August 28, 2020

Is this Election a Referendum on Socialism versus Capitalism?

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Is this election a referendum on socialism versus capitalism?

Hardly, says my friend as he waves his MBA degree in my face, “The choice is not between capitalism and socialism. The choice is between socialism for business and socialism for families.”

The Republican Convention production started as a sentimental chick-flick and evolved into a trailer about the apocalypse. Early this week, I was having flashbacks of Reagan’s famous words to Soviet leader Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” But the word “wall” has a different meaning for Donald Trump.

What you won’t learn from the convention is the history of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.

If you’re a Republican looking for a reason to leave Trump behind, you can find it by a slight shift in how you see money. The financial giants that are given federal aid when the economy upends could invest in good jobs, but often suck up the benefit to their corporate leadership. The myth of trickle-down success is shown by the reluctance to support living wage legislation. The guy or gal with a13-dollars-an-hour job is supposed to valiantly carry their bosses on their backs and the backs of their families forever.

Woah! I’m awake now.

Remember “too big to fail?” That’s socialism for the rich. And how about books like How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help. If we help those we claim to help, they don’t get to suffer enough. That’s capitalism for the poor.

That electric phrase, “Socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor,” as Martin Luther King put it, may not light up the dull conscience.

If we elevate business interests above broad financial security, we can use even the words of Jesus, “The poor you shall have always with you,” to steady ourselves and nudge others off the ladder.

I have an 11-year-old daughter who says that telling someone reasons for what you think isn’t going to change their mind. I have a theory that what stirs a mind to adapt is mutual respect. There is research that shows we prioritize social connection over our intellectual process, and high intelligence doesn’t make us less susceptible to this primal need for bonding.

Pro-lifers will say that a vote for Biden is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. These votes express a hopelessness born of having deep ethical concerns treated with disrespect. For some, the only reason they will vote Trump into a second term is something called “the moral remainder.”

What is the “moral remainder?” It is what is left over in our conscience when a messy decision has to be made.

In 2008, Steven Waldman, the founder and editor of Beliefnet, analyzed the proposals of Barack Obama and those of progressive pro-life groups and wrote about it. In “Can Democrats Reduce Abortion More than Republicans?” he concluded that both Democratic strategies (sex ed, contraception, WIC programs strengthened) and progressive pro-life strategies (which included contraception) would result in reduced abortion, roughly on the same scale. So, there is much agreement between the parties that is forced to remain hidden due to coalition-building within the parties.

(As examples of how both parties suffer from the difficulty of the moral remainder, Medicaid funding of abortion ticks abortion upward, while funding WIC and increasing employment ticks abortion downward. Turning Roe versus Wade may have little effect on actual abortion numbers, as pro-life Republicans know.)

As a society, and especially as partisans for opposing parties, we suffer from toxic disrespect. We suffer when our deep concerns are disrespected. We suffer when we treat the deep concerns of our opponents with disrespect. For a deeper understanding of the dangers of toxic disrespect, I recommend Standing at the Edge, by Roshi Joan Halifax.

On November 3rd, when I read the ballot and pull the lever, I dare to hope that my wish for fewer abortions, vibrant urban and rural communities, criminal justice reform, and a fair living wage will be not be treated with disrespect by those whose interests lie elsewhere.

Let’s skip the Trump second term. We need him to run the Yankees. Any moral remainder can be dealt with in the structure of democracy. A second term of Trump may leave no democracy through which moral questions can be addressed.

During 2021, as Trump fires general manager after general manager of his newly bought Yankees, Biden can check these boxes:

>> Second amendment rights are not infringed. Finally, pass background check legislation.

>> Sexual orientation of one’s children remains unaffected by choice of United States president.

 >> “Defunding” the police is realigning funding to standardize quality training for police.

>> Decrease abortions by sharing hope with parents and children through fully funded educational, health, housing, and domestic violence recovery supports.

>> Promote research and American ingenuity to lead the world in post-fossil fuels.

The lights went down on Broadway this year, but backstage at the convention, a second-run musical is rehearsing. Let’s just hope it’s not Springtime for Donald.

“Don’t be stupid! Be a smartie!”


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