Steele Unable To Stop RNC From Adopting Ridiculous Plan

A few weeks ago I noted a plan by fanatics controlling the Republican National Committee to attempt to rebrand the Democratic Party as the Democrat Socialist Party. Roger Simon reports they are going through with this ridiculous plan. The same three problems I noted previously still apply:

  1. The Republican Party has no say over what the Democratic Party is named, even though they have not gotten the name right for years with their mistaken idea that they are being clever by calling it the Democrat as opposed to the Democratic Party.
  2. The Democratic Party does not support socialism. Besides, the Republicans have no business positioning themselves as supporters of the free market. As libertarian Will Wilkinson has pointed out, “the great success of the GOP over the last eight years has been to destroy the reputation of free markets and limited government by deploying its rhetoric and then doing the opposite.”
  3. The more Republicans claim that Democrats are socialists and attack socialists, the more American voters start thinking that socialism is something desirable, as a recent poll has demonstrated.

Somehow they think that by changing what they call the Democratic Party they will change people’s attitudes about the party. In reality this will only act to further remind people how out of touch with reality the Republicans have become.

The amazing things is that suddenly Michael Steele almost looks like the voice of reason within the Republican Party compared to RNC members in opposing this plan. Steele says that this plan “will accomplish little than to give the media and our opponents the opportunity to mischaracterize Republicans.”

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34 Comments

  1. 1
    Christopher Skyi says:

    “As libertarian Will Wilkinson has pointed out, “the great success of the GOP over the last eight years has been to destroy the reputation of free markets and limited government by deploying its rhetoric and then doing the opposite.””

    Exactly! The Republicans, if they’re fair at all, should call themselves the “not-so-socialist” party.

  2. 2
    Fritz says:

    Actually, I was always partial to the name “Democratic Farmer Labor Party”.

  3. 3
    Mandy says:

    As this country has not the faintest idea what socialism is, operhaps this will inspire some public education, which (who knows?) might lead to some genuine and badly needed income redistribution and community control of the means of production!

  4. 4
    cognitive dissident says:

    Brad DeLong had the best remark on this idiotic idea: suggesting that Republicans then rename themselves the National Socialists.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    The irony is that Republican economic ideas are far closer to fascism as compared to fascism than Democratic ideas are to socialism. Most of the time, except in a discussion of the use of labels in this manner, most liberals will avoid the use of the word fascism due to its many associations between economic policy. In contrast, Republicans have no qualms against both falsely comparing Democrats to socialists and to even trying to compare them to the Soviet Union.

    To some degree it works. There are many conservatives who actually do see Democrats as socialists. What the Republicans don’t understand is that while they have created an echo chamber which believes these things, growing numbers of the population are increasingly laughing at them for being out of touch with reality.

    Republican tactics work well if the goal is to create a cult. They do not work if the goal is to create a political party which can win national elections.

  6. 6
    cognitive dissident says:

    I’ve had my share of discussions/arguments with conservatives who call Obama a “socialist”–but when I ask them how his policies fit that definition (a planned economy, gov’t ownership of the means of production and distribution, etc.) then I get a lot of stammering non-responses.

    Much like conservatives  use “liberal” as an epithet, also without understanding its meaning, they use “socialist” to tar everyone who’s not a free-market fundamentalist.

    If they want to continue marginalizing themselves by acting like fools, that’s fine by me.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    They tend to use any government intervention in the economy as meaning socialism, while ignoring how far Republican policies are from capitalism.

    They were calling Obama a socialist months ago so his current actions are not really justification for their lunacy, but they are also taking his response to the economic crisis to be further evidence.  They ignore both the need for short term response in a crisis and how similar policies actually began under Bush.

  8. 8
    Fritz says:

    Cognitive — that is why the proposed government majority ownership of major commercial banks and GM is a significant step. 

    And please do not imply that Republicans are free-market fundamentalists.  They are corporatists.  They (with only a very few exceptions) favor government policies to use government force and taxpayer dollars to shelter and protect large corporations from competition and the costs of their actions.

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fritz,

    You are aware, aren’t you, that it was GM and the banks which requested government bailout?

    There are certainly grounds to criticize the bail out plans, but to call temporary plans designed to get private companies back up and running “socialism” is a gross distortion of the meaning of socialism.

  10. 10
    Fritz says:

    Ron — yes, I am well aware of that.  Since when do big corporations dislike government largesse?  They are used to corporatism. 

    They may be a bit less happy with socialism — which looks like what they are getting.  But neither of those systems have anything to do with a free market.

    When the government was making (speculative and pretty dubious) loans to large banks and industries, those plans were reasonably described as bail out plans.  When the government converts those debts into common stock, I don’t think “bail out plans” quite works as the description any more.

    You keep saying “temporary” as if it were a fact instead of a hope.

    So — what is your opinion of GM, with the Federal government planning to own 50% of the company, transferring auto production to China?  Should the government actually use its ownership position to direct corporate actions to preserve American jobs?

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:

    Temporary is not only the hope. It is the plan. There is no plan for the government to begin running companies such as GM.

  12. 12
    Christopher Skyi says:

    Well, at this point, I don’t think either party’s economic policies are anything to cheer about (in fact, Peter G. Peterson, a former secretary of commerce, wrote a terrific book back in 2005 that’s still a best seller on Amazon, esp. lately: 
    Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It)

    But, anyway, Obama does get points for this:

    White House Czar Calls for End to ‘War on Drugs’

  13. 13
    cognitive dissident says:

    Fritz: I was imprecise. It’s not the corporatism that bothers [most] Republicans, but the lack of fealty to free-market dogma. As long as politicians prattle about fiscal responsibility and free markets, all is forgiven. The inconsistencies between ideology and various aspects of corporatism are easily overlooked, but the same actions reversed to benefit the many rather than the few–well, that’s un-American!

    I agree that the bailouts and bankruptcies are problematic on many levels, but–even when botched–they strike me as a least-worst situation rather than foreshadowing plans for a command economy.

  14. 14
    Fritz says:

    Ron, if the government, as it plans to do, owns 50% of the common stock in GM — and, I repeat, that is the plan — then how can the government avoid running the corporation?  Is the Treasury planning to not vote its shares?  And how do you square “not running the company” with “forcing the CEO to resign”?

    Cognitive — we are mostly in complete agreement.  However, I will point out that the Obama administration has moved past bailouts (loans) and bankruptcies (which is a judicial action) and into ownership.  This really is quite a different thing.

  15. 15
    Ron Chusid says:

    The plan is for short term ownership, not permanent ownership. This is being done based upon the money put into the company–not to take control of the company. They have not replaced the board with government people or taken direct control of the company.

    This may or may not be a good plan. You might dislike the plan. Regardless, this has nothing to do with socialism.

  16. 16
    Fritz says:

    Ron, I’m sorry.  Maybe this is just something we will have to disagree on, but “majority ownership by the government” has a lot to do with socialism.  They replaced the CEO.  Are you saying that the Treasury will abstain on the next set of board elections?

  17. 17
    Ron Chusid says:

    That is simply a condition for receiving a government bail out which they requested. You might object to it, but it has nothing to do with converting a country’s economy to socialism.

  18. 18
    Fritz says:

    Ron, if the government accomplishes its goal of 50% ownership in GM and subsequently votes its shares and/or puts forward a slate of candidates for the Board of Directors, will that be socialist?

    I’m trying to figure out where your line is.  Mine is “majority government ownership of one or more economically-significant corporations”.   So, yeah, GM would trip it for me.

    And do you have a line for “temporary”?  I guess we should count it in 2-year election cycles.  How many election cycles before “temporary” becomes standard?

  19. 19
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fritz,

    It doesn’t matter. Socialism refers to how the economy is organized on a national scale. Finding aspects of a bail out plan which share characteristics with socialism does not mean Obama is a socialist.

    The government also owns and runs the Post Office. By your logic we are already a socialist country.

  20. 20
    Fritz says:

    Ron…  Well, the Post Office is a bit of a special case.  It’s actually mentioned in the Constitution as a government responsibility.  And it was given a legal monopoly as a response to Lysander Spooner (who you will probably not be shocked to learn is a personal hero of mine). 

    How about “Government ownership of 50% of GM is a significant step toward socialism in this country”?

  21. 21
    Ron Chusid says:

    So if the Constitution were changed to make manufacturing of cars a government responsibility it would be ok?

    This is not in any way a step towards socialism. There is no plan for taking over businesses. The actual plan is to return them to total private ownership when possible. This is a response to a request for a bailout, not nationalization of a company.

    A while back when I was occasionally guest posting at The Carpetbagger Report (when it was a major liberal blog before Steve Benen went to Washington Monthly) I made a point of getting in a reference and link to No Treason.  Not that it was going to change anything, but I thought that it would be good for the more mainstream liberal blogosophere to be exposed to such ideas.

  22. 22
    Christopher Skyi says:

    “It doesn’t matter. Socialism refers to how the economy is organized on a national scale. Finding aspects of a bail out plan which share characteristics with socialism does not mean Obama is a socialist.”

    George Bernard Shaw, the great dramatist and theater critic, was at a party at one night.  He meet an attractive woman and they began to talk. The subject soon got around to money. He told the woman that he believed everyone would agree to do anything for money —  if the price was high enough.

    “Surely not, ” she said.

    “Oh yes,” Shaw said.

    “Well, I wouldn’t!”  she said.

    “Well, would you sleep with me for… for a million pounds?” Shaw asked.

    “Well,”  she said, “maybe for a million I would, yes.”

    Shaw then asked, “Would you do it for ten shillings?”

    “Certainly not!” said the woman “What do you take me for? A prostitute?”

    “We’ve established that already,” said Shaw. “We’re just trying to fix your price now.”

  23. 23
    cognitive dissident says:

    Fritz, may I take your wording off on a tangent for a moment? When you wrote about “the government accomplish[ing] its goal of 50% ownership in GM,” I thought immediately of making an ends-vs-means distinction.

    The situation would be different if Obama had campaigned on a plan to nationalize the auto industry, making it a goal–but he didn’t…it’s a means he’s using to shore up our economy. Being in a dire situation makes mistakes (and over-reaching, as in partial ownership) more likely, but the consequences of doing nothing look even less appealing.

    This would be a completely different situation if we were in good economic times and the administration nationalized a profitable and well-run industry that wasn’t begging for help.

  24. 24
    Ron Chusid says:

    Christopher,

    Nice story (which I’ve heard many times before). It doesn’t apply at all to this situation.

  25. 25
    Fritz says:

    Cognitive — remember Rahm’s comment about “Don’t let a crisis go to waste”.  So what do you suggest for a good boundary between “temporary” and not?  One election cycle?  Two?

  26. 26
    Christopher Skyi says:

    “Nice story (which I’ve heard many times before). It doesn’t apply at all to this situation.”

    Well, I won’t argue. I’ll just ask you why it’s  funny.  What’s the funny part?  The man, the woman, or — the irony?   There’s some irony in your position 🙂

  27. 27
    Ron Chusid says:

    There’s no irony in my position. It is simply based upon what socialism means. What is happening now does not meet any reasonable definition of socialism. You can redefine socialism to claim Obama is a socialist, or even that we already are a socialist country as some right wingers do. All such efforts to redefine socialism have two consequences beyond the echo chamber of the right 1) further discrediting those who claim we have socialism, or 2) make more people decide that socialism is ok (based upon the new definitions).

  28. 28
    Fritz says:

    As I said, I will go for “A significant step toward socialism”.

  29. 29
    Ron Chusid says:

    That is also untrue. It is not a step towards socialism. It is a move, whether appropriate or not, to attempt to preserve private ownership.

  30. 30
    b-psycho says:

    Maybe this’ll help the point, Ron:

    Obama administration: “We have to help GM at all costs, even if it means part ownership!”

    (State-)Socialist: “F**k GM, they just screw their workers anyway, the government should seize it & run it for The Benefit of The People!”

    See the difference?  Obama is just updating the old saw of “what’s good for General Motors is good for the nation”.  Overlap in action doesn’t = overlap in intent.

    BTW: if you ask me, GM should’ve been taken over and broken up by its employees a long time ago.  The kind of action we’re seeing now is inevitable when one big corporation dominates economic life over a region, any response that ignores this is kicking the can down the road.

  31. 31
    Christopher Skyi says:

    Look — this is the bottom line, and both parties believe in and support this, and they can spin it any way they want, everyone know it’s:

    Socialism for the Rich

    Kein Phillips underscores this when he was on Bill Moyer’s Journal last Nov. (’08).  He saw what was starting to happen as socialism for rich, and there’s even more socialism for the rich now. 

    Question: how long before “the little” people start demanding their “share.”  Phillips is correct: “It’s clear that we have socialism coming in a big way.”

    BILL MOYERS: Pat Buchanan said this week the conservative era is over. What do you think about that?
    KEVIN PHILLIPS: Well, I think it’s over in the sense that supply side and trickle down economics is gone for a while. I think that’s fair to say. It’s also clear that we have socialism coming in a big way. But it’s socialism for the rich. You know, the profits go to finance but the liability of something goes wrong, well, that’s the taxpayers. You know, that’s the so what you’ve seen is conservatism in the old sense of free markets was totally trashed by Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson, you know? Not your everyday garden variety Riverside Drive leftists.
    So we now have socialism on right center. And I don’t see that we come back to the free market stuff for quite a long time. But I would say is the bailout liberal? Is the bailout conservative? Or is it some hybrid? Or do those words not mean anything?

  32. 32
    Ron Chusid says:

    Phillips is using the word socialism (in a different manner than usually used) to be provocative but he knows perfectly well that it is not really socialism.

    To the degree that it is socialism for the rich as he uses the word, it is a strange form of socialism. Business gets the profits if doing well (as they should) but taxpayers are the ones at risk for paying if they look like they are going to go under.

  33. 33
    cognitive dissident says:

    Ron – Provocative and pithy…the “privatize the profits and socialize the risks” mentality deserves the name “socialism for the rich,” but linguistic precision does suffer a bit in the process.

    Fritz – I would use economic (rather than political) criteria to determine the distinction between temporary and permanent. When investors are ready to pony up the cash to buy the shares, that means the economy has recovered enough for Uncle Sam to quit playing sugar daddy.

  34. 34
    Fritz says:

    I use “corporatism” for using laws to privatize profits and socialize risks for large corporations, and to protect them from competition.  Pretty much the same thing as “socialism for the rich”.

    You don’t have to have forced nationalization of corporations, a la Venezuela or Russia, in order to have socialism.     That’s a dramatic image, to be sure, but not needed.

    It is unclear to me at this point whether economic improvements (if and when) will be enough to boost GM’s fortunes enough for the assets of the corporation to be worth more than its liabilities and then whether the net assets will be worth more as a going concern than as parts.

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