Falling in Love With Socialism
On Jan. 11, 1996, Barack Obama signed a contract promising to publicly support and associate himself with the New Party. The New Party was a socialist organization in Chicago, Illinois, that was deeply hostile to the idea of American capitalism. When journalist Stanley Kurtz reported this signing to the public in 2008, the Obama presidential campaign sharply denied the claim as a “crackpot smear.”
In 2012, records from the Wisconsin Historical Society definitively established the truth of the matter. It turns out that Mr. Obama did sign the New Party contract.
America has had a socialist-leaning—or simply socialist—president for nearly eight years, and it has the European-style socialist principles strenuously pushed by the Obama administration to prove it.
Now it is 2016, and America once again has a presidential candidate with a radical socialist past. This time, the truth is even more blatantly obvious.
Bernie Sanders and his wife traveled to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for their honeymoon in May 1988. The trip was apparently undertaken as part of Sanders’s official duties as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Sanders later wrote a commentary for the Harvard Crimson praising the perestroika reforms of Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev. Instead of heralding “the end of history” like other politicians, Sanders called on Americans to take the revolutions of 1989 as a model. He called for the implementation of an American glasnost.
While attending the University of Chicago in the 1960s, Sanders became a member of the Young People’s Socialist League. He backed the People’s Party in the 1972 presidential election, which famously demanded that any income higher than $55,000 must be outlawed. Sanders also served as a presidential elector for the Socialist Workers’ Party in 1980. This party traces its origins back to the Communist League of America, an organization that propagated the ideals of infamous Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky.
But this election year, Sanders has felt that the Democratic Party is now socialist enough that he is running for its presidential nomination. And judging by the huge, enthusiastic crowds at his rallies and his strong performance against the more-traditional frontrunner, it appears he was dead right about the Democrats’ socialist leanings.
While President Obama obtained office by covering up his radical past, Sanders has proudly embraced the fact that he is a democratic socialist. The most shocking part of this narrative is that America has changed so much in the past generation that Sanders is now the preferred candidate for office by almost half the Democratic Party.
By the end of April, almost 2 million people under age 30 had voted for Senator Sanders, nearly three times more than for any other candidate in either party. An Iowa caucus entrance poll found that Sanders received an overwhelming 84 percent of the vote from the millennial generation.
Though Sanders is unlikely to receive the Democratic Party nomination for president, his socialist ideology has taken root in the next generation of American voters. Unless something drastically changes, the future of the United States lies in the hands of a newmajority—one agitating for socialism over the free market.
Forty-three percent of Americans under age 30 now view socialism favorably, compared to only 32 percent who think well of capitalism. This is according to a national YouGov survey from last January.
In related news, only 16 percent of Millennials accurately defined socialism as government ownership of the means of production, according to a 2010 New York Times survey.
Stop and think about that. Socialism is more popular than capitalism among young Americans, but fewer than one in five of these Americans actually know what socialism is!
When respondents who viewed socialism favorably were asked to define socialism in their own words in a Reason-Rupe survey, they defined it with phrases such as “being kind” or “being together.” Others defined it as a system where “the government pays for our needs.” In short, when these Millennials hear socialism, they think free education, free health care and subsidized childcare.
Millennials love Sanders’s message about a political revolution that will break up the big banks, free students from oppressive student loans, and bring free health care to all. Yet most of them haven’t thought about and certainly cannot explain how to accomplish this. Sanders’s proposals would increase total federal spending by about 30 percent, a projected $68 trillion over the next decade. So far, his tax proposals only include increases for those who earn over $250,000 per year. His proposed budgets, as should be mathematically obvious, contain massive deficits.
Sooner or later, socialists have to accept the facts: If you want a Scandinavian-style welfare state, you get Scandinavian-level taxes. Denmark has a top marginal tax rate of 60 percent, and it applies to any income that is higher than 20 percent above the average. Translated to America, this means that all incomes over $60,000 would be taxed 60 percent.
Most Millennials don’t actually support tax hikes on the lower middle class, yet they haven’t done the math to determine how to pay for Sanders’s proposals. Eileen F. Toplansky, a social commentator and adjunct English instructor, recounts the example of an emotion-driven English student. The student heard Dr. Thomas Sowell’s explanation of how the minimum wage hurts the poor by driving up unemployment. She could not logically or statistically refute his argument; she could only sputter and yell that the current minimum wage was due to the “greed, greed, greed” of the companies. In another example, a reporter asked attendees at the Democratic National Convention if they would support a complete ban on all corporate profits. Many said yes.
This is anecdotal evidence, but it sure is piling up!
As Americans prepare to choose their next president this November, a disturbing study from Xavier University finds that approximately one in three U.S. citizens would fail the civics portion of an immigration naturalization test.
Key findings from this study show that 85 percent of respondents could not define “rule of law.” Seventy-one percent couldn’t identify the Constitution as the “supreme law of the land.” Seventy-five percent did not know the function of the judicial branch, and 57 percent could not define “amendment.”
Another survey of recent college graduates in the U.S. found that 43 percent could not identify freedom of speech as a First Amendment right, and 10 percent thought television personality Judge Judy was on the Supreme Court.
Former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be” (emphasis added throughout).
A great number of Americans no longer seem to understand that the democratic socialist proposals of Bernie Sanders require more than just accepting tax increases. Such proposals require expanding the already behemoth federal bureaucracy in order to administer this massive expansion of the welfare state.
America’s gigantic federal bureaucracy is an unknown and unknowable mystery to average Americans. U.S. Constitution drafter and former U.S. President James Madison once wrote that the laws of the land must not be so voluminous and complex that the average citizen cannot know them. Yet that is exactly what America has today. The enormous executive branch and its myriad agencies already have the power to pass laws (as regulations), enforce them and even judge whether it was in their right. Yet for true socialists, this powerful administrative state is still not massive enough.
The Road to Authoritarianism
Socialists like Bernie Sanders rarely call for full-blown government ownership of the means of production. They call for policies that amount to government management of the means of production. Such policies calling for extensive federal intervention into local affairs stand in direct violation of the limits placed on federal power by the U.S. Constitution. Yet, when people express concern about the dangers of a centrally planned economy, Sanders tries to assuage such fears by saying, “The government, in a democratic society, is the people.”
Yet, America’s founders understood that an individual’s rights could be trampled by an out-of-control majority just as easily as by an autocratic dictator or king. That’s why former President Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers that unchecked democracies are “incompatible with personal security or the rights of property.” Without the checks and balances of a constitutional republic to limit federal power, a majority of people can simply vote to take away the rights of a minority. That’s why it has been said that the difference between democratic socialism and authoritarian socialism is the difference between a mob voting for the seizure of private property, and a dictator—elected by that mob—ordering the seizure of private property!
The election of Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 1998 is a classic example of how democratic socialism leads to authoritarian socialism. Although Chávez came to power with the legitimate support of a majority of Venezuelans, he was able to reinvent himself as an authoritarian dictator once the levers of power were in his hands. When a nation isn’t grounded in the rule of law, it’s not hard for the fickle will of the majority to be subverted by the willpower of a dictatorial autocrat!
The socialist supporters of Bernie Sanders are the ideological—in some cases literal—grandchildren of 1960s student radicals. Inspired by the writings of Communist philosophers like Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse, these student radicals of the New Left movement believed economic revolution had to be preceded by cultural revolution. While this radical movement definitely favored socialist economic reforms, its supporters focused more on matters of sex, gender and race than on who owns the means of production.
Gramsci theorized that the radical left never gained control of America and Western Europe as it did over czarist Russia because faith in God, family loyalties and lawful limits on government power were thoroughly represented in cultural institutions. He concluded that one must therefore capture the culture of a nation before he can capture the power of the state. By culture, Gramsci meant churches, unions, political parties, universities, educational centers and myriad other non-government institutions.
As the passions of the 1960s cooled, many Gramsci-inspired student radicals flooded into two professions in particular: community organizing and academia. As professors, they taught that the classic American narrative about individual liberty and constitutional checks and balances was a mask for the power of wealthy, white, European males. They touted alternative histories such as Howard Zinn’s Marxist-inspired textbook People’s History of the United States. As recently as 2006, a nationally representative survey of American professors revealed that roughly 18 percent of social scientists in American universities self-identified as Marxists!
Tragically, the first generation in American history that could afford mass higher education was taught that traditional American principles like personal responsibility, individual liberty, free markets and limited government were racist and elitist. They were taught that democratic socialism was the only way to create utopia on Earth.
Many people look at the generations educated in this ideology, sigh and say, “Kids will be kids.” They don’t realize that this state of American education and culture was an explicit socialist objective. And it has been achieved!
Sanders’s popularity with young voters isn’t just some shallow fad. After four decades of socialist influence in America’s institutions of higher learning, Millennials are taking socialist ideas to heart.
“He’s not moving a party to the left. He’s moving a generation to the left,” Harvard University researcher Della Volpe said of Sanders. “Whether or not he’s winning or losing, it’s really that he’s impacting the way in which a generation—the largest generation in the history of America—thinks about politics.”
There is a great danger here. Remember, the line between democratic socialism and authoritarian socialism is thin. Most democratic socialist revolutions throughout history progress to authoritarianism. Many of those have become full-blown dictatorships!
Late Trumpet columnist Ron Fraser taught in his Herbert W. Armstrong College International Relations course that there are two broad theories of political thought: realism and utopianism. A realist accepts the biblical truth that human nature is basically evil, whereas a utopian believes that human nature is basically good.
America’s founders were realists. Recognizing that human nature is evil, they devised a system of checks and balances intended to limit the power possessed by any single branch of government.
The world’s socialist and Marxist movements are rooted in utopian thought. Generally speaking, they believe that 99 percent of humanity is basically good, but they are being restrained by a corrupt upper class. If the 99 percent can overthrow their oppressors, the reasoning goes, then out of their goodness, they can establish a government that will abolish poverty, racism, sexism and income inequality. To accomplish this, you do not need to limit government and maximize personal responsibility and freedom—you need to reduce personal responsibility and freedom, and empower government. You need an administrative state!
Millennials seem to view the current crop of Washington politicians as part of the corrupt upper class. They reason that things will be different if they can get a political outsider like Sanders into office—a man who can reform the bureaucratic apparatus of the U.S. government to be for the people.
What they don’t realize is that the young people who supported the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia or the Communist Revolution in Cuba thought the same way!
Dictators will always try to hijack governments—that is, until the day all human beings develop righteous character. And because that righteousness comes only from God, humanity is much better off having a constitutional system of checks and balances that prevents the concentration of power in the hands of the state.
No Freedom Without Law
The framers of the Constitution went to great lengths to ensure the power of the federal government was limited. They divided the federal government into legislative, executive and judicial branches, designing each branch to check the power of the others.
Legislators and presidents were still elected via democratic means, and the supreme law of the land was enshrined in the text of the Constitution.
In an article titled “No Law Without Order, No Freedom Without Law,” British historian Paul Johnson wrote, “[B]oth in Virginia and in New England to the north, the colonists were determined, God-fearing men, often in search of a religious toleration denied them at home, who brought their families and were anxious to farm and establish permanent settlements. They put political and religious freedom before riches …. Thus took shape the economic dynamo that eventually became the United States—an experiment designed to establish the rule of God on Earth …” (Sunday Telegraph, Dec. 26, 1999).
America’s founders authored a document to protect Americans from the extremes of human reason. To a great extent, the Constitution was based on God’s law. Tyrants, unjust judges, biased leaders and even the American people themselves were restrained from unlawful actions by the principles of this noble document.
“The Constitution is the foundation of our republic,” writes the Trumpet’s editor in chief Gerald Flurry in No Freedom Without Law. “And the Ten Commandments were, in many ways, the foundation of the Constitution. Our forefathers believed that if we didn’t keep God’s Ten Commandments, our republic would collapse! We can’t afford to take the words of our founders lightly, if we want to see our nation stand. It was much harder for our Founding Fathers to spill streams of blood winning our freedom, and to create and establish our constitutional law, than it is for us just to maintain it!”
It is easy to blame President Barack Obama or Sen. Bernie Sanders for America’s precipitous decline. Yet they are only able to fundamentally transform American society because the great majority of America’s people have stopped loving the Bible-based principles America was founded upon. The spirit of lawlessness that has taken hold in America can only end in the erosion of our freedoms.