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If you’re one of those worrywarts who’s concerned that our nation is headed down the slippery slope to socialism, I’m here to make a sober pronouncement: You’re probably too late.
You may think that the Nov. 6 midterm elections were something of a tie—that the Republicans showed their muscle by gaining a seat or two in the Senate, while the Democrats put a pretty good lock on the House, while also claiming a few more governors' chairs and securing several statehouses. “Limited-government people” still have the presidency, a lot of momentum in shaping the judiciary, and a big chunk of the bureaucracy—sometimes referred to as the “swamp.”
So it could have been worse. Whatever your leanings, you can probably anticipate pretty much what you always have: sometimes up, sometimes down. Sometimes Uncle Sam gets bigger, sometimes smaller. Might as well settle in for the ride.
That’s when I saw the full-page ad in our local paper—and the very same full-pager on the back of the first section of USA Today. Attractive and winsome, it was a political tract for a comprehensive socialistic lurch away from everything American. The ad is not so much the expression of a movement or party as it is the political statement of a single person. Tom Steyer, 61, is a California billionaire, hedge fund manager, philanthropist, environmentalist, liberal activist, and fundraiser for causes he likes.
I’ve not talked to Steyer, but I doubt if he minds our calling him a socialist—wearing the concepts he’s promoting as a badge of honor. He is blunt, for example, in telling us how his thinking has changed through the years: “I grew up believing the point of our country was to be free—to fulfill the promise that everyone could make a good life for themselves [sic]. But over time, I saw big corporations buy our democracy and set the rules for the sake of their profits, not for the common good. Corporate lobbyists rigged the system, leaving the majority of Americans walled off from their dreams. We need to turn this around.”
So Steyer says it’s time to set aside our focus on freedom and focus instead now on people’s rights—of which he proposes five:
1) the right to an equal vote;
2) the right to clean air and water;
3) the right to learn;
4) the right to a living wage; and
5) the right to health.
Not a bad list, from one point of view. Other things being equal, the world would be a better place with all these benefits assured to every human.
But where on Steyer’s dream list do we find a basic right to life itself—without which it’s a little tough for anyone to start his or her pursuit of the other “rights”? And does Steyer really intend to discard the First Amendment freedoms that have for so long provided “roots for rights” for America—like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion?
But where on Steyer’s dream list do we find a basic right to life itself—without which it’s a little tough for anyone to start his or her pursuit of the other “rights”?
The disappearance of those liberties is especially grievous when we wait for Steyer’s answer to our simple question: Exactly how are all these rights to be fulfilled? How will they be enforced? The answer is always evasive and typically grim. The universal provision of “rights” like Steyer’s is an impossibly costly venture. And don’t expect 330 million people to step forward and volunteer their wealth to cover the venture.
But a disturbingly high proportion of those 330 million people are demonstrating themselves ready to volunteer each other’s wealth—a practice at the heart of socialism. Like in no other U.S. election in memory, the recent midterm exit polling offered dramatic evidence that women, voters in their 20s, minorities, immigrants, and residents of the nation’s suburbs are increasingly ready to experiment with such collectivist ideas.
When I was young, billing yourself as a socialist was just a step shy of labeling yourself a communist. But last month’s election suggests a new era is here. Don’t be surprised if you hear a good bit more in the days ahead from and about Tom Steyer. I think he’s dead wrong when he talks about freedom and rights. I just hope he doesn’t end up killing off the very freedoms that allow him to talk the way he does. But check the record. That’s what usually happens in socialist societies.