,” claimed Representative Tim Scott. An objectively ludicrous statement, and yet Scott was hailed as one of the most reasonable speakers of the night!
Scott, of course, was not the only speaker to warn of a forthcoming left-wing uprising. His colleague from Florida, Matt Gaetz, complained of Democratic “woketopians” who “will disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the defunded police aren’t on their way.” Remember that gun-toting couple from St. Louis? Who nearly shot off their own body parts with their weapons and once bashed the shit out of a synagogue’s beehives for being on just the wrong side of their property line? They showed up to call Black Lives Matter protesters “Marxist liberal activists” and Cori Bush, a progressive who just won her local congressional primary, a “Marxist revolutionary.” Kudos to Bush if this is true, but also: Try calling a Marxist a liberal. I dare you!
The Red-baiting did not end here. Maximo Alvarez — a wealthy Cuban American gas-station executive and major Republican donor — warned that socialism would corrupt the American way of life (God willing). Catalina and Madeline Lauf praised Trump and offered themselves as a “counter-voice” to “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [and] these women who come out with very destructive ideologies that are trying to infiltrate millennials.” The screen cut to scenes of the nefarious Ocasio-Cortez … hugging supporters.
Red-baiting always amuses me on a personal level because what is the problem, exactly? I want people to have health care and not die. And yes, if you are rich, I do want to take your money. But not all of it! It is simply a fact that no one needs to have millions upon millions of dollars, and it is obscene to hoard while rates of child hunger are rising. At the RNC, of course, people have and will continue to argue the opposite — that hoarding is good and greed is a virtue.
Red-baiting is a lie, and always a lie of omission. For anti-capitalism to be evil, capitalism must be worth preservation. The rhetoric has not changed in decades: Bread lines happen in communist countries, not here. America is not a police state. America is color-blind. America is just. America is fair. And omissions defined the first night of the Republican National Convention. Nobody wanted to talk about all the death: the deaths at the border, the deaths the police cause, the thousands of deaths from COVID that Trump could have prevented if he’d cared enough to try. You can lie all you want. But eventually there are too many bodies to hide.