Paul Krugman smeared the entire Republican Party as far-right and un-American in his Friday New York Times column, “The S Word, the F Word and the Election -- Guess which party is really un-American.”
What did you think of the bunch of socialists you just saw debating on stage?
Wait, you may protest, you didn’t see any socialists up there. And you’d be right. The Democratic Party has clearly moved left in recent years, but none of the presidential candidates are anything close to being actual socialists -- no, not even Bernie Sanders, whose embrace of the label is really more about branding (“I’m anti-establishment!”) than substance.
Actually, even the liberals at MSNBC have expressed worry about the Democratic candidates embracing the “socialist” label by raising their hands for government run health care, including for illegal immigrants, during the recent presidential debates. Other socialist ideas favored by the candidates include universal child care, free college and an expensive and economically destructive “climate change” cure.
Nobody in these debates wants government ownership of the means of production, which is what socialism used to mean. Most of the candidates are, instead, what Europeans would call “social democrats”: advocates of a private-sector-driven economy, but with a stronger social safety net, enhanced bargaining power for workers and tighter regulation of corporate malfeasance. They want America to be more like Denmark, not more like Venezuela.
Krugman took another of his bizarre swipes at his media colleagues for being too hard on Democrats (!)
Leading Republicans, however, routinely describe Democrats, even those on the right of their party, as socialists. Indeed, all indications are that denunciations of Democrats’ “socialist” agenda will be front and center in the general election campaign. And everyone in the news media accepts this as the normal state of affairs.
Which goes to show the extent to which Republican extremism has been accepted simply as a fact of life, barely worth mentioning.
To see what I mean, imagine the media firestorm, the screams about lost civility, we’d experience if any prominent Democrat described Republicans as a party of fascists, let alone if Democrats made that claim the centerpiece of their national campaign. And such an accusation would indeed be somewhat over the top -- but it would be a lot closer to the truth than calling Democrats socialists.
The other day The Times published an Op-Ed that used analysis of party platforms to place U.S. political parties on a left-right spectrum along with their counterparts abroad. The study found that the G.O.P. is far to the right of mainstream European conservative parties. It’s even to the right of anti-immigrant parties like Britain’s UKIP and France’s National Rally. Basically, if we saw something like America’s Republicans in another country, we’d classify them as white nationalist extremists.
After seeming to reign in his hate for a month or so, Krugman was in full foam-flecked mode on Friday.
One might even argue that the G.O.P. stands out among the West’s white nationalist parties for its exceptional willingness to crash right through the guardrails of democracy. Extreme gerrymandering, naked voter suppression and stripping power from offices the other party manages to win all the same -- these practices seem if anything more prevalent here than in the failing democracies of Eastern Europe.
Oh, and isn’t it remarkable how blasé we’ve become about threats of legal persecution and/or physical violence against anyone who criticizes a Republican president?
So it’s really something to see Republicans trying to tar Democrats as un-American socialists. If they want to see a party that really has broken with fundamental American values, they should look in the mirror.
There’s a long-standing double standard in which Republicans are attacked for calling or somehow implying Democrats are unpatriotic, but Democrats can call Republicans un-American and get away with it.