Words have meaning.  It is a fundamental rule of reasoned discourse that, when we use words, we promise that we are giving the words we use their true meaning.  The only people who do not give words their true meaning are the ignorant and the devious.  Ignorance is forgivable.  Deviousness is not.

I am a socialist.  So are you.  So is Trump.  Why?  Because socialism is not a fixed thing.  It is a continuum, like “hot” and “cold” and “long” and “short.”  Socialism is not a fixed political doctrine.  In fact, it is not a political doctrine at all.  It is an economic doctrine, like its contrary, capitalism.  Democracy is a political doctrine, as is its contrary, autocracy.

We Americans live, not in a capitalist country, but in a democratic country.  Our economic theory is somewhere in the center of the capitalism/socialism continuum.  We socialize all kinds of things — military defense, police protection, public education, roads and highways and bridges,. Interestingly enough, we often use capitalist means to achieve our socialized goals.  We hire private, for-profit companies to build military equipment.  We hire private companies to build and maintain our roads and bridges.

We even socialize our governmental representation, our legislative and executive and judicial functions.  Trump’s salary, and the money we pay to fly him and his wife and family around the world, is socialized, paid by funds obtained from all of us.

Because socialism and capitalism are economic doctrines, and because democracy and autocracy are political doctrines, there can be, and are, socialist democracies (e.g., Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, etc.) and capitalist autocracies (China, Russia, Vietnam, etc.).

We now face a long and painful presidential campaign.  A main issue in this campaign is whether or not we should socialize the cost of medical care.  That means whether or not this democratic country should create a plan that insures that each person in this country will be provided basic health care.  Since we are the only developed country in the world without such a plan, it is likely a good idea to do it.  In fact, we have already socialized the cost of medical care in some very significant ways, including Medicare and the medical treatment of our veterans.  The real debate is how best to accomplish that goal for all, how, for instance, to involve the existing for-profit medical providers and insurers in the execution of that plan.

Trump and his henchmen have chosen to abandon the meaning of words and condemn the whole idea of universalizing the expense of health care.  To do so, they have thrown away the meaning of words.  They use the word “socialist” to imply, not an economic doctrine, but a political doctrine, and a seriously ugly one at that — communism, Stalinism, the doctrine of political oppression..  They do so, not out of ignorance, but out of deviousness.  That is unforgivable.

It will not be easy to find the right candidate for president in 2020, but I recommend one measuring stick.  Find the candidate who insists on being true to the meaning of words.  Vote for that person.  Above all, stay away from the devious.  I assure you that what they mean is not in your best interests.



In the first paragraph of my last blog, I mistakenly said Clinton called half of all Americans “deplorable”.  What she actually said that half of Trump voters were in a “basket of deplorables.”  While the point remains, I apologize for the mistake.


It is a sad but well-evidenced fact that people in politics, the press and other forms of public life often make harsh observations about large swaths of our population with little or no grounds for doing so.  Witness, for example, Mitt Romney’s assessment that 47% of Americans are freeloaders, or Hillary Clinton’s characterization of nearly half of Americans as “deplorables.”  None of us entirely escape this tendency.  It is an essential part of our prejudices — that black people are inferior. that Muslims are anti-American, that Jews are somehow sinister.   These are all common holdings, and these are all  unfounded.

Recently the press has taken to making one of these unfounded  characterizations about what they like to call Trump’s “base.”  Using poll findings about people inclined to vote for Trump, the press announces that the “base” makes up 35-40% of the population.  It then paints the entire group with a single brush, announcing that the entire group endorses Trump and everything that he has done, is doing and proposes to do.  They are, the press concludes, therefore endorsing his racism, his sexism, his misogyny, his fondness for dictators, his dedication to the superrich, and, most devastating of all, his commitment to raw self-interest.

In doing this, the press makes several glaring mistakes.  First, the people who did vote for, and may intend, at the moment, to vote for, Trump again, are a far more diverse group than those misguided folk at Trump’s rally chanting “SEND HER BACK!”  People voted for Trump for a variety of reasons — religious (reverse Roe v. Wade), financial (cut taxes), or merely frustration (Hillary would be worse).

Secondly, many, many of these voters have motivations and ideals far removed from that small group of people who are as politically and morally depraved as Trump.  I give you, as a clear example, Kronenwetter.

In the runup to the 2016 election, I volunteered to canvas for the Democratic party in north central Wisconsin.  I was assigned to Kronenwetter, a suburb for the fairly substantial city of Wausau.  The first person I approached was out cutting his lawn.  I asked him if we could talk politics, and, with a welcoming smile, he said, “Sure, but I’m voting for Trump.”  I was to hear that from virtually every person I approached.  It was clear to me that the vast majority of the people of Kronenwetter were going to vote for Trump.

I got to make some other observations about these folks, however.  They were friendly, thoughtful, willing to reason and discuss.  They were family people with young children.  Judging on the number of churches in the area, they were religious people.  Their homes were modest, but it was clear that they did as much as they could to maintain those homes.  They all indicated they would vote, and so they are obviously interested in the issues affecting their community.

In sum, these were folks with a substantial moral base.  They care about their families and their communities, and their political issues reflect that care.  They want what we all want — good education for their children, good health care for their families, good wages to provide for the basic needs of their families, with maybe a bit more for a boat or a vacation trip.  They do not seek large fortunes, and they would never, ever undermine someone for their own profit.

They very likely voted for Trump because they felt they had no choice.  They are also likely disgusted at the conduct and language of Trump.  In sum, these are not the kind of people who show up at Trump rallies.

So it is a gross mischaracterization to say that 35-40% of our population endorse the conduct, and misconduct, of Donald Trump.  It certainly shouldn’t include the good folks of Kronenwetter, and it is likely not to include suburban areas like Kronenwetter around the country.  All those good folk, however, will be asking the same question when they go to vote that they asked in 2016 — which candidate will be best for my family and my community?

It is up to the Democrats how that question will be answered.  If they do not put forth a candidate who addresses those questions in a way that meets the concerns of those families, those good people will very likely hold their noses and vote as they did in 2016.

The mobs that populate Trump’s rallies cannot even come close to having him reelected.  It is the Democrats who have that power.  Whatever else they do, they had better talk to the folks in Kronenwetter.