If Socialism comes to the U.S., it will be brought on by Republicans

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

HAVANA, Cuba — While walking the streets of this alleged “workers paradise” it was a bit hard not to see the irony when into my email box popped this messaging winner:

“PA GOP asks Democratic Congressional candidates whether they support Pelosi, Socialists, and/or Maxine Waters.” This genius move come from Pennsylvania GOP Chair Val DiGiorgio, who decided to send a three question survey to all 18 Democratic candidates for Congress in the commonwealth. Aside from being a petty and immature stunt, it shows a woeful lack of understanding of world history.

Yup, state and national Republicans are waiving the “socialist” flag again, feeling their oats after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who describes herself as a Democratic Socialist, knocked off U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley and will likely be elected to represent a district in New York City — an impressively and probably willful ignorant read on NYC political history.

But in walking these once glorious and faded streets, it’s important to remember who and what sort of behavior in history has led to “socialists” taking power and running amuck:

Folks who look, talk and act a whole lot like today’s more extreme Republicans.

For those of you keeping score at home (and I know you are):

France, 1789: Proto-modern Republican Marie Antionette probably never said “let them eat cake” in reference to starving peasants, but it fairly represented the ethos of the the government of King Louis XVI, a peak time of grasping wealth inequality, which led to the minor dustup called the French Revolution. Things got so wacky — with heads flying literally everywhere — that they actually changed the names of days of the week and months of the year, an exercise in radical socialism long before Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Happy Bastille Day, by the way.

It didn’t end well — most of the leaders of the revolution were themselves beheaded.

Russia, 1917: Tzar Nicholas II presides over a corrupt government, where again the basic policy was to rob the poor and give to the rich, via high taxes and low wages. The poor are not impressed. A pogrom against an ethnic minority — in this case, Jewish people — is launched to give the common Russian people an enemy. It ultimately fails.

Nicholas also was among modern history’s worst military commanders — losing the 1905 war to Japan and then seeing more than three million Russians die in World War I, while those on the home front merely starved.

This led to the world’s first Communist revolution — which also didn’t end well, with millions dying during Stalin’s purges, more than 40 years of Cold War and yes, the creation of America’s most dangerous adversary since Adolph Hitler, Vladimir Putin.

Which brings us to…

Cuba, 1959: Fulgencio Batista was not a particularly good guy. Having twice overthrown the democratically elected government of Cuba (the second time with the help of the United States), Batista sold off much of the county’s assets to either large American corporations or worse, American organized crime, concentrating large amounts of wealth in the hands of very few, while much of the Cuban population was deeply impoverished.

Again, it did not end well.

Fidel Castro led a popular revolution — something new had to be better, right — that plunged this country into six decades of isolation, near starvation in the early 1990s, and is only now evolving into a country with something of a positive future.

Do you see a pattern here?

Now, let’s apply it to the United States in 2018.

Unprecedented “screw the poor” mentality among many political leaders? Check.

Attacks on ethnic minorities are sanctioned if not down right encouraged. Check.

Unprecedented concentration of wealth? Check.

Unchecked corporate greed and deregulation leading to fleecing of ordinary folks? Check.

A few with money and power overwhelming the will of the people? Check.

Unstable Royalist-style political leaders? Check.

Uh oh.

Folks, politics is a pendulum. Push it too hard in one direction and it swings back — hard — in the opposite direction.

A few examples: as the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress look to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, with some success — which despite the histrionics of the Fox News set was a pretty market-driven solution — they open the door to single payer health care.

Folks are tired of either a: dying or b: going broke because of health care costs. Because the GOP cut the knees out from under the ACA before it had a chance to work (and despite that, it mostly did), you may look forward to single payer health care within a decade, as the concept is growing in popularity rapidly. Generally speaking, I don’t think it will end well — single payer has a lot of flaws, which is why a market-driven solution such as the ACA (which Republicans used to support in their saner days) is vastly preferable. But, you can thank the GOP when single-payer comes.

Which brings us to college costs. Expect to see free public colleges everywhere within a decade.

Why? Deregulation of student loans led to colleges and universities gouging on tuition, burying an entire generation in debt. And folks are getting tired of it.

Expect to see tuition funded by new taxes on the wealthiest within a decade.

Women’s rights: this is not going to be pretty. Between seeming to condone sexual harassment (note the plethora of such scandals in Congress that were covered up) and worse, rolling back reproductive rights and actually fighting to maintain pay disparity between men and women, Republicans are fueling a push back of epic proportions when it comes to women’s issues. Already, it appears that the Equal Rights Amendment has come back from dead and is slowly gaining steam. Expect to see, rightly, an advancement for equal rights for all, a rollback on abortion and birth control restrictions, pay equity and workplaces where women are no longer treated a display items, but as actual people.

While I have concerns about the first two — especially single payer — this last change will be a big and overdue improvement for America, partially brought to you by the greed, overreach and shortsighted vision of the Republican Party.

And is case you think I’m just spitballing here, study the period of 1890 to 1929 (which should give you shivers in how it seems so much like today) and then what followed: The New Deal, Social Security, Labor rights, unemployment insurance and so much more that we take for granted today. Then, too, it was overreach and greed by Republicans that led to that major step forward for our society. Ironically, some Republicans, caught up in the delusions of Ayn Rand (yes, Paul Ryan, I’m looking at you) are still working to undo the New Deal, not seeing the coming tsunami.

In the years following the New Deal, we had a country that enjoyed less aggressive swings back and forth and a general consensus. But by the 1970s, liberals and Democrats overplayed their hands and had become a spent force — leading to the Reagan Revolution. I think now, Republicans find themselves in the same situation as Democrats did in 1979.

If and when socialism comes to the United States, it will be brought to you by the Republican Party, not the timid incrementalists of the Democratic Party.

¡Viva La Revolucioń!

***

Walking the streets of Havana and speaking with locals — and yes, the fact that it’s likely I was being tailed by someone from state security to make sure I didn’t get into trouble or get the wrong answer to a question — I can’t escape one conclusion:

We screwed up terribly.

The U.S. Embargo has failed both countries — especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. Unlike Vietnam (50,000 Americans died in a pointless war) where capitalism blooms and we have a vibrant trading relationship, Cuba’s would-be capitalists struggle.

Those capitalists are everywhere — scraping out a living on the margins. But with their neighbor to the north shunning them, it is a hard life at times. Had we started to ease the embargo starting in 1990, helped stop the near starvation of the Cuban people and slowly warmed the relationship, Castro would have lost control of the situation, either forced into economic and political reform or would have (see above) faced an uprising of his own.

Ironically, the embargo kept Castro in power and blocked reform.

While virtually no one in Cuba wants to see a return to the bad old days of the 1950s, the folks I spoke with hoped to see their country evolve into a socialist Democracy, along the lines of Sweden, where the basic needs of the people are met, but those with ambition and drive will have opportunities to succeed in the marketplace.

You have to see first hand what these folks accomplish with the barest of resources. I was driven around Havana in a 1957 Ford Fairlane, equipped with a Hyundai diesel engine and what appeared to be a motorcycle sequential transmission – retrofitting those two items into a hunk of old Detroit iron is quite an engineering feat, and one likely done in a driveway. Given real access to resources, it is not hard to imagine what Cuba’s capitalists might accomplish in short order.

Cuba’s new President, Miguel Diaz-Canel, seems inclined to take his country very slowly in that direction. He has to balance out the members of his Politburo who date from the revolution with modern political and economic reality. If he moves too fast, he’ll be deposed. If he moves to slowly, the people will revolt.

Until 2017, the United States had begun to take steps in helping that slow evolution — begun under previous Cuban President Raul Castro — without doing so much that it raised the hackles of the old hard liners. Unfortunately, to the detriment of both countries, the U.S. has begun to walk that back.

It is a short-sighted, self serving mistake, pandering to a handful of voters in Florida.

For the sake of both countries, it is time our stupidity to end and to end the embargo and end all travel restrictions to the island.

***

While the details on the latest indictments from the Mueller Investigation are emerging, it is becoming clear that the Russian Government willfully interfered with the 2016 elections.

Did they change the outcome?

While we do not — and may never — have definitive proof that it did, common sense suggests that it likely did change the outcome at the top of the ticket and potentially lower down the ballot.

Obviously, nothing is going to change, there will not be a do-over.

But that growing sense that something wrong happened is likely to have a major impact on the 2018 elections, motivating Democrats to vote. As we saw in Chester County 2017, an angry Democratic voter base — when it shows up — can do surprising things.

While much of the polling suggests only a mild advantage for Democrats nationally — statewide polls have been showing a bigger lead, both in terms of the top of the ticket races for Governor and U.S. Senate (both of which sit in the 12 to 15 point lead for incumbents Tom Wolf and Bob Casey, Jr.), but also in the generic polls and the enthusiasm polls.

But the more I look at numbers and polling data, the more I think those numbers may actually understate Democratic voter intensity.

Virtually all of the polling is done via telephone, whether to landlines or a combination of cell/landline. With the growing menace of robocalls and Caller ID spoofing, one has to wonder how many registered voters are even answering calls from unfamiliar Caller ID numbers.

Furthermore — and this is going to sound terrible, but I think something worth considering — is that fact creating a selection bias in that more gullible people are actually answering their phones and participating in surveys, while more savvy and discerning voters are ignoring the calls?

I get that this is a bit in the weeds and mostly an argument for polling geeks, such as myself, but it would explain some apparent disconnects in the numbers this year. Obviously, it’s a theory and may well be proven to be rubbish, but it makes for an interesting discussion.

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