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.