Happy Valentine’s Day!
Let me make this a quick post, spurred on by three things – one thing I heard in conversation I had, one thing I heard on the radio, and one thing I read on Twitter.
When I write ‘socialism’, really I’m describing European-style social democracy more than socialism. But in the United States, over the past couple of generations – maybe since the 1970s or so – the word ‘socialism’ has become almost a dirty word. It’s the word very serious people have used to evoke thoughts of the Soviet Union – that way they can dismiss someone else as out of their depth intellectually and label that person as ‘too far left’.
This is why US President Trump is looking to label all of the Democrats he could face in the November election ’socialists’, particularly Bernie Sanders, who is considered furthest toward the left of the Democratic Presidential nomination contestants. Paul Krugman got at a lot of this the other day regarding Sanders in the following tweet and linked article:
Bernie Sanders isn’t really a socialist, he’s just a social democrat, and not at all scary. But he *calls* himself a socialist, which is exactly what Trump wants to run against. Sigh.https://t.co/p4emn8arsK
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman)
I would say that if you look at some of the policies that Sanders s proposing, they are really very much in the guise of left of center European parties. Let’s say Sanders is talking about moving the US toward a Scandinavian-style social democracy, which I think is the closest in the West to what we’re talking about here. That’s a huge leftward tilt for the US though. Even Canada and the UK are much closer to what Sanders is proposing than the US.
Openness to socialism
This morning, I was listening to a Verizon FIOS commercial touting their broadband Internet offering. The radio advert extolled the company’s prices, saying FIOS broadband was as cheap as $39.99 per month. I was outraged by this commercial. In my mind, it was almost propaganda because I know US broadband was slow and expensive in comparison to other countries. See here, for example, or here. Americans are clueless about how bad it really is. That’s how my provider Verizon can get away with this. And their only competition in my neighborhood is Comcast, which is even worse.
Immediately, I thought of ‘socialism’, where the government owns or heavily regulates the telecom sector in order to help provide broadband Internet, almost as a right to citizens of wealthy countries.
That’s because yesterday, I spoke to German-born Canadian fund manager Konstantin Boehmer for a segment that will eventually air on Real Vision. He’s an early Millennial who argued to me that a seismic shift away from American-style consumerism toward ‘lifestyle economics is underway, with Millennials taking the lead. His argument was that, when he goes back to Europe, he sees a stark shift in his generation toward environmentalism and healthy living at the expense of the accumulation of material possessions.
His view was that the materialism of American consumerism is passé and he offered an anecdote of a family landing at a lunch spot in a helicopter in southern France, sparking chatter and outrage among guests that anyone would be so wasteful and environmentally unhealthy. Konstantin said, with reason, that ten years ago, the chatter would have been supportive or even envious of the helicopter-riding family and their wealth.
It’s clear to me that many Millennials are completely fine with the word ‘socialism’. It doesn’t have the same stigma for them that it does for Baby Boomers and some Gen-Xers. And Konstantin thinks it’s European Millenials, where social democracy is already entrenched, that will lead the shift away from materialism and accumulation toward the ‘lifestyle economics’ of organic and vegetarian food, environmentalism, healthy living, yoga, ride-sharing, etc, etc. And they will force government to offer the social safety net necessary to give their generation the sense of stability they need to thrive in a ‘lifestyle economics’ world. This includes a willingness to allow governments to deficit spend to give late Millennials and Gen-Z the same level of stability that Baby Boomers enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s. When that model eventually moves to the US, it’s going to be considered ‘socialism’ on steroids.
The brokered convention
As I wrote Wednesday, I think the Democrats in the US are fractured – so much so that I question whether any Presidential candidate can get enough votes to seal a nomination by the convention. Apparently, I am not alone here.
Totally possible that this thing goes to convention and the party nominates Harris and it’s really hard to convince me that would be a bad outcome.
— Michael G. Miller (@michaelgmiller)
What’s the chance that – because of bad blood – at the convention, the Democratic Party picks someone who didn’t even run for President as a compromise candidate – say Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown? Would Brown be able to stop the infighting we see now and keep turnout high? I think he could. Sanders supporters already think the process was rigged in 2016 and they are telling us they see the establishment Democrats trying to disenfranchise him again. Some of them are not going to vote for a Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren. I don’t think Kamala Harris evokes any sense of enthusiasm from them either. Brown might do though.
And if Brown were the compromise candidate, who would be his VP? Stacy Abrams would be a good pick. If you got a Sherrod Brown – Stacy Abrams pick at a brokered convention, not only would it maximize turnout for the Democrats, it would also come as a surprise to Trump and his people, leaving them scrambling to do opposition research. To my mind, if the Democratic nomination process gets messy, this is the best outcome one could expect.