So Rob Port now believes that the State Bank of North Dakota and the ND Mill and Elevator “aren’t really socialism, they are just services which the state of North Dakota offers.” Isn’t it strange how the conservative rhetoric can change when socialist ideas are implemented and result in great good for society?
Republicans called the State Bank and State Mill socialist at the time the Nonpartisan League proposed them and put them into law. They even formed the Anti-socialist League to prevent the NPL from implementing them. Why did Republicans later change their minds about the State Bank and State Mill? Because they worked. They stopped predatory bankers, grain dealers and railroads from cheating North Dakota farmers and made their lives better. However, despite their success, Republicans still can’t bring themselves to admit that these ideas were “socialist.” But as history professor, Dr. Tom Isern, recently wrote, “Those are the most socialist institutions in America in their function, and they work.”
Over the years, other programs such as Social Security and Medicare were called socialist by Republicans when they were first proposed. For example, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was branded a "Communist" when he urged Congress to pass Social Security in 1934. In the 1960s Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush condemned Medicare as socialism. But today even Republican politicians are usually hesitant to criticize these programs or propose to cut or eliminate them because they make life better for people. Of course Republicans no longer call them socialism, they are “just services that the state offers.”
But Republicans continue the tired, century-old practice of screaming “socialism” whenever they see a progressive proposal they don’t like. As a new generation of politicians tries to find solutions to problems that Republicans have ignored for decades, we again hear the cry “socialism” from President Trump, Gov. Burgum, Sen. Cramer, Rep. Armstrong and others. They are hoping that the word will have negative connotations for most people. They hope that people will forget that they are already benefiting from many socialist-type programs such as those mentioned earlier.
In its pure form, socialism is government ownership and control of the means of production such as the ND State Bank. However, the “democratic socialism” advocated by progressive politicians today is not Marxism as Rob Port implies. It is a reaction to the fact that the laissez-faire economic system promoted by Republicans over the past four decades has resulted in no real worker pay increase in 40 years and a transfer of most wealth and power to the top 1 percent.
Democratic socialists want a return to the mixed economy where the government imposes some regulations on free market capitalism to limit the concentration of power and achieve social balance. The mixed economy in the decades after World War II was responsible for building the middle class in America and progressives want to return to that model. The only solution Republicans offer the struggling middle class and poor is more tax cuts for the rich and obviously that hasn’t worked.
If we are going to recreate a government that truly works for all Americans and not just the 1 percent, we will need to institute changes that Republicans will surely call socialist, at least until they work.