FROM THE FOLKS WHO BROUGHT YOU THE WEEKEND
Capitalism has always been one of the big scenes of the American Dream. And though now that dream is dwindling, the free market, and all that comes with it, is getting a sharp-eyed reexamination.
Our cultural-political-economic environment has not felt so charged since Nixon, Vietnam and the sexual revolution. The culture seems to be inching its way over to the brink of something. Change? Ideological clash? Evolution? There’s even talk of civil wars amid our hourly culture skirmishes. With apologies for oversimplifying a complex and raging issue, there is massive shift taking place in the American psyche. More and more Americans are talking about and supporting socialism, not capitalism.
SETTING THE TERMS
Certain words have always held linguistic power during a cultural moment. That power sometimes helps define a whole era. As the culture changes, so does the meaning or strength of the word. In the 80s, greed was good. In the 90s, reality bit. Then came the dot booms. Socialism has been such a hot-button topic lately that its true definitions have become frayed about the edges. Like most political discourse today, the term has been weaponized. Need to insult someone? Call them a socialist.
The very word socialism hits a nerve among some culture watchers. But why? Age, ideology, political affiliation, and economic status are all markers by which socialism is defined. If you’re old enough, the word still wafts a whiff of the communist scare. If you’re a 99%-er, though, it’s the only path for a just future. Do we even know what the term means anymore?
WAYS AND MEANINGS
The true definition of socialism is a “political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” Depending on your point of view, that’s either a good thing or a path to ruin.
A recently released Gallup poll showed that “fewer than half of young Americans (18-29) view Capitalism positively.” And Democrats are more positive about socialism than capitalism. On the whole, Americans are more positive about capitalism but the shift in sentiment is important.
To get a better look at what’s really driving this change, we did an analysis of socialism as it’s covered by the news media. We looked at a wide variety of sources, from CNN to Fox News to The New York Times. The 2nd concept is “economic freedom” (image) and the first value is freedom, the second is justice (image).
The devastation, especially among the have-nots, of the decade since the economic crash has been an awakening for many. It’s been seen as a sign that capitalism is not what they thought – and may even be an indicator that it represents a repression of rights and freedoms. Many now look at billionaires planning space flights to Mars next to families going bankrupt due to medical bills as evidence of a system that doesn’t serve them.
Even a HuffPost article that came up in our results tries to clarify that Bernie Sanders is not running against capitalism, but with it, as a Democratic Socialist. Not sure that will calm the fury!
Looking at politics, our analysis on “socialism in the midterms” shows that the strength of the values of freedom, justice, populism and power are even stronger. (image below) The concepts highlight the key players who will dominate the discussion between now and voting day – and likely for years to come.
After a scorching decade of slow recovery and stagnant wages, socialism can sound to some like a handout or freebies. It suggests images of people getting something that they don’t deserve when others have worked hard trying to stay afloat.
The reality is that the US has always had its forms of socialism. We just call it by many names. Wall Street bankers get bailouts. Farmers get subsidies. Tax payers get entitlements, like social security and Medicare. We’re all in this together, whether we like it or not (and some of us totally don’t!).
In an era of fake news lit on fire with welfarism and leftism, socialism is not likely to go mainstream anytime soon, but we’re witnessing the effort and emotion that goes with a movement that’s sparked a new belief among many Americans.